Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Gallop numbers on Creationism: 2 more years, and 3 more data points.

I last reviewed the Gallop organization poll on creationism two years ago in "On Reading a Graph."

There is new data from Gallop.

The question representing the Young Earth Creationists was, "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so."

This is a very "soft" question. Phrases like "pretty much" and "the last 10,000 years or so" don't pin down the response, particularly regarding the original human form. It allows the respondent to make arbitrary judgement of what is "human." It also excluded a faith group known as "old earth creationists."

The "old earth creationist" was supposed to be captured in the statement, "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process." But, this misses the majority of "old earth creationists" who believe that the earth and universe were as old as the sciences indicate, but that their god "inserted" modern humans at an appropriate time as per the biblical chronologies. The statement comes closest to the "theistic evolution" position. This might be paraphrased as, "Creation, and Evolution have occurred as discovered by science, but it is God's will that this is so."

The "young earth" data (percent agree "God created ...") 44, 47, 44, 47, 45, 45, 46, 43, 44, 40, 46, 42; mean 44.4, s.d. 2.06. This is a small data set, but we see that the most recent data are a full standard deviation lower than the mean. At the same time, the last time the poll hit the mean was 2008. Since then the data are very volatile running 2 s.d. down, or 1 up. More interestingly, the trend is toward the negative variation showing a probable weakening of support.

Compare this with the "theistic evolution" data; 38,35,39,40,37,38,36,38,36,38,32,31; mean 36.5, s.d. 2.7. Here the scores have rarely ever been low until the last two surveys. As an alternative with small data sets, we drop the extreme high and low scores and get a mean of 36.7, and a s.d. of 2.05. This suggests that the most recent years have seen an actual drop in support for the "theistic evolution" position.

Compare these both with the data for the secular position. First the cue statement, "Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process." There is nothing that distinguishes it from the "Theistic Evolution" position other than the phrase, "God had no part in this process."
Percent agree; 9,11,10,9,12,13,13,14,14,16,15,19; mean 12.9 s.d. 2.96. Trimmed, m. 12.7, s.d. 2.2.
There is a nearly perfect "hinge" in the data when they switch from a negative, to a positive trend. This was first securely seen in 2004.

What about the "no opinion" group. They are often ignored in substantive terms. (Percent agree) 9,7,7,4,5,4,5,4,5,6,7,8; mean 5.9, s.d. 1.67. Trimming the extremes gives; mean 5.8, s.d. 1.4. The combined data shows an interestingly strong parochial trend with "no opinion" numbers below the mean between 1999 - 2008. They then move slightly above the long term average in 2010 with that trend increasing.

The Theistic Evolution population has also declined just over a standard deviation. Obviously there is no difference between the secular and theistic evolution position on many of the more contentious aspects of creationism - denial of evolution, denial of geology, denial of chemistry, or physics - when compared with the YEC. If we combine the data, there are ~58% of the American public able to face the fact that life has evolved over the last 4.5 billion years since the origin of the solar system. A narrow majority, but a majority.

The apparent declines in the creationist numbers I suspected 2 years ago seem real, and to have shifted strongly toward the secular, or weakly toward the "no opinion" positions.

I forgot to mention two books that give a historical perspective on creationism in America;

Numbers, Ronald L.
2006 "The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism" Berkeley: University of California Press

Scott, Eugenie C.,
2005 "Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction" University of California Press


RBH said...

I'm cautiously optimistic about these data, though I'd like a few more data points. Wait and see, I guess.

Gary S. Hurd said...

At least the Freshwater saga is finished. I'll almost miss it.