Saturday, 21 August 2021

Evolution News - Science is Winning the Argument in USA

Stylised representation of the evolution of Homo sapiens from a common ancestor with the other African apes.
Study: Evolution now accepted by majority of Americans | University of Michigan News

According to a meta-analysis of several surveys carried out over the past 35 years by researchers from Michigan University's Institute for Social Research, American public opinion has now shifted firmly to a majority acceptance that humans evolved from ancestral pre-hominid ancestors, with a surge in support for evolution in the last decade, even amongst fundamentalist Christians.

However, there is now a marked difference between Republicans and Democrats and between fundamentalist Christians and moderate Christians/non-affiliated on the issue.

According to the Michigan University news release:
“From 1985 to 2010, there was a statistical dead heat between acceptance and rejection of evolution,” said lead researcher Jon D. Miller of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. “But acceptance then surged, becoming the majority position in 2016.”

"From 1985 to 2010, there was a statistical dead heat between acceptance and rejection of evolution, but acceptance then surged, becoming the majority position in 2016.

Jon D. Miller, lead researcher
Institute for Social Research
University of Michigan. Michigan, USA
Examining data over 35 years, the study consistently identified aspects of education—civic science literacy, taking college courses in science and having a college degree—as the strongest factors leading to the acceptance of evolution...

The researchers analyzed a collection of biennial surveys from the National Science Board, several national surveys funded by units of the National Science Foundations, and a series focused on adult civic literacy funded by NASA. Beginning in 1985, these national samples of U.S. adults were asked to agree or disagree with this statement: “Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.”

Almost twice as many Americans held a college degree in 2018 as in 1988. It’s hard to earn a college degree without acquiring at least a little respect for the success of science.

Mark Ackerman, co-author
Researcher at Michigan Engineering, School of Information and Michigan Medicine University of Michigan, Michigan, USA
The series of surveys showed that Americans were evenly divided on the question of evolution from 1985 to 2007. According to a 2005 study of the acceptance of evolution in 34 developed nations, led by Miller, only Turkey, at 27%, scored lower than the United States. But over the last decade, until 2019, the percentage of American adults who agreed with this statement increased from 40% to 54%.

The current study consistently identified religious fundamentalism as the strongest factor leading to the rejection of evolution. While their numbers declined slightly in the last decade, approximately 30% of Americans continue to be religious fundamentalists as defined in the study. But even those who scored highest on the scale of religious fundamentalism shifted toward acceptance of evolution, rising from 8% in 1988 to 32% in 2019.

Miller predicted that religious fundamentalism would continue to impede the public acceptance of evolution.

“Such beliefs are not only tenacious but also, increasingly, politicized,” he said, citing a widening gap between Republican and Democratic acceptance of evolution.

As of 2019, 34% of conservative Republicans accepted evolution compared to 83% of liberal Democrats.
Position at 2005, referred to in the press release above.
The research is published in the journal Public Understanding of Science, sadly, behind an expensive paywall. However, the abstract can be read here:

The public acceptance of evolution in the United States is a long-standing problem. Using data from a series of national surveys collected over the last 35 years, we find that the level of public acceptance of evolution has increased in the last decade after at least two decades in which the public was nearly evenly divided on the issue. A structural equation model indicates that increasing enrollment in baccalaureate-level programs, exposure to college-level science courses, a declining level of religious fundamentalism, and a rising level of civic scientific literacy are responsible for the increased level of public acceptance.

It is clear then that better education combined with a reduction in religious fundamentalism is the key to increasing public acceptance of evolution and of science in general. It is also clear, from the link between better education and this surge in acceptance of evolution and the wide divergence on the basis of politics and religious fundamentalism, that both Republicanism and religious fundamentalism are increasingly drawing the bulk of their support from the less educated section of American society.

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