The overlap of creationism and global-warming denialism

One of the more curious aspects of the Republican Party these days is the extent to which its adherents are distrustful of science, especially with regard to two issues in particular — Darwinian evolution and global warming.

It’s safe to say, I would think, that there’s an overlap on these issues. Many, if not most, of those folks who don’t believe in evolution also are skeptical of mainstream scientific theories regarding man-made global warming. Whether the reverse is true — that is,  whether most global-warming skeptics are also skeptical of evolution — remains an open question. I know of no reliable polls on this matter.

But, of course, there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence of an overlap on these two varieties of anti-science bias. For example, in THIS ESSAY of a couple of years ago, Lori Lebo suggested that creationism and global-warming denialism are “anti-science’s kissing cousins”:

South Dakota Rep. Don Kopp doesn’t believe we descended from apes, but he claims that’s not why he wrote a resolution to cast doubt on climate change. His feelings on climate change, he says, have nothing to do with evolution.

Still, the connection is hard to ignore. Last month, Kopp successfully led efforts to adopt a resolution in his state calling for a “balanced approach” to global climatic change in public schools.

As Donald R. Prothero, Occidental College geology professor and lecturer in geobiology at the California Institute of Technology, says, “It’s all out of the creationist playbook.”

The New York Times raised the connection in a March 3 article “Darwin Foes Add Warming to Targets.” But just how much do anti-evolutionists and global warming deniers have in common?

There is one clear connection: just as there is virtually no debate in the scientific community regarding the validity of evolution, there is also little disagreement among scientists actively studying climate change.

More recently, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida signaled a reluctance to offend his party’s creationists when he somewhat awkwardly tried to dodge a question about old he thinks planet Earth is. He said it’s a matter of “dispute amongst theologians” — ignoring the fact that there’s not much dispute on the matter among scientists.

Columnist Paul Krugman says THIS of Rubio’s response to the question:

Like striated rock beds that speak of deep time, his inability to acknowledge scientific evidence speaks of the anti-rational mind-set that has taken over his political party.

By the way, that question didn’t come out of the blue. As speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, Mr. Rubio provided powerful aid to creationists trying to water down science education. In one interview, he compared the teaching of evolution to Communist indoctrination tactics — although he graciously added that “I’m not equating the evolution people with Fidel Castro.” Gee, thanks.

What was Mr. Rubio’s complaint about science teaching? That it might undermine children’s faith in what their parents told them to believe. And right there you have the modern G.O.P.’s attitude, not just toward biology, but toward everything: If evidence seems to contradict faith, suppress the evidence.

The most obvious example other than evolution is man-made climate change. As the evidence for a warming planet becomes ever stronger — and ever scarier — the G.O.P. has buried deeper into denial, into assertions that the whole thing is a hoax concocted by a vast conspiracy of scientists. And this denial has been accompanied by frantic efforts to silence and punish anyone reporting the inconvenient facts.

Still, as I noted above, we don’t yet have any good study that quantifies the overlap of creationism and global-warming denialism among American right-wingers.

Last year, a poll co-sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Religion News Service came close, but ultimately fell short.

It did, however, give us this pertinent data:

More than 6-in-10 political independents (61%) and Democrats (64%) affirm a belief in evolution, compared to 45% of Republicans and 43% of Americans who identify with the Tea Party.

Nearly two-thirds (66%) of white mainline Protestants, 61% of Catholics, and 77% of the unaffiliated believe humans and other living things evolved over time, compared to only about one-third (32%) of white evangelicals. African American Protestants are evenly divided on the question, with 47% affirming a belief in evolution and 46% affirming a belief in creationism.


Eighty-one percent of Democrats and 7-in-10 independents believe the earth is getting warmer, compared to less than half (49%) of Republicans and only about 4-in-10 (41%) Americans who identify as members of the Tea Party.


Among those who believe the earth is getting warmer, nearly two-thirds (64%) believe that climate change is caused by human activity, compared to 32% who say it is caused by natural environmental patterns.

Less than 1-in-5 Republicans (18%) and Tea Party members (18%) believe that climate change is caused by human activity, compared to 60% of Democrats.

White evangelicals are significantly less likely to believe that the earth is getting warmer and that changes are caused by human activity (31%) than white mainline Protestants (43%), Catholics (50%), or the unaffiliated (52%).

FOOTNOTE: Regarding the excerpt above from Lori Lebo’s essay, she may be right that “South Dakota Rep. Don Kopp doesn’t believe we descended from apes,” but neither do evolutionists believe that.

