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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Survey offers peek at divide

Church at best when all heard

A recent poll by the respected Pew Research Center brings into focus a lingering issue that confronts the ELCA and other mainline Protestant denominations: interpretation of the creation story and evolution.

Six in 10 Americans say “humans and other living things have evolved over time.” A third of the adult population rejects the idea of evolution.

The divide is widest among white mainline Protestants. Some 76 percent agree with human evolution over time, while only 15 percent said humans existed in present form since the beginning of time. The only religious groups giving a majority nod toward creation were white evangelical Protestants (64 percent) and African-American Protestants (50 percent).

But white mainline Protestants were evenly divided on the process of human evolution. Thirty-six percent agree that a supreme being guides evolution while an equal percentage agree that evolution occurs due to natural processes. Among all Americans who support evolution, 24 percent cited God or a supreme being guiding it while 32 percent called evolution a natural process.

Another major division arises from political affiliation. In 2009, the report said, 54 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Democrats said humans evolved over time. Today, 43 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats say humans have evolved. (See the full report, “Public’s Views on Human Evolution,” atwww.pewresearch.org.)

Anecdotal evidence in letters to The Lutheran confirms the size of the split. Last July the magazine’s cover story on “Environmental urgency” (page 20) drew a large majority from those thanking The Lutheran for the story and asking us to give even more attention to the subject. A clear minority objected, many out of concern over the veracity of the science involved and a few contending it is all in God’s — not humans’ — hands.


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