The findings of the biggest and most comprehensive research project ever carried out into UK public opinion on evolution and the origins of mankind is published today by the religious think tank Theos, ahead of a major conference tomorrow (Tuesday) in Rome on religion and science.
The independent research for Theos, conducted by polling company ComRes, is being released in a new Theos report, entitled Faith and Darwin. The publication is the second in four reports being published as part of a Rescuing Darwin research project.
Among its key findings, the report reveals that:
Only 54% of people know that Charles Darwin wrote The Origin of Species (3% believe he wrote The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and 1% think he wrote The Naked Chef by Jamie Oliver).
Only 15% of people know that Charles Darwin was a self-described agnostic towards the end of his life (20% think he was an atheist).
42% of people believe that evolution presents some challenges to Christianity but that it is possible to believe in both.
The research also canvassed people across the UK about the origins of human life and found that:
The East has the largest proportion of people in the UK who believe that the theory of evolution removes any need for God (44%)
Wales has the largest proportion of theistic evolutionists (the belief that evolution is part of God’s plan – 38%).
Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of people who believe in Intelligent Design (16%) and Creationism (25%).
The research also examined people’s opinions on the relationship between human beings and other living things and found that:
14% of people think that human beings are just another species of animal and have no unique value or significance.
43% believe that human beings are like other animals but are particularly complex and this complexity gives humans value and significance.
40% believe that human beings are uniquely different from other living things and so have a unique values and significance.
Commenting on the research, Director of Theos, Paul Woolley said:
“The publication of this research is very significant. It gives, for the first time, a clear picture of public opinion on a controversial set of issues.
“The research clearly indicates that there is a great deal of confusion about what people believe and why they believe it.
“It will be interesting to see what impact the Darwin celebrations have on public opinion by the end of the year.
“There are two lessons in particular that we can learn from Darwin. The first is that belief in God and evolution are compatible. Secondly, in a time when debates about evolution and religious belief can be aggressive and polarised, Charles Darwin remains an example of how to disagree without being disagreeable.”