Evolutionists believe that humans and apes have a common ancestor, not that the former descended from the latter.  A misunderstanding of that disinction often gives rise to this stupid question: If humans descended from apes, why are there still apes?



  1. For all of its military might and financial clout, the United States remains a laughing stock throughout the world because of the willingness of politicians like Rubio to pander to religious fundamentalists and their fervor to impose their personal beliefs on the rest of the nation. There is no need for pseudo-debate where prima facia, one position has no merit. There is merely need for prolonged and vocal public outcry against these concerted efforts to drag the United States back to the Dark Ages.

  2. “Evolutionists believe that humans and apes have a common ancestor, not that the former descended from the latter. A misunderstanding of that disinction often gives rise to this stupid question: If humans descended from apes, why are there still apes?”

    Amazingly stupid question, wow!

    Lets see what Wikipedia says:

    “the topic usually only covers the evolutionary history of primates, in particular the genus Homo, and the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species of hominids (or “great apes”). ”

    “… and the position of the foramen magnum was evidence of bipedal locomotion. All of these traits convinced Dart that the Taung baby was a bipedal human ancestor, a transitional form between apes and humans.”

    ” In their seminal paper in 1967 in Science, Sarich and Wilson estimated the divergence time of humans and apes as four to five million years ago..”

    “In the 1990s several teams of paleoanthropologists were working throughout Africa looking for evidence of the earliest divergence of the Hominin lineage from the great apes.”

    “..Homo habilis which at approximately 600 cc had a brain slightly larger than chimpanzees, and continued with Homo erectus (800-1100 cc), and reached a maximum in Neanderthals with an average size of (1200-1900cc), larger even than Homo sapiens. The pattern of human postnatal brain growth differs from that of other apes..”

    “However, the differences between the structure of human brains and those of other apes…”

    “Humans are the only ape in which the female is fertile year round, ..”

    Wikipedia says that humans and apes evolved from a common ancestor…. which was an ape.

    So its easy to see how socialist lefties can think that the question is sssooooooo stupid. Wow.


  3. klem: I gather from your irrelevant reference to “socialist lefties” that you might have difficulty in understanding this, but the fact remains that humans did not evolve from any of the species we know as apes today. Rather, today’s apes and today’s humans evolved from a common ancestor. And this ancestor, although not identical to modern apes, was almost certainly more apelike than humanlike in appearance and behavior. At some point between 5 and 8 million years ago, this species diverged into two distinct lineages, one of which were the hominids, or humanlike species, and the other ultimately evolved into the ape species living today.

    I eagerly await your next reference to “socialist lefties,” your condescension toward which bespeaks your own evolution (such as it is).

  4. shawnnews

    I bet the people who don’t believe in evolution or global warming never had it demonstrated well for them. You can easily go to RVC and take BIO 101 life science and BIO 102 earth science and have these spelled out for you.
    Your church or political party members probably aren’t scientists.
    We have to remember if someone said their Islamic beliefs or texts prohibited them from accepting evidence, we would they were victims of self-deception or false indoctrination. Likewise if our political parties or Christian religions tell us something that doesn’t match evidence we have to go where evidence leads us.

  5. Bumper sticker watch:

    For God so loved the world he gave us Darwin to explain it

  6. Chris Mooney covers this topic extensively in his books “The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science-and Reality” and “The Republican War on Science.”

    It is vital that intelligent people speak up against the Republican’s anti-science agenda. Scientific illiteracy – particularly the willful ignorance of creationism and its latest disguise, so-called “intelligent design” creationism – is utterly inappropriate for the technological civilization of the 21st century.

  7. “More than 6-in-10 political independents (61%) and Democrats (64%) affirm a belief in evolution, compared to 45% of Republicans and 43% of Americans who identify with the Tea Party.”

    Most of those Democrats and Republicans who accept the evidence for evolution stick their dead Jeebus in there somewhere. They think supernatural magic is one of the mechanisms of evolution.

    Only 5% of Republicans accept evolution without a god’s magic wand. I’m a Republican and I’m part of this 5%. It’s unfortunate most Republicans are science deniers. The problem is of course the Christian death cult which needs to be completely eradicated.

  8. Here in TN, they have taken steps though new legislation to allow creationism back into the classroom. This law turns the clock back nearly 100 years here in the seemingly unprogressive South and is simply embarrassing. There is no argument against the Theory of Evolution other than that of religious doctrine. The Monkey Law only opens the door for fanatic Christianity to creep its way back into our classrooms. You can see my visual response as a Tennessean to this absurd law on my artist’s blog at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/04/pulpit-in-classroom-biblical-agenda-in.html with some evolutionary art and a little bit of simple