Why do so few Americans (and so many Europeans) believe in evolution?

 


A
mericans’
acceptance of evolution is remarkably lower than it is in Europe, Japan,
and many other nations.  Only one of 34 nations – Turkey –
has fewer believers in evolution, according to a survey taken in 2005
by Jon D. Miller (a political scientist at Michigan State) and colleagues.
    The
survey posed a simple question: Do you believe the statement “Human beings, as we know them,
developed from earlier species of animals” is true?
      About
40% of Americans said the statement was true – very consistent with
the Gallup results I reported yesterday. About 30% of Turks felt the same way.  The only other nations with
less than 50% saying the statement is true are Cyprus, Latvia, and Lithuania.
      At
the other end, large majorities of all the nations of Western Europe
agree that human beings developed from earlier species of animals. 
Upwards of 80% of the peoples of Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, France, and
Japan (the only non-European nation included in the survey) said this
was true.
      There
are three chief reasons why Americans hold “exceptional” views about
evolution, according to Miller and colleagues:
      1. Protestant
fundamentalist religious beliefs in America – upholding the literalness of the
Bible and the story of creation in Genesis – are much stronger in
America, compared to Europe.
      2. Conservative
Americans with anti-abortion, pro-life views are much more likely to
reject evolution, compared to Europeans with similar views.
      3. Americans
with less understanding of genetics are less likely to accept evolution
as an explanation of the origins of life.
     
    Of
course, this is a barebones sketch of their analysis.  For details,
see the August 2006 issue of Science, where the results were published. 
National Geographic also showcased the findings (which you can see
here).

What
do you make of this cross-cultural comparison?  Did it surprise
you?
Or confirm what you already knew?

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