Saturday, July 15, 2017

What Do People Really Think?

A column in USA Today by Tom Krattenmaker discusses a recent Gallup poll which shows a decline in the number of people who support "Creationism" and an uptick in the number of people embracing naturalistic evolution. By "Creationism" Krattenmaker means "young-earth creationism":
New polling data show that for the first time in a long time there’s a notable decline in the percentage of Americans — including Christians — who hold to the “Young Earth” creationist view that humankind was created in its present form in the past 10,000 years, evolution playing no part.

According to a Gallup poll conducted in May, the portion of the American public taking this position now stands at 38%, a new low in Gallup’s periodic surveys. Fifty-seven percent accept the validity of the scientific consensus that human beings evolved from less advanced forms of life over millions of years.
Does this mean that those 57% are embracing naturalistic evolution? Not necessarily, according to Gallup:
As the poll reveals, the biggest factor in the shift is a jump in the number of Christians who are reconciling faith and evolution. They are coming to see evolution as their God’s way of creating life on Earth and continuing to shape it today.
Gallup has been asking the same questions on this poll since the 1980s so it's not obvious to the casual observer why Christians are finding it easier to reconcile "faith and evolution". The reason is, perhaps, that many Christians are finding very intellectually satisfying another explanation that wasn't so well-known back in the 80s and thus didn't show up on Gallup surveys.

That alternative, Intelligent Design, is proving to be a very attractive option both philosophically and theologically because it takes no formal position on who designed the universe, how long ago the designer designed the universe, and how the designer managed to accomplish the feat. It simply asserts that the universe and living things both exhibit the signs of having been intelligently engineered and that impersonal, mechanistic processes are inadequate as explanations for the massive evidence of design that scientists discover almost daily.

In other words, whether the designer employed evolutionary processes or some other creative means, cosmic fine-tuning, the origin of life, and the high information content of living things are inexplicable apart from intentional, intelligent agency.

The question then for many is not a simple Evolution vs. Creation binary. The question (at least as it pertains to life) is between the efficacy of random mutation, genetic drift, and natural selection vs. the efficacy of intelligent agency in accounting for the origin and subsequent biological information. Gallup would give us a clearer picture of where people stood on this issue if they formulated their questions to reflect that dichotomy.