January 10, 2014 by David K. Sutton
For Evolution To Be True, Does It Require Your Belief?
Belief in evolution among Americans, according to Pew Research, has remained the same since 2009, the last time they conducted this survey. But does evolution require belief?
Public’s Views on Human Evolution | Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project — According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” The share of the general public that says that humans have evolved over time is about the same as it was in 2009, when Pew Research last asked the question.
So back to that question, does evolution require belief? Or better yet, for evolution to be true, does it require your belief?
If you are talking about belief in a religious sense, as in, having faith in something, then no, evolution does not require my belief, your belief, or anyone’s belief. It will remain true even if you don’t believe it is.
But if you understand that evolution is an established scientific fact, backed up by well over a century of evidence and observation, and tested by thousands of scientists, then yes, it could be said that you believe in evolution. Just remember that the validity of evolution does not hinge on that belief. And no, there is not a growing number of scientists who question that validity. While skepticism (not denialism) is required for entry into any scientific field, there are some scientific “theories” that have long since moved into the “settled” category. Evolution is one of them.
Unsurprisingly, your political leaning plays a large role in whether you accept evolution as fact.
There are sizable differences among partisan groups in beliefs about evolution. Republicans are less inclined than either Democrats or political independents to say that humans have evolved over time. Roughly two-thirds of Democrats (67%) and independents (65%) say that humans have evolved over time, compared with less than half of Republicans (43%).
Incredibly, Republican belief in evolution has dropped by 11 points since only 2009. During that same time, Democratic belief in evolution increased by 3 points. My first reaction is to ridicule the GOP, as there’s no shortage of reasons to do so, but I think the large drop in acceptance of evolution among Republicans is due to the party shrinking and consolidating around a more radical right-wing fringe, and not an extreme change in views among a static group of people. The more moderate and reasonable Republicans continue to extract themselves from the party of Flat-Earthers, and they are now more likely to identify themselves as independents.
So now the GOP is the party of climate change denialism, evolution denialism, and flat-out science denialism. But some on the progressive side think we need to attenuate our message when it comes to evidence based facts (you know, the only kind of facts that exist).
Evolution is not a matter of belief: Column — What’s sad about this misunderstanding over evolution and faith is the effect it has on the ability of religious conservatives to participate in science, either as a career track or in the informed-citizen sense. Largely because of the evolution standoff, pastors and parents in the evangelical sphere often steer young people away from science-related careers. And this general mistrust of science in our country — due in part to evolution rejection — hamstrings our ability to make thoughtful decisions informed by facts and evidence in addition to loyalties, beliefs and emotions.
We can have a debate about whether science and religion are compatible or whether evolution and God are compatible, but what’s the point of making such a distinction? To appease conservatives? To try to get more Republicans and conservatives interested in science? I’m afraid that ship has already sailed. You see, for conservatives there is no debate. The Republican Party has reduced itself to a core group of people who believe science is bunk, and evolution is a fairy tale. For them, there is no debate when it comes to science and evolution. Without the benefit of evidence, they simply “know” both are bogus. So tell me again, why must we mitigate our language to accommodate people who reject facts?