Creationism is nothing short of an anti-scientific superstition, but right-wing evangelicals in the U.S. have been pushing for it to be taught in science classes across the nation, rebranding it as “Intelligent Design.” Partly because of this, and a persistent distrust in scientists, the U.S. has for some time eschewed the theory of evolution, with most adults choosing to believe religious scripture over scientific fact in this respect. However, a recent Pew Research Center survey shows that most of the younger generation of Americans accept evolution as a fact, perhaps marking a change in this long-term woeful trend.
The science of evolution and the theory of natural selection is as accepted a scientific theory as gravity, and no scientist worth their salt would ever reject it. There is a stupendously overwhelming array of evidence in support of it that comes from a vast range of disciplines. Although it has been somewhat added to since it was first revealed to the world in Darwin’s "On the Origin of Species" – particularly with the development of genetic science – the principle components of it have remained the same.
Despite the efforts of scientists and educators to communicate this to the public, a recent poll in the U.S. revealed that four out of 10 adults in the U.S. reject this outright, believing humans to have been unchanging since time immemorial. Among religious groups, this number is even higher. Nearly a quarter of the American public, according to another poll, do accept evolution, but with a huge caveat: a supreme being guided the process throughout history for the sole purpose of creating humans. Unfortunately, making the process a guided one goes against its core principles.
Despite the fact that the majority of Europeans and many in other parts of the world accept the theory regardless of their religious propensities, the States seems to stand out as firmly divided on the issue. Finally, the younger generation seems to be bringing this disturbing trend to an end. A survey by Pew Research Center reports that up to 73 percent of American adults under the age of 30 expressed at least some sort of accepting attitude towards evolution – marking a huge jump from 61 percent in 2009, when the survey was first conducted.
Most importantly, 51 percent accept evolution without a guiding supreme being, another jump up from 40 percent, meaning that a majority of young Americans completely accept the theory without invoking a religious explanation.
Image credit: One of the oldest copies of "On the Origin of Species," signed by the author himself. Robin Zebrowski/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
This upward tick may have something to do with the fact that America is getting less religious each year. Up to 56 million Americans – out of a total population of roughly 320 million – do not belong to any religious organization, sect, or group. This figure was far lower in 2007 – just 19 million were atheists, agnostics or non-affiliated back then. In contrast, 50 percent of Americans over 65 are Young Earth Creationists; they believe the Earth was created 10,000 years ago and humans have never evolved, according to a 2014 Gallup poll.
As also seen with social issues – including same-sex marriage and, previously, the African-American Civil Rights Movement – the younger generations tend to be far more progressive than the comparatively conservative elder generations. Even though a huge number of Americans still don’t accept evolution as a scientific fact, this could mark the turning point as one generation slowly eclipses the other.