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Poll: Rise in belief in ghosts, witches, and Darwin among the young

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As Cornelius Hunter noted in a recent post on the growing public mistrust of science, a HuffPost/YouGov poll showed that nearly three out of five Americans trust information from scientists “only a little or not at all”. Four out of five feel that way about information from science journalists. (Poll here.)

Poll results are revealing, but principally if you understand what conversations, debates, and struggles underlie them.

Here’s an example: From the December 16, 2013, Harris poll, we learn: that “Americans’ Belief in God, Miracles and Heaven Declines” but “Belief in Darwin’s theory of evolution rises.” Here are the detailed tables, which contain some highly significant and much less publicized information: The young, who credit Darwin much more than their elders, also credit UFO’s, astrology, witches, and reincarnation much more than their elders.

The poll probably captures the slow decline in rationally held belief. That is, the same person who is unsure whether there is a God may very well believe in ghosts, witches, and Darwin all at once. And that is no surprise. The message from cosmology today is, the universe need not make sense. And that’s okay.

And you should trust science  to about the same extent as you trust that girl who said she wouldn’t tell anyone what you told her.

See also: ”Science Fictions”

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4 Replies to “Poll: Rise in belief in ghosts, witches, and Darwin among the young

  1. 1
    Axel says:

    Yep. The multiverse sure confirms the truth of Chesterton’s dictum: ‘People who don’t believe in God, don’t believe in nothing. They believe in anything.’

    He should have added, ‘… unless it’s God or leads to Him’, shouldn’t he?

  2. 2
    scordova says:

    Here is a great discussion about atheists who believe in ghosts. About every 10th comment there is something juicy:

    Some highlights:

    At 66 years old I have come to the conclusion that I am an athiest. I came to this site because I am trying to reconcile this with my belief in ghosts. I have had numerous paranormal experiences. Some of which were witnessed by others that were with me. Do I believe there is a God as the Bible attests to? No! So therefore I am athiest. I am unable to explain how there can be ghosts. Psychic energy left behind? Though there has also been intelligent communication from an unseen energy. So confused!

    Read more:


    Man, I just posed this question on think atheist dot com. (Fireborn over there) I am an Atheist and I do ‘believe’ in and I have seen a ‘ghost’. Long story short, met a chick at a bar, went back to her place, saw a ‘ghost’ dog, a few mins later she comes in and mentions ‘the dogs’. Two dogs were killed on the property about A year (? +/-) previous.

    Now yes, I had had a few at the bar. I was not ‘drunk’. This was the FIRST incident of many, not just with witnessing the dogs, with that house. With THAT house ONLY. I have not claimed to have seen anything else before or since that house. But there were alot of things that went on in that house that could not be just explained away.

    Read more:


    God is unseen with absolutely no tangible evidence of his existence. Though there are a ton of hoaxes out there about ghosts, many credible people, including myself, have had experiences that could not be explained by the known universe. I am not delusional and I do not focus on this in my daily life. It just is.

    Read more:


    Hey, I haven’t seen a ghost but I’ve heard them making noises. Check it out, I was sneaking a girl in my job. After I closed for the night at a dry cleaners I used to work in. It was a one floor factory plant, with a full office/lounge area right over the front/customer/ clerk area. So me and this chick stayed downstairs having some drinks etc,etc, we end up staying the night. with no one in the factory. Mind you I open and close this joint. All of a sudden we both hear file cabinets opening and closing. So I’m thinking there’s a rat or something right. So I go and check it out, go into my then boss office and there’s nothing. So as I head back down to my female friend, we both hear what sounds like a bowling ball falling on my boss office floor. His office is right on top of where were laying at. So I immediately go upstairs and investigate with a screw driver in my hand and there’s no one or nothing there . A week later we hook up again same time same place. And all of a sudden, we get the same treatment as the previous week. The only difference is that besides the file cabinets and heavy ball like dropping, we heard what sounded exactly like footsteps walking around. Later that night I heard the sound of a woman saying help our it sound like help. Anyways, I’m getting the creeps just remembering it. Anyways, if it’s not ghostly encounters that two people simultaneously heard on several occasions than someone please explain those horrible occurrences? To be quite honest, there’s much more information that I haven’t mentioned. If this it’s some sort of energy that is unexplainable through science yet. I must say, I would like to be around when this is revealed ! By the way the chick I mentioned is my wife now ! ” and she remembers it like yesterday ”

    Read more:

  3. 3
    scordova says:

    From Newsweek 2013

    We’re currently in the middle of an occult revival, says Jesse Bransford, a New York University art professor who co-organized an occult humanities conference earlier this month. He sees a connection between increasing interest in the occult and postrecession anxiety. Magic “has always been a technique of the disenfranchised,” he says. “It’s something you do when the tools you have available don’t seem like they’re enough.”

    These people aren’t just wearing black lipstick and watching witches hex each other on-screen; they’re also experimenting with, well, sorcery.
    Millennials are the least religious generation in history; according to a 2012 Pew study, one third of adults under the age of 30 are unaffiliated with any particular faith. At the same time, a 2001 Gallup poll found that Americans’ belief in psychic and paranormal phenomena — particularly psychic healing and extrasensory perception — significantly increased during the 1990s and has held steadfast ever since. Some 20-somethings told Newsweek they appreciate the supernatural because it’s a nondenominational method of self-exploration that reminds them that the world is both older and bigger than they are. “It’s embarrassing to admit you’re religious,” says Hilary Pollack, a 27-year-old who recently moved to Brooklyn. “But I think a lot of people my age are sick of being nihilistic. Spirituality is a lot cooler.”

  4. 4
    scordova says:

    It would be easy to feel so discouraged given the decay of culture, but at the same time, there is more available today in terms of evidence to give the world hope that there is a God, there is an intelligent designer of life, and there is meaning in the universe in the middle of all the adversity. It’s been a delight to talk about a small amount of this evidence at UD.

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