What do Americans make of evolution? It's complicated. A surprising new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows that while most of us accept the theory of evolution as scientific fact, some think that God guided the process -- and many want to see that idea taught in public schools.
Twenty-five percent of those polled think that humans and other species evolved over time "without the guidance of God." Another 14 percent said humans and other species "existed in their present form since the beginning of time." But 46 percent said that humans and other living things have "evolved over time with the guidance of God."
What do science-minded people make of the results? Bill Nye told The Huffington Post in an email that the poll shows "people can see and accept evolution as a fact of life, and at the same time they feel there is a higher power in their lives. Phrased this way, there is no conflict between any religion and science."
Indeed, only 24 percent of respondents said the theory of evolution conflicts with their religious beliefs, while a combined 62 percent said either that it does not conflict with their beliefs (36 percent), or that they are not religious (26 percent).
Other recent polls have found significant tension between science and religious beliefs, especially when it comes to human evolution.
In another recent YouGov poll, not conducted for The Huffington Post, 37 percent of respondents said "God created humans in their present form." In the same poll, 25 percent said that "human beings evolved but God guided this process." Twenty-one percent said that "human beings evolved and God did not directly guide this process."
Gallup surveys have consistently found that more than 40 percent of Americans hold creationist beliefs, since the organization began asking about evolution in 1982.
The new HuffPost/YouGov poll suggests that many Americans think more scientists have doubts about the theory of evolution than actually do. A combined 51 percent of respondents said that either most or all scientists accept the evidence supporting evolution. But a significant minority said they think that only some (25 percent), a few (7 percent) or no (3 percent) scientists accept the evidence behind evolution.
In fact, the theory of evolution is almost universally accepted by scientists.
Despite some Americans doubting the scientific consensus, a 60 percent majority of respondents to the poll said that they were in favor of teaching about evolution in public school science classes, compared to 18 percent who weren't in favor of it. But many also supported either teaching creationism or the idea that God guided the evolutionary process in public schools.
By a 39 percent to 32 percent margin, more respondents said creationism should be taught in science classes than that it should not be taught (29 percent said they weren't sure). A 42 percent to 31 percent plurality said they favored teaching the idea that humans and other animals evolved over time with the guidance of God (27 percent said they weren't sure).
That puts those Americans at odds with the National Center for Science Education, which takes the position that "it is scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible for creationist pseudoscience, including but not limited to 'intelligent design,' to be introduced into the science curricula of our nation's public schools."
"In science and the skeptical community especially, we focus on claims of fact," Nye told HuffPost Science in the email. "If someone insists that the Earth is that young, he or she is just wrong; it's an idea that no tax dollars intended for science education should be used to support."
David Freeman contributed reporting.
The HuffPost/YouGov poll was conducted Jul. 24-25 among 1,000 adults using a sample selected from YouGov's opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population. Factors considered include age, race, gender, education, employment, income, marital status, number of children, voter registration, time and location of Internet access, interest in politics, religion and church attendance.