Huffpost Science
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Victor Stenger Headshot

No Belief Gap

Posted: Updated:

In a blog titled "Celebrating Darwin: Religion And Science Are Closer Than You Think" posted on Darwin's birthday, February 12, MIT physicist Max Tegmark reported on a survey he conduced with Eugena Lee and Meia Chita-Tegmark, The MIT Survey on Science, Religion, and Origins: the Belief Gap. While the survey covers many denominations, the central result is that although almost half of Americans, 46 percent according to Gallup, believe that God created humans in their present form less than 10,000 years ago, only 11 percent belong to a religion that openly rejects evolution.

Tegmark and his colleagues didn't ask the right questions. Or, at least, they should have defined evolution better for their respondents. As I reported in a Huffpost blog on October 6, 2012 titled "Is Evolution Compatible With Religion?," the same 2010 Gallup poll Tegmark refers to, linked above, found that only 16 percent of Americans believe in "Naturalist Evolution," defined as the view that "Man has developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life [and] God had no part in the process." This is exactly the same percentage of Americans who declare themselves unaffiliated with any religion.

It may be that the only Americans who accept naturalist evolution are those who do not participate in any organized religion.

Although the Catholic Church and moderate Protestant churches claim they support evolution by natural selection, the fact is they do not. In a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on October 22, 1996, Pope John Paul II refers to encyclical Humani Generis (1950) composed by Pope Pius XII as stating that "there was no opposition between evolution and the doctrine of the faith about man and his vocation, on condition that one did not lose sight of several indisputable points." Pope John Paul hedged considerably on his acceptance of evolution, implying it has not yet been validated and there is more than one hypothesis in the theory. And he made it very clear that mind or the spiritual soul did not emerge from matter but is a creation of God.

To reinforce this teaching, in his 2011 Easter Homily Pope Benedict XVI said:

It is not the case that in the expanding universe, at a late stage, in some tiny corner of the cosmos, there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it. If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature. But no, Reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine Reason.

Virtually all Christians who accept that species evolve, contrary to the Bible that they believe is the word of God, think evolution is God-guided. This is not Darwinian evolution. God-guided evolution is intelligent design creationism. How many American Christians believe in evolution, as it is understood by science? The data indicate none.