Belief in evolution up since 2004

July 22, 2013, 1:32 PM GMT+0

The number of Americans who believe that human beings evolved without influence from God has increased since 2004

Yesterday was the 88th anniversary of the decision in the famous Scopes Trial. In the case, John Scopes, a Tennessee high school teacher, was charged with teaching evolution, then against the law in Tennesssee. The trial attracted national attention, becoming a focal point of conflict between religious "modernists" and "fundamentalists". While Scopes lost the trial, the event is considered a watershed moment in American public opinion, with support for evolution among the establishment becoming the norm following the trial.

Questions regarding evolution have continued to divide America over the past century, but new YouGov research reveals the number of those who believe that humans evolved with no influence from God has increased since 2004.

Overall, 21% of Americans believe that "human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions of years, and God did not directly guide this process," while 25% believe that "human beings evolved from less advanced life forms over millions, but God guided this process" and 37% believe that "God created human beings in their present form within the last ten thousand years".

Combining the first two categories together, the numbers show that 46% of Americans believe in the evolution of humankind in some form, while 37% of Americans deny this.

The number, however, who believe in evolution without help from God has increased by 8 percentage points since 2004, when CBS conducted a poll using the same questions. In 2004, 13% of Americans said that human beings evolved without guidance from God. This number may continue to increase in the coming years, as the belief in evolution without the influence of God is most common among those 18-29 years old, with 31% of those in that age group believing it.

Yet while belief in evolution is increasing, Americans still remain divided on the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in public schools, with slightly more (40%) favoring teaching creationism and intelligent design than opposing it (32%). 29% are not sure.

The question remains a politically decisive one, with 57% of Repbulicans in favor of teaching creationism and intelligent design in public schools, but only 30% of Democrats.

In the 1987 Edwards v. Aguillard decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the teaching of Creationism violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution because it is specifically intended to advance a particular religion. A 2005 federal court decision found that the teaching of Intelligent Design also violates the Establishment Clause, though some states currently require students to "critically analyze key aspects of evolutionary theory", and allow for the discussion of Intelligent Design and Creationism as part of this critical analysis.

Find the full results here.

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