Evangelical views differ on climate and evolution

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Evangelicals are more skeptical of evolution than of climate change, according to new research.

The study, published in the journal Environment and Behavior, examines the larger “anti-science” tendency that some see as related to membership in conservative religious groups such as evangelical Protestants.

Using national survey data, Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund examined the link between evolution skepticism and climate-change skepticism—and religion’s association with both. The study included 9,636 people in the general US population, which Ecklund says is up to 40 percent evangelical, depending on the definition of “evangelical.”

The research revealed that about 20 percent of the US population is skeptical that climate change is occurring at all or that humans have a role in climate change, and about 45 percent of the US population views natural evolution as probably or definitely false.

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However, the researchers found that there is a much stronger and clearer association between religion and evolution skepticism than between religion and climate-change skepticism. Almost 70 percent of surveyed respondents identifying as evangelicals said that evolution is probably or definitely false, while only 28 percent of these individuals said that the climate is not changing or that humans have no role in climate change.

“This is different from the popular account that the people who oppose climate-change research and the people who oppose the teaching of evolution are the same and that evangelical Protestantism is clearly linked to both,” Ecklund says.

Ecklund and her coauthors hope the research will provide insight into how different science issues may or may not interact with religion and politics and help science policymakers more narrowly channel their efforts to address environmental care and climate change.

The John Templeton Foundation funded the evolution portion of the study. The Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and Rice’s Shell Center for Sustainability funded the survey questions on the environment.

Coauthors are from West Virginia University, Baruch College, and Rice.

Source: Rice University