While many celebrate the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, it’s easy to forget that another historical figure shares the same anniversary. It’s also the birthday of Charles Darwin. (Pictured here in one of his lesser known research projects, “The Development of Insect Colonies in Really Bushy, Unkempt Beards.”) The celebration at the Darwin home might be a bit more muted today were they to read the headlines from a recent Gallup poll. On Darwin’s Birthday, Only 4 in 10 Believe in Evolution.
On the eve of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth, a new Gallup Poll shows that only 39% of Americans say they “believe in the theory of evolution,” while a quarter say they do not believe in the theory, and another 36% don’t have an opinion either way. These attitudes are strongly related to education and, to an even greater degree, religiosity.
Of course, the title of that article could just as easily have been, “Only 2.5 in 10 Don’t Believe in Evolution“ but that wouldn’t be as provocative I suppose. Digging into the underlying numbers, for once we really don’t find anything terribly surprising. The differences between those who subscribe to the theory of evolution and those who do not are fairly compartmentalized. Those who pursued various educational opportunities were, in some categories, as much as five times more likely to give evolution a thumbs up than those who had other priorities besides finishing high school. People who attend church on a weekly basis are nearly twice as likely to deny evolution as those who attend “seldom or never.”
Darwin’s move from groundbreaking scientist to political football is far more shocking than his theories ever were. Beating up on Darwin has become something of a hobby in certain chattering classes. For one of the most egregious examples, check out Ben Stein’s film, Expelled, and the jaw dropping way that Darwin’s work is delivered in partial and out of context quotes. Of all the things we manage to argue about today in the political arena, this is one of the ones that I consistently find the most amusing and amazing. Happy birthday, Chuck, but “look what they done to your song.”