A Majority of Americans Now Accept the Reality of Evolution


For those who might have missed this interesting news tidbit, a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and published in Public Understanding of Science found that slightly more than half of U.S. adults now accept the reality of evolution. Evolution? Wait just a second! Wasn't that crazy theory conclusively disproven back in 2008? But seriously, the United States has a long and embarrassing history of evolution denial that has helped to hold us back in many ways. It is hard to not to see these findings as anything other than evidence of progress. And you know what? We could sure as hell use some evidence of progress right about now!

Of course, there is another way one might react to these findings: there are still far too many Americans who do not accept the reality of evolution. I can't disagree with that interpretation either. And just why might so many Americans still not accept evolution?

The current study consistently identified religious fundamentalism as the strongest factor leading to the rejection of evolution.

Right. When it comes to what (or who) is holding us back, the answer is fairly clear. We have known this for some time, and I don't expect anybody would have expected to see anything different. Were it not for the pervasive influence of Christian fundamentalism, the United States would be a very different place.

So what are we to make of these findings? Personally, I think we take them as an opportunity to celebrate our progress and recognize that we still have an awfully long way to go. The good news is that at least some of our efforts appear to be working. The bad news is that many probably aren't and that what we are trying to change is very resistent to change.

If we have learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic and how people in the United States have reacted to it, we've learned that overestimating our neighbors can be dangerous. Meeting them where they are requires us to take a clear-eyed look at where they are. That is bound to be different from where we'd wish they'd be, and reconciling that may make us more effective persuaders.