Darwin’s theory of evolution found lacking by non-religious people in the UK and Canada

08 September 2017

iStock

WHILE the majority of people accept Darwin’s theory of evolution, many non-religious individuals share the doubts of people of faith about evolutionary explanations for human origins and the development of human consciousness, a new survey suggests.

A poll of more than 4000 people in the UK and Canada found that 71 per cent in the UK and 60 per cent in Canada accepted the theory. Only nine per cent in the UK and 15 per cent in Canada selected “Humans and other living things were created by God and have always existed in their current form.” This compared with similar surveys in the United States, where about one in four support the creationist argument.

A survey by YouGov for the international research project Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum, at Newman University, Birmingham, found, however, that among those who identified as atheists, nearly 20 per cent in the UK, and more than a third of Canadians, agreed with the statement: “Evolutionary processes cannot explain the existence of human consciousness.” Also 12 per cent of UK atheists and nearly one in three Canadian atheists agreed with the statement: “Animals evolve over time, but evolutionary science cannot explain the origins of human beings.” Among religious or spiritual people that rose to 37 per cent in the UK and 45 per cent in Canada.

The director of the project, Dr Fern Elsdon-Baker, said: “The most encouraging aspect of the survey is that there appears to be a large majority who accept evolutionary science in both countries. However, it does throw up some startling results when it comes to public views of the origin of humans and human consciousness.”

She said that there appears to be a range of people across both religious and non-religious beliefs who are “uncertain” of evolutionary science-based explanations. That suggested that “rejection of, or uncertainty about, aspects of human evolution is not necessarily an issue of ‘religion versus evolutionary science’, but an issue of universal questions around what it is to be human and about the human experience that affect all of us.”

The findings “highlight concerns about evolutionary science [that] aren’t necessarily based solely on individuals’ religious identity. It is not just that some religious people have questions about human evolution: it is that some humans have questions about human evolution.”

Forthcoming Events

9 October
The Parish: Has it Had its Day?

Join us for a Moral Maze-style debate at St Mellitus College, London. Tickets £10 (£5 for students/ordinands). Read more and book tickets

The Church Times Podcast

The Church Times Podcast, hosted by Tim Wyatt and Ed Thornton, features a mixture of interviews and news analysis. Listen online

Subscribe now to get full access

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read seven articles each month for free.