Evolution and Creationism in Public Education

Teaching Evolution/Creationism In Public Schools

Main Finding: The overwhelming majority of Americans (83%) want Evolution taught in public schools. While many also support the in-school discussion of religious explanations of human origins, they do not want these religious explanations presented as “science”. They would like Creationist ideas to be taught about in classes other than science (such as Philosophy) or discussed as a “belief”. Only a minority (fewer than 3 in 10) want Creationism taught as science in public schools.

Since this is not a simple issue, we asked a series of questions in the survey to understand fully where Americans stand. The main questions were:

  • What should be taught in public schools: Evolution, Creationism, or both?
  • Should Creationism be taught about in science classes, in other classes, or what?
  • Should Evolution and/or Creationism be taught as “scientific theory” or instead be taught as “belief”?

    Level 1: Teach Evolution

    The vast majority of Americans, 83%, want the Theory of Evolution to be taught in the nation’s public schools. On this point there is no difference at all between all Americans and those with a child currently enrolled in a public school. Clearly, Americans in general, and parents in particular, believe Evolution should be part of the public school curriculum.

    All Americans
    %
    Those with a child in public schools
    %
    Believe Evolution should be taught in public schools8383

    Level 2: Be Sure Evolution, as Taught, Does Not Deny Religion

    While most Americans want to keep Evolution in the public school curriculum, they are less clear about how they would prefer schools to deal with religious explanations for human origins. On this point, supporters of Evolution in the schools fall into many different subgroups, each with its own approach to the two questions.

  • Importantly, most Americans do not take an absolutist position on this issue, meaning teach only Evolution (20% hold this position) or only Creationism (16% hold this position). Most support an approach that both teaches Evolution as scientific theory and also includes some discussion of religious explanations for human origins and development.
  • That said, most of the public (66%) lean in the direction of placing the scientific stress on Evolution. This means that most support one of the following approaches:
    • Teach only Evolution (20% support).
    • Teach Evolution in science class with religious explanations taught in another class (such as Philosophy class) (17% support).
    • Teach Evolution as “scientific theory” in science class, but allow Creationism to be mentioned as a “belief” (29% support).
  • Only a minority of Americans want both Evolution and Creationism taught as science, or want only Creationism taught at all.
  • See the next page for a detailed breakdown.

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