A Gallup poll released in May 2017 shows some exciting developments in the faith and science conversation. In a question used since 1982, Gallup asks U.S. adults to choose between the following views of human origins:
- Human beings developed over millions of years, but God guided this process
- Human beings developed over millions of years, but God had no part in this process
- God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years
Option 3, the “present form” version, is the typical view of recent (young-earth) creationists. Option 2, the “God had no part” version, is the typical view of atheistic evolutionists. Option 1, the “God guided” version, is similar to BioLogos views in that it affirms the scientific evidence for human origins and affirms God as our Creator. In the newest poll, the “present form” and “God guided” options are tied at 38 percent, while the “God had no part” option received 19 percent. Gallup notes that this is a historic low for the “present form” option and the first time since 1982 that this recent creation view has not been the most common answer.
As you see on the graph above, the “present form” position has dropped over the last five years, from 46% in 2012 to 38% in 2017. This drop is statistically significant (twice the sampling uncertainty of +/-4) and suggests that young-earth creationist views are on the decline. Meanwhile, the “God had no part” position plateaued since the last survey in 2014, stalling at 19% rather than continuing its climb. Since 2014, the “God guided” position rose from 31% to 38% since 2014, rebounding to previous levels. This suggests that those who recently left the “present form” view did not lose their faith in a shift to atheism, but adopted the “God guided” position.
Gallup helpfully breaks down the survey results along the lines of education level, church attendance, and religious affiliation. Education level—as sociologist Jonathan Hill has found—is not the primary driver behind views of human origins. Church community and views of the Bible are more significant factors. Still, trends within a given education level are interesting. Considering just those who completed college, the percentage holding the “present form” position dropped by almost half in the last five years, from 46% in 2012 to just 24% in 2017. Unfortunately about half of these college graduates shifted to the “God had no part” position, but the other half shifted to the “God guided” view.
Polls are not infallible, and their results can easily be over-interpreted. Yet we are encouraged to see that these trends took place during the years in which BioLogos has been at work. Today our website receives 2.5 million hits per year and our scholars and speakers are active across the country in many universities, seminaries, and churches. We knew that evangelicals have positive views of science in general (see studies by Pew and sociologist Elaine Ecklund) and now this study shows increasing acceptance of the science of evolution. Anecdotally, we are seeing more openness to discussing the scientific evidence for human origins in the context of biblical faith (see Dennis Venema’s recent reflections on changes in the last 10 years).
While loud voices continue to push extreme positions on origins, either anti-science or anti-God, this study shows that many everyday Americans are open to a conversation that brings science and God together. The fertile ground for our message is growing. Won’t you join us? Start a conversation today—in your church, your classroom, your family, or your lab—about the harmony between modern science and biblical faith.