Decline in Belief in God Masks Rise in Superstition

Posted By on January 7, 2014

If people stop believing in God, they still have to believe in something.

Yes, a major shift is occurring, but not the one many people assume. Advancing naturalism (the belief that nature is all there is) produces both expected and unexpected effects. The Harris poll found that belief in Darwin’s theory of evolution increased to 47 percent, up from 42 percent in 2005. Younger folk believe in it at 49% to seniors’ 43%. (Creationism dropped overall from 39% to 36% in eight years and 37% to 33% over the generations.)

That’s no surprise. Darwin’s theory of evolution is explicitly naturalist. It accounts for the history of life, including human life, without design or purpose. Indeed, it even explains religious belief as an adaptation for survival in the food chain—not as the result of any revelation. And 78% of evolutionary biologists (almost all of whom strongly support Darwin’s theory rather than others) are pure naturalist atheists, by multiples higher than the population at large.

As a result, some will crow that “Science is winning over superstition!” But it isn’t. Between 2005 and 2013, belief increased in

  • ghosts from 41% to 42%
  • UFOs from 35% to 36%
  • astrology stayed the same at 29%
  • witches decreased significantly from 31% to 26%
  • reincarnation increased from 21% to 24%

While the noted increases are small, we should expect declines nearly across the board instead, if the “science wins” thesis were correct. (The one exception is UFOs; as a “sciencey” belief, they correlate with naturalism despite lack of evidence.) Further, we would expect young people (18–36) to reject  ghosts and reincarnation more strongly than older people (68+) do.

And they don’t. On the contrary, younger folk believe in ghosts at 44% to seniors’ 24%. In UFOs at 36% to 30%. In astrology at 33% to 23%. In witches at 27% to 18%. And in reincarnation at 27% to 13%. They are clearly not the vanguard of a scientific revolution!

In fact, a recent HuffPost/YouGov poll showed that nearly three out of five Americans trust information from scientists “only a little or not at all.” And the young people surveyed? Forty-five percent of respondents 18–29 trusted what scientists report compared to 28% of people 65+. But that’s less than half of young people surveyed, and the number who trust drops to 36% in the 30–44 age group. (That HuffPost/YouGov drop matters here because Harris surveyed an overlap of these age groups, 18–36.)

One explanation may be found in a detailed survey undertaken by Baylor University (2007–8), which reported that traditional Christianity sharply decreases credulity about dreams, Bigfoot, UFOs, haunted houses, communicating with the dead and astrology. If so, the Harris poll captures the changes occurring as traditional Christianity declines among the young.

One thing the Harris poll illustrates is that naturalism is as bad for science as it is for religion. At the top, today’s cosmology is hostile to the well-demonstrated Big Bang and the fine-tuning of our universe for life. It claims, without evidence, that our universe is one of an infinity of universes instead, and it need not make sense. Why should we accidentally evolved apes expect to live in a universe that makes sense to us anyway? Our beliefs merely adapt us to survival—ghosts, reincarnation, astrology, and Darwinian evolution (we are just animals after all!) by turns, according to need.

Read the rest here.

Recommended Resources
The Institutes of Biblical Law
The Best of the Witherspoon School of Law and Public Policy
The Early Earth-An Introduction to Biblical Creationism
The Seven C’s of History: Helping Children Defend Their Faith (Answers for Kids)

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