Evangelicals are more skeptical of evolution than of climate change

December 13, 2016

Evangelicals are more skeptical of evolution than of climate change, according to new research from Rice University.

"Examining Links Between Religion, Evolution Views and Climate-Change Skepticism" appeared in a recent edition of the journal Environment and Behavior. The study examines the larger "anti-science" tendency that some see as related to membership in conservative religious groups such as evangelical Protestants.

Using national survey data, Rice sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund examined the link between evolution skepticism and climate-change skepticism while considering religion's association with both. The study included 9,636 people in the general U.S. population, which Ecklund said is up to 40 percent evangelical, dependent on how "evangelical" is defined.

The study was co-authored by Christopher Scheitle at West Virginia University, Jared Peifer at Baruch College and Daniel Bolger at Rice University. Ecklund is the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences at Rice and director of Rice's Religion and Public Life Program.

The research revealed that about 20 percent of the U.S. population is skeptical that climate change is occurring at all or that humans have a role in climate change, and about 45 percent of the U.S. population views natural evolution as probably or definitely false. However, the researchers found that there is a much stronger and clearer association between religion and evolution skepticism than between religion and climate-change skepticism. Almost 70 percent of surveyed respondents identifying as evangelicals said that evolution is probably or definitely false, while only 28 percent of these individuals said that the climate is not changing or that humans have no role in climate change.

"This is different from the popular account that the people who oppose climate-change research and the people who oppose the teaching of evolution are the same and that evangelical Protestantism is clearly linked to both," Ecklund said.

Ecklund and her co-authors hope the research will provide insight into how different science issues may or may not interact with religion and politics and help science policymakers more narrowly channel their efforts to address environmental care and climate change.
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The evolution portion of the study was funded by the John Templeton Foundation and is available online at Ecklund's website, http://www.elainehowardecklund.com. The survey questions on the environment were funded by the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion as well as Rice University's Shell Center for Sustainability.

For more information, contact David Ruth, director of national media relations at Rice, at david@rice.edu or 713-348-6327.

This news release can be found online at http://news.rice.edu/.

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation's top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,910 undergraduates and 2,809 graduate students, Rice's undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for happiest students and for lots of race/class interaction by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger's Personal Finance. To read "What they're saying about Rice," go to http://tinyurl.com/RiceUniversityoverview.

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