If naturalistic evolution is supposed to be a fact, why do so few Americans believe it? Nearly 150 years after Charles Darwin wrote his Origin of Species, most Americans still overwhelmingly reject the theory of evolution. This fact was verified in a November 2004 CBS poll in which only 13% agreed with the statement, “Humans evolved, God did not guide the process.” In contrast, 55% affirmed the statement, “God created humans in present form.” Twenty-seven percent took a middle position by affirming the statement, “Humans evolved, God guided the process.” The poll reveals a surprisingly strong rejection of naturalistic evolution and its assertion that humans evolved from lower life forms by a purely naturalistic process.
Since Darwin’s time, many scientists have presented macroevolution between species as a fact. But as the CBS poll shows, proponents of evolution have not been able to seal the deal with the American public. Why do most Americans look at evolution and say, “I don’t believe it”?
Could it be that the case for evolution has not been made clear enough? That is doubtful. When it comes to the public square, evolution has been the only show in town. Supreme Court decisions in the ’80s confirmed that only evolution could be taught in the public schools. Plus, most scientists and those in academia strongly believe in and teach Darwinian evolution.
Could those rascals with the “Religious Right” be the problem? Evolutionists often claim that all challenges to evolution come from right-wing religious groups, who allegedly want to legislate morality for everyone. This was clearly evident in the debate between evolutionist Michael Ruse and Intelligent Design advocate, William Dembski, on a May edition of ABC’s Nightline. Ruse simply dismissed arguments against evolution as ridiculous and claimed that the whole challenge to evolution comes from evangelicals, who want to tell people how to live. In doing so, he committed several logic fallacies, including hand waving (assuming your view to be true), ad hominem (personally attacking your opponent), and the red herring (switching the subject). Yes, the Religious Right is against evolution and have exerted some political muscle recently, but evangelicals, who make up much of the Religious Right, are just 7% of the U.S. population. This hardly explains the 55% who reject any form of evolution and the 87% who reject naturalistic evolution.
Why do most people reject evolution? There are at least two reasons. First, as the CBS poll showed, 55% of Americans believe that God created the universe and humans directly. For them, belief that God created humans as they are is superior to the belief that man evolved through purely naturalistic factors.
Second, perhaps the evidence for evolution is really not that great. After all, much of the evidence trotted out as proof for evolution over the years has proven to be false or inconclusive. Evolutionists continually use old evidence of microevolution within species, but they still have not been able to show that one species can develop into another. Plus, the history of the theory of evolution is littered with alleged “discoveries” for evolution that have been disproved later. The alleged “Nebraska Man” that was used in the famous Scopes Monkey Trial is one such example (Nebraska Man was a construction based on the tooth of a pig). Plus, many have pointed out that the fossil record simply does not indicate macroevolution. Evolution may be king in the secular courts and classrooms, but this may be a case where the emperor has no clothes.
Evolutionists may claim that the evidence is convincing to them. But one thing is clear — evolution is not comparable to other great scientific discoveries of which there is no doubt. Nearly 400 scientists, including representatives from Yale, Rice, and MIT, have taken issue with Darwinian evolution and signed a statement that questions “the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life.”
The failure of proponents of evolution to seal the deal with the American public has left itself open to serious competition from other origin theories. While successfully deflecting the attempts of creationists in the ’80s to institute creationism in the public schools, evolutionists find themselves in serious combat with a more nimble and crafty opponent with the Intelligent Design Movement. Intelligent Design advocates are sending out an A-list of scholars with strong academic credentials, who offer carefully crafted arguments against evolution and for the presence of intelligent design in the universe. The ID movement has thrown evolutionists off stride, at least for a time. As William Dembski stated on Nightline, Darwinism is “the status quo” and Intelligent Design is “the new kid on the block” that is getting a lot of attention. Interestingly, both Ruse and Dembski believe that Intelligent Design will be allowed into public classrooms in the next ten years.
There is no doubt that the theory of evolution has had a massive impact on the United States and the world, and it is not going away any time soon. Yet for all its influence, Americans as a whole have not bought into the idea of naturalistic evolution. Is it that Americans are simply dumb? Perhaps. Better yet, maybe they are people who know a fraud when they see one.
- Michael J. Vlach, Ph.D.
Michael J. Vlach, Ph.D., teaches Apologetics, Historical Theology, and Theology at the Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California.