Monday, 2 March 2009

A godless, rational nation?

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It's nice to wake up today to Christian think tank Theos telling us something we already know – Britain's not really that religious, we tend to overwhelmingly agree that evolution is true (buying into scientific fact - whatever next?), and we're not exactly a hotbed of raving creationist nonsense.

Theos have produced the report, entitled "Faith and Darwin" to coincide the start, tomorrow, of a Vatican conference on religion and science (more on that later). So what does it tell us? Well, from a survey of 2,060 people, 89% reject Intelligent Design and 83% reject creationism as explanations for the origin of life, while 37% agreed that "humans evolved by a process of evolution which removes any need for God". Meanwhile, 17% identified themselves as creationists.

Like I said, it's not exactly telling us anything new. But it does become more interesting when you look at the regional breakdown. As the Guardian point out, and illustrate in this interactive map, the most "godless" region according to the survey is the east of England, where 44% said evolution removes the need for God and a mere 16% identified themselves as creationists.

But it would be unwise to conclude from the map that we do not have a problem with creationist belief in this country – in London, 20% of respondents said they were creationists. As Theos point out, this is likely due to the proliferation of more conservative forms of religion, such as Pentescostalism, in the capital. So, while we can be pleased that creationism isn't a huge problem, we certainly can't sit back and relax. As the figures for London suggest, one effect immigration can have is a rise in the numbers holding conservative religious views (this was what Michael Reiss was getting at in his controversial speech on creationism in schools last year). It's an issue for our education system to ensure that children from religiously conservative families, who may have emigrated from countries where evolution is not widely accepted or understood, learn about it in school, in far greater detail than they currently do (I was barely taught anything about it when I was at school, and that was less than 10 years ago).

If the Theos figures are correct and 17 out of 100 people in Britain are indeed creationists, then our education system really needs to address that. It may seem like a small number when compared to, say, the United States, but it's still 17% too many.


Kevin said...

Feb 1 2009:

"Half of Britons do not believe in evolution, survey finds"

March 2 2009

"Four out of five Britons repudiate creationism"

The first article was written by the Guardian's religious affairs writer. The second by its science correspondent.

Both quote a survey of 2,060 people carried out on behalf of Theos.

Pretty clearly it's the same survey being spun in two different directions a month apart.