A difficulty strict creationism faces in several Western-European contexts is tough ideological opposition.
As studies show, despite strict creationism’s diversity, the movement is unified in its opposition to the science of evolution and an old Earth. Many creationists are anti-human evolution instead believing God created human beings only a few thousand years ago. They also object to an old Earth view stipulating the planet to be just a handful thousands of years old.
The ideological challenges to these creationist views are strong and numerous. These include secularism, religiously liberal views, theistic-evolutionism, Orthodox Christian views that have no issue with evolution and an old age of the Earth, agnosticism, atheism, a range of religious options that do not include strict anti-evolutionary creationism, as well as alternative spiritualities. Also significant are academic disciplines where creationism (and Intelligent Design) has failed to make much impact.
But one would be mistaken to dismiss creationism’s presence in Western-European environments. Although figures show that it has declined, it still lives. In the United States, a 2017 Gallup poll of 1011 adults aged 18 and older discovered that 38% of Americans believe in strict creationism which says that God created humans in their present form at some time within the last 10 000 years (1). According to Gallup, this is an all-time low, although it yet equates to many millions of people. The public acceptance of evolutionary science has increased. 57% of Americans now believe in some form of evolution, whether they think God guided the process or had nothing to do with it. Only 22% of Canadians accept the strict creationist view (2).
What about Europe? Except for Turkey, European countries are far more accepting of human evolution than the United States, despite these levels of acceptance almost never exceeding 80%. According to researchers Stefaan Blancke, Hans Henrik Hjermitslev, Johan Braeckman, and Peter C. Kjærgaard:
“[I]t is often overlooked that even in the most evolution-friendly European states, the level of acceptance almost never exceeds 80%. In fact, in most countries, no more than 70% of surveyed population accepts human evolution, whereas 20% rejects it. Although these figures are not as low when compared with the situation in the United States, they do reveal that anti evolutionism is far from absent in Europe” (3).
A majority of the population accepts human evolution in Sweden (68%), Germany (65%), and Belgium (61%), with these countries having only 8 to 12% creationists on average. In other countries, such as Italy, Poland, and Russia, the percentage of creationists stands at 21%, 25%, and 34%, respectively (4). In Finland, Hungary, and Italy roughly 15 to 18% of non-biology teachers hold creationist beliefs, although it is far less among biology teachers (between 3 and 6%), and there are almost no creationist teachers at all in France and Estonia (5). A 2006 BBC poll in the United Kingdom indicated that 48% of the surveyed population claimed evolution “best described their view on the origin and development of life.” Creationism hovered at 21%, intelligent design at 17%, and 13% were undecided (6). Although creationism and anti-evolutionism are still alive in European territories, the British Council is confident that,
“the majority of adults in Great Britain, Spain and Russia believe that life on Earth, including human life, evolved over time as a result of natural selection in which no God played a part” (7).
1. Swift, Art. 2017. In US, Belief in Creationist View of Humans at New Low. Available.
2. The Huffington Post. 2012. Believe In Evolution: Canadians More Likely Than Americans To Endorse Evolution. Available.
3. Blancke, Stefaan., Hjermitslev, Hans Henrik., Braeckman, Johan., and Kjærgaard, Peter. 2013. “Creationism in Europe: Facts, Gaps, and Prospects.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 81(4):996-1028. p. 1005-1006.
4. Blancke, Stefaan. et al. 2013. Ibid. p. 1007.
5. Clement, Pierre. 2015. “Science and Religion: Evolutionism and Creationism in Education. A Survey of Teachers Conceptions in 14 Countries.” Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences 167:279-287.
6. Numbers, Ronald. 2006. The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. p. 408.
7. Quoted by Blancke, Stefaan. et al. 2013. Ibid. p. 1007.