Andrew Sibley has drawn attention to the recent Theos survey of the UK public’s beliefs in evolution, creationism and intelligent design. Wearing my sociologist’s hat, one overriding conclusion comes through in this survey: It was very poorly designed. Theos should get its money back from the social researchers they hired.
Theos wants to give the impression that the public holds confused views about the various positions relating to the origins of life. In fact, Theos is the one confused. Have a look at how the various positions were described and what people thought of them. I’ve collapsed the statistics because I want to focus on the exact wording:
- Young Earth Creationism is the idea that God created the world sometime in the last 10,000 years. Is It True or False? T = 32% F = 60%
- Theistic Evolution is the idea that evolution is the means that God used for the creation of all living things on earth. Is It True or False? T = 44% F = 46%
- Atheistic Evolution is the idea that evolution makes belief in God unnecessary and absurd. Is It True or False? T = 34% F = 57%
- Intelligent Design is the idea that evolution alone is not enough to explain the complex structures of some living things, so the intervention of a designer is needed at key stages. Is It True or False? T = 51% F = 40%
Some things are striking about the wording:
(a) No position explicitly denies evolution, and no position explicitly mentions Darwin. If Theos was trying to figure out how many people do and do not believe that life evolved, or how many people do and do not believe that Darwin is right, they failed to ask the right questions.
(b) This point is relevant because even position (1) as stated is compatible with God working through evolution over a short timeframe. Moreover, the spread of support suggests that people hold hybrid versions of more than one view. The only position that is incompatible with the rest is (3), which explicitly denies God.
(c) In sum, this survey does not test people’s views about evolution’s role in life’s origins but it does test God’s role. And God wins by a 2:1 margin – with or without evolutionary accompaniment.