New Pew Research (2/6/19) on Human Evolution & Faith question

I shouldn’t be surprised by how biased and poorly worded this question was coming out of Pew, but I am. And @swamidass knows I try not to wade into these waters, but this one drew me in since it was coming from a trusted, well known science/faith research organization.

Many issues with this, but mainly, the “humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time” option should not have said “since the beginning of time” – I don’t know of a faith that believes humans were the VERY 1st entity starting at the very “beginning of time” – do you? Perhaps instead could have used “…since humans first came into existence…” and/or “…since humans were created by God or higher power…”

Also, what do they mean by “evolution” and what do they mean by “human”? Do they mean humans evolve, but did not evolve from other hominids/apes? If you think evolution, in this context, means evolved from one species to another and you think humans are one species, than no one could answer this question - all options would seem pretty off.

Although I appreciate the intent of the study (it really does matter HOW you ask this type of question), they are unintentionally proving their own point by reinforcing a false narrative out there: that if you believe God created humans (de novo), you must not believe any evolution takes place, be it minor/major, humans/animals/other. They seem to think you either believe in evolution of everything (whether caused/guided by God or not), or believe in no evolution at all and everything was created by God.

Seems like a missed opportunity to get to some of the nuances of the wide range of views on this topic. They tried to penetrate it a little bit, but then ended up making pretty much the same cut and dry, faith vs. evolution false dichotomy.

Will reach out to the researchers and encourage them to come to some of the folks on this forum to test their surveys before putting them in the field.


I understand your frustration. I’ve looked at those Pew question(s) before and wondered how I would answer, because none of them quite fit.

I suppose the flip side is that if you slice people up into too many categories, you risk losing the power to make certain inferences.

But ultimately, I agree that this does not capture some significant nuances. I am reminded of some work that @Rogero presented at the ASA meeting on a multidimensional understanding of how people approach origins topics. Perhaps he might wish to comment further.


Their definitions are well known to be quite poor. None of them, for example, describe me well at all. The problem, it seems, is that the are locked into this questions because they have been asking them for several decades.

From a linguistic point of view, however, this does raise questions for me. It seems the way these definitions are understood have been a moving target over the last couple decades. That might be spoiling interpretation of trends.


I was trying to consider how GA could fit into this survey. I don’t think it fits into any category.


Since I criticized Pew earlier, I will add in fairness to them that @swamidass has a good point that is not exclusive to this survey or to Pew. This problem comes up frequently in (e.g.) public health as we try to track long-term trends. Consistency over time is obviously necessary for meaningful comparisons, but lab tests, diagnostic criteria, etc. are updated regularly. Some public health measures even still rely on phone surveys and self-reporting, not unlike Pew.

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@purposenation: Pew asks this question every few years, and for consistency they have to keep the question the same. The topic has “evolved” and the question is biased with respect to newer developments in society. Pew and other survey research groups have new surveys that do a better job of teasing out what people really think.

I think if we applied some latent variable analysis, we might find that belief in YE Creationism has never been as strong as Pew surveys show.


@Dan_Eastwood I guess I didn’t pay attention until now, they should have asked me years ago then. =)

Never too late to fix a blatant problem, but I guess that means you have to admit it is a problem – they engaged with me on Twitter sort of denying it’s a problem.

By using, “since the beginning of time,” it just seems to show a lack of understanding of both science and theology. Some basic knowledge about origins of the universe, origins of life and Genesis should help them to see how obvious it is that this needs to reworded. Unless, of course, it helps them to bias the research to support pre-planned conclusions.

As these questions stand, I don’t care how many years they have been running them, I just don’t trust the results nor their interpretation of those results.

And they often break the results down into denominational and race categories, vs. breaking things down by how active/invested the respondents are in their religious faith (measures like church attendance, prayer, belief in the bible as God’s Word, etc). By doing it by denomination/race, they can make it seem like only “white evangelicals” are outliers on faith/science issues, when we also see similar patterns when you slice the data to show results from those who have high participation in their faith.

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Once again, find myself agreeing with @Patrick =)

Tell me what you find out in ethnic/race subgroups?

Better watch out, atheism is like a virus, it is contagious and it spreads. One day you’re in church praying and the next day you’re selling you’re soul on Ebay. :sunglasses:

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I have not looked at race/denom. slices closely and probably won’t since pew seems to have that covered. =)

What I do find interesting is that frequency of church attendance seems to be a strong factor in grouping responses from Christians on some (but not all) faith/science issues. In addition, the level of trust placed on clergy for information.

This seems to mostly cut across race and denomination. Views on when human life begins, human origins, and on ethical issues in AI and bio-engineering all seem to show drastically different results when looking at the frequency of church attendance measure.

I’ll ask Pew if they collected these measures in these surveys, but the question again is so flawed I don’t trust it.

They have done some studies where they have asked about various measures of “intensity of faith,” I’ll see if I can find an examples.

I haven’t surveyed these other measures (yet), but also imagine measures of importance/frequency of prayer and the importance of scripture are also good to tease some of these things out. I believe Pew has used some of these in the past, but church frequency of attendance is the cleanest to measure (though some respondents may still lie about this).

Same for the power of Jesus. One day you are heckling Christians on a Christian scientist’s discussion board, the next you are defending Jesus on a Richard Dawkins discussion board.

I think this scenario is far more likely to happen. =)


Believe it or not. People are actually doing this. :laughing:

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Yea, you never know where life leads you. :sunglasses: That’s why we need to live this life to the fullest, with meaning and purpose, compassion and empathy.


Yes enough that ebay banned the practice in 2000.

eBay does not allow the auctioning of human souls for the following reasons: If the soul does not exist, eBay could not allow the auctioning of the soul because there would be nothing to sell. However, if the soul does exist then, in accordance with eBay’s policy on human parts and remains, we would not allow the auctioning of human souls. The real problem, then-eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove told a newspaper at the time, is that the seller has “to be in a position where you can deliver what you sell.”


Lolololololol!!! :laughing:

I really hope @Dan_Eastwood didn’t get that copyrighted.


What @Djordje said … but LOUDER!!!

if the soul does exist then, in accordance with eBay’s policy on human parts and remains, we would not allow the auctioning of human souls.


I couldn’t sell my soul on Ebay anyway … Google already owns the rights.