According to a recent Pew Research poll, more self-identified Republicans now reject the theory of evolution than accept it.
Forty-eight percent of Republicans believe “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time” while 43 percent believe “humans and other living things have evolved over time.”
This compares to 33 percent of the general population who reject evolution and 60 percent who accept it. Among Democrats, the ratio is 27 to 67 percent and among Independents 28 to 65 percent.
Most startling, however, is the change in results among Republicans from a poll in 2009:
While belief in evolution held steady among Democrats and Independents, belief among Republicans shifted from a 54 percent majority to a 43 percent minority.
Although I’m firmly convinced that evolution is for real, I don’t feel morally superior to those who believe otherwise. I don’t want to drive from the party the 27 percent of my fellow Democrats who disbelieve.
Clearly the GOP has increasingly become a party of older Bible-believing Christians who are inclined to take the Biblical account of creation literally.
(On the other hand, it is possible to be both an evangelical Christian and a brilliant scientist who accepts evolution.)
Remember the Republican congressman from Georgia (a physician, no less) who denounced evolution and other generally-accepted science as “lies straight from the pit of hell”? Remember when Louisiana’s Republican Governor Bobby Jindal’s administration tried to provide state-funded vouchers for students to attend schools that teach creationism?
It isn’t surprising that only 6 percent of American scientists identify as Republicans and 55 percent as Democrats.
But what accounts for the dramatic shift since 2009– which, as it happens, was the year Barack Obama first took the oath of office as President of the United States?
Is there a connection? Do some Republicans consider disbelief in evolution (and distrust of science more generally) their default “team” position vis a vis Obama and the Democrats?