East Lansing, Mich. -- Surveys by a Michigan State University researcher find that about one-third of the American population does not believe in evolution, a figure which is much higher than those found in similar surveys in European nations and Japan.
The research of Jon D. Miller, MSU Hannah Professor of Integrative Studies, is published in the Aug. 11 issue of the journal Science.
"One in three American adults firmly rejects the concept of evolution, a significantly higher proportion than found in any western European country," Miller said.
For example, in Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and France, 80 percent or more of adults accepted the concept of evolution, as did 78 percent of Japanese adults.
Only adults in Turkey, a predominantly Muslim nation, were less likely to accept the concept of evolution than American adults.
The data for the 32 European countries were collected by the European Commission using primarily personal interviews. The Japan data were collected in 2001 by personal interview. The U.S. data were collected by Miller using Knowledge Networks, an online national sample of households selected on a probability basis. All of the interview and online data in the 34 countries were weighted to reflect actual population distributions and are comparable across countries.
There were several reasons for these inflated U.S. numbers. Miller said the most significant factor was the influence of fundamentalist religions.
"The total effect of fundamentalist religious beliefs on attitude toward evolution was nearly twice as much in the United States," he said, "which indicates that individuals who hold a strong belief in a personal God and who pray frequently were significantly less likely to view evolution as probably or definitely true than adults with less conservative religious views."