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I've seen this claim several times in the atheist community, as a pragmatic counter to the idea that belief-in-evolution is incompatible with Christianity.

But is it true?

Note that by "evolutionist" I specifically mean a person who believes changes in allele frequency have accumulated for hundreds of millions of years, resulting in adaptation, speciation, and generally modern life-forms as we know them. Someone who believes in an old earth, in "macroevolution", but not necessarily in abiogenesis. And by "Christian" I just mean someone who self-identifies as that.

Answers with variations on those definitions are fine, but please call it out.

Also note that there's two parts to the claim:

  1. Of the people who identify as Christian, do more than 50% say "Yes" when polled on whether they believe in biological evolution?

  2. Of the people who say "Yes" when asked if they believe in biological evolution, do more than 50% identify as Christian?

closed as off-topic by DavePhD, Rory Alsop, Larian LeQuella Mar 8 '17 at 1:26

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    Are you asking this on a world-wide basis? – DavePhD Mar 7 '17 at 19:48
  • @DavePhD That's what I had in mind, but given the focus on Christianity it's possible the claim was about the United States specifically. Either is fine as an answer. (I'd link an example of the claim, but I only remember hearing it in videos. Makes it very hard to find.) – Craig Gidney Mar 7 '17 at 19:50
  • You can ask for demographic data of Christians on christianity.stackexchange.com – fredsbend Mar 8 '17 at 15:11
  • Related topic: Does the Catholic church accept evolution? – ChrisW Mar 8 '17 at 23:48
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This varies by country. For international information see European Christians are at the forefront in accepting evolution: results from an internet-based survey Evolution & Development, 12 (6), 537-540:

enter image description here

It was found that almost 60% of Christians believe in creationism and less than 10% believe in natural evolution.

The majority of Christians worldwide accept creation over evolution. By continent, Christians in North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia accept creation, while a majority of European Christians accept evolution.


OP commented that he was particularly interested in the United States.

The answer is that, no, most Christians in the United States do not believe in evolution, based upon question 10c of a Pew survey where people were asked to completely agree, mostly agree, mostly disagree or completely disagree with the statement:

Evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth

The data, considering "completely agree" or "mostly agree" to be supporting evolution, are broken down like this:

Evangelical Protestants:

Percent of population: 25.4
Percent supporting evolution: 24

Mainline Protestants:

Percent of population: 14.7
Percent supporting evolution: 51

Historically Black Protestants:

Percent of population: 6.5
Percent supporting evolution: 38

Catholics:

Percent of population: 20.8
Percent supporting evolution: 58

Mormons:

Percent of population: 1.8
Percent supporting evolution: 22

Jehovah's Witness:

Percent of population: 0.8
Percent supporting evolution: 8

Orthodox:

Percent of population: 0.5
Percent supporting evolution: 54


So overall, the Catholics and Orthodox Christians, who favor evolution by a slight majority, are outweighed by the Evangelical Protestants, Historically Black Protestants, Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses, who oppose evolution.

enter image description here

(source)

  • The other half of the claim "most evolutionists are Christians" also looks doubtful with this data but perhaps you could explicitly address it. – user36688 Mar 7 '17 at 20:24
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    @notstoreboughtdirt I come up with roughly 60% of US evolutionist being Christian. – DavePhD Mar 7 '17 at 20:38
  • Would you include that math please. – user36688 Mar 7 '17 at 20:58
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    @GeoffAtkins I think the official catholic position is this: w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/… Protestants and Orthodox don't have any single central authority. – DavePhD Mar 7 '17 at 21:29
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    @MohammadSakibArifin This is Pew's collection of different denominations' positions: pewforum.org/2009/02/04/religious-groups-views-on-evolution – DavePhD Mar 8 '17 at 5:21
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Yes, on both counts. This is based on a newer version of the same Pew survey DavePhD used (his was from 2007, mine from 2014). The new version directly provides numbers for the first question rather than having calculate it from other numbers.

For the first question, the percentage of Christians agreeing with the statement is as follows (for humans):

  1. Humans evolved due to natural processes: 21%
  2. Humans evolved due to God's design: 29%
  3. Humans evolved, don't know how: 4%
  4. Humans have always existed in their present form: 42%
  5. Don't know: 5%

I think this wording of the question is better than the one used in the 2007 version, since it also explicitly includes so-called theistic evolution, which is considered a belief in evolution by both those supporting evolution and those opposing it. The 2007 version was somewhat ambiguous for people who believe in evolution, but believe God guided it. Some people who still believe in evolution would likely disagree with the 2007 version because of their belief in God's involvement in evolution. I suspect this flaw was why the question was reworded in the 2014 version.

So, a majority of Christians (54%) believe in human evolution in some form, and a minority (42%) don't.

As for the second question, I can't find aggregate numbers for all versions of belief in evolution, but they do provide separate percentages for the individual beliefs. For what percentage of people who agree with the statement are Christian:

  1. Humans evolved due to natural processes: 45%
  2. Humans evolved evolved due to God's design: 82%
  3. Humans always existed in present form: 86%

So since "evolved due to natural processes" is less than half of Christians, but nearly half of those who believe it are Christian, it is safe to say more than half of people who believe in evolution in some way are Christian.

Edit: Clarified relationship with DavePhD's answer and added notes about theistic evolution.

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    your stats for the second question seem flawed, option 1 and 3 seem to be mutually exclusive, and yet the percentages of those two add up to more then 100% – dsollen Mar 7 '17 at 22:18
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    Hm, whether or not you include "Humans evolved due to God's design" in the definition of evolutionist ends up being really important. – Craig Gidney Mar 7 '17 at 22:30
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    I'd argue "God's design" (#2) does not count as the "biological evolution" this question is asking about. – Kevin Mar 8 '17 at 1:12
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    BlackCat, I changed my answer to be more clear that the data is from this Pew Study pewforum.org/files/2013/05/… question 10c. So you may need to make you answer independent of mine. – DavePhD Mar 8 '17 at 2:45
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    @Kevin a lot of Christians would disagree with you. For example, some might maintain that biological evolution, as defined in the question, is a creation of God. – phoog Mar 8 '17 at 10:23

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