This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

The Demographics of Evolution

The Pew Research Center just released its latest survey results regarding American's views of evolution, and the results have made headlines and have been the subject of cable TV panels. The Pew report puts a positive spin on the results:
According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.” The share of the general public that says that humans have evolved over time is about the same as it was in 2009, when Pew Research last asked the question.
In truth, it is rather startling that only 60 percent believe in evolution, given the impact that the Enlightenment has had on the world over the past 200-300 years, and the more negative spin has been the general media theme. This is aided by the demographics of who is more or less likely to believe in evolution.
These beliefs differ strongly by religious group. White evangelical Protestants are particularly likely to believe that humans have existed in their present form since the beginning of time. Roughly two-thirds (64%) express this view, as do half of black Protestants (50%). By comparison, only 15% of white mainline Protestants share this opinion.
There also are sizable differences by party affiliation in beliefs about evolution, and the gap between Republicans and Democrats has grown. In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap.
So, your religious and political "demographics," along with your ethnicity, will influence the likelihood of believing in evolution. Charles Darwin, who most famously put forward the theories of evolution, was himself a white mainline Protestant, and his views were influenced by another white mainline Protestant, Thomas Robert Malthus. Indeed, in his Introduction to "The Origin of the Species", Darwin acknowledged that his ideas about the survival of the fittest represented "...the doctrine of Malthus, applied to the whole animal and vegetable kingdoms" (p. xxix). I discuss this in more detail in Chapter 3 of my book...

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