A Canadian Press-Decima Research poll has revealed that Canadians are strongly divided on the question of human origins.
Asked to choose the statement which “comes closest” to their views, 26 percent of those polled said: “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” Another 29 percent declared: “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.” The largest group (34 percent) held a middle position: “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided this process.” The survey said nothing about the opinions of the remaining 11 percent of Canadians. The poll of 1,000 Canadians was conducted June 21-24.
It differs considerably from a similar poll in the United States (done by Gallup for Newsweek March 28-19), in which 45 percent said God created human beings in their present form, 40 percent said God guided human evolution, and only 15 percent said God played no part in human development.
Ed Neeland, associate professor of chemistry at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, told CC.com he is not surprised that 60 percent of Canadians believe in a Creator, since God has “set eternity” in human hearts – and, he believes, there likely isn’t a single culture on earth that doesn’t believe in a Creator.
On the other hand, Neeland said he is disappointed a larger percentage don’t believe in direct human creation, since he is convinced the Bible and the evolutionary order are “diametrically opposed.” He added: “As a scientist, I don’t see any evidence for evolution.”
Neeland said the direct creation option is especially held by evangelicals and others who “read the Bible and take it seriously.” He said this allows them to approach the issue with “a different mindset.” They are then open to the evidence for creation — which he maintained is far greater than the evidence for evolution – and, consequently, “that makes them creationists.”
Neeland contended that the strong belief in evolution is due to brainwashing. “If you start feeding the same story to people from an early age” (in the school system), they will come to believe it. He said evolution is further reinforced by constant repetition in every university course, from biology to psychology.
This helps explain why only 15 percent of university graduates believe in direct creation of human beings, compared to 37 percent of those who haven’t finished high school; and why 31 percent of those over 50, but only 22 percent of those 18-34, believe in direct creation. Neeland contended that the pervasive acceptance of evolution is why people who have never taken a university science course and “don’t understand evolution” are nevertheless committed evolutionists.
Neeland suggested that people who believe in God-guided evolution are those who accept both what schools teach about evolution, and what their churches teach about creation; they decide both must be right, and so settle for what he termed the “unholy union” of God-guided evolution.
Decima CEO Bruce Anderson said, “These results reflect an essential Canadian tendency. We are pretty secular, but pretty hesitant to embrace atheism.”
Neeland agreed, saying the poll is evidence of Canada’s “lukewarm culture.” Canadians are “polite” and “don’t want to offend” anyone. Americans are more polarized because “they are not afraid to take a side.”
On the other hand, Denis Lamoureux, assistant professor of science and religion at St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta, suggested that the different figures in the U.S. partly reflect the higher percentage of evangelicals there.
Neeland said universities, for the most part, present only evidence for evolution and keep creationist views from being heard. He cited an incident in which he overheard two academics who had just interviewed the leading candidate for an academic position. They said they had “by luck found out that he was a creationist” and so didn’t hire him. Neeland thinks that if the issue had come up when he was being interviewed for his current position, it is likely he wouldn’t have been hired either.
Neeland said that those wanting to find evidence for creation can listen to lectures by scientists such as himself, or read books on the topic from their church libraries. He said the establishment of creation science institutes and Internet sites has helped greatly, and that the number of university students who are aware of the evidence for both sides is getting higher.
Neeland is not convinced Christian schools are necessarily the answer. He cited the case of a very bright student who had gone to Christian schools all his life, but had never been given all the evidence, or been taught to think critically. As a result, when he got to university, he was not ready for the challenge; he decided evolution must be right, and gave up his Christian faith.
Neeland said Christian parents should be more involved in their children’s education, preparing them to face these challenges — and then go into the world and make a difference.
Creation & politics
Both Neeland and Lamoureux said that one of the surprising things about the poll was its correlation to voting preferences. Those who voted for the Conservative Party and those who voted for the NDP had exactly the same views: 29 percent believed God directly created humans, 31 percent believed God had no part in human evolution, and 34 percent believed God guided evolution. Supporters of the Liberal party tended to be more concentrated in the middle, with 27 percent believing God created humans, 22 percent believing God had no part in human evolution, but 41 percent believing God guided evolution.
Among supporters of the Green Party, only 11 percent believed in direct creation, 35 percent believed God guided creation, and 41 percent believed God played no role. Among Bloc Quebecois supporters, only 16 percent believed in direct creation, only 30 percent believed God guided evolution, but 51 percent believed God played no role in the development of humans. This is somewhat due to the fact that Quebec is the most secular region in Canada on this question, with only 21 percent believing in creation, 31 percent believing in God-guided evolution, and 40 percent believing in evolution in which God played no role. The percentage of evangelicals in Quebec is also far lower than in any other part of the country.
Lamoureux suggested that while all research is useful, people should be cautious about drawing firm conclusions from the Decima poll because the questions are confusing and open to interpretation. He said that “the people who created the questions don’t understand all the possible categories of divine action.”
For instance, one could believe in “theistic evolution” — that God established the universe and set up the laws of evolution — without believing that God “guided” the process in the sense of intervening to change the outworking of those laws. In the same way, one can believe God “ordained and sustains” the movement of the planets without believing that he is constantly guiding and adjusting their orbits.
Lamoureux said few Canadians have the broad training in Scripture and science to be able to adequately assess the evidence. While he considers himself an “evolutionary creationist,” he expressed tremendous empathy for people who are “young earth creationists” because of their strong commitment to the Bible.
Neeland said that while he is encouraged by the increasing availability of the evidence for creation, he does not expect Canadians’ views on the issue to change quickly. For one thing, he believes there is a lot of brainwashing work to undo — so that even when they are presented with “really good evidence” for creation, many people are reluctant to accept it.
Matter of the heart
Further, Neeland said that in many cases, “it is a heart issue, not a head issue.” People have “an axe to grind against God,” are “rebelling against the cloistered Christian environments” they grew up in, or are just not willing to believe.
He mentioned a non-Christian colleague who was describing a certain biochemical process. The colleague said, “This is so complex, there is no way it could have happened by itself.” Then — realizing what he had said, and not wanting to discuss the implications — the colleague had walked away.