Poll finds students believe in evolution over creation

by Kori Koch

A recent poll by The Minnesota Daily concluded that University students are much more likely to believe in evolution than the rest of the U.S. public.

According to the March poll, 83 percent of University students believe in the theory that humans evolve over time. The remaining 17 percent of respondents believe God created man 10,000 years ago and humans have not evolved.

The poll was designed to measure students’ knowledge of and attitudes toward evolution. The Daily Survey Research Department randomly polled 3,200 spring semester students, of which approximately 23 percent responded.

The poll had a 3.6 percent margin of error.

Some of the findings differ significantly from a similar 2004 Gallup Poll, which said 45 percent of Americans believe God created humans without evolution taking place.

Ruth Shaw, a University evolution professor, said some of the Daily survey results are consistent with her experience teaching.

“Students are by far more interested in learning about scientific aspects of evolution,” she said.

Mark Borrello, a University historian in the department of ecology, evolution and behavior, said he expected the results.

“There’s a misconception about American religiosity. Most people who identify as Christian are not biblical literalists,” he said.

Borrello attributed some of the different results between the Gallup and Daily polls to geography. Gallup surveys the entire country, including areas that have traditionally stronger religious ties, he said.

“I don’t think Christianity and the theory of evolution are mutually exclusive,” he said. “Most students I deal with negotiate the boundaries between scientific understanding and religious belief.”

Kaydee Weida, a University junior, said religion determines how someone views creation theories.

“I believe in both, if that’s possible,” she said.

The Daily poll included seven statements considered “generally accepted scientific thought.” To gauge student knowledge of the subject, participants were asked to answer whether each was true or false.

In response to the notion that “evolution is considered scientifically controversial,” students were nearly split.

To gauge how much students have been exposed to evolution theories, respondents were surveyed about where they learned about the theories.

More than half of students said they have been taught about evolution in University classes.

The poll suggests many believe it should keep being taught in the curriculum. Eighty-four percent disagreed with the statement that students do not need to be taught evolution in biological sciences.

In another question, 86 percent of respondents said evolution should be taught in schools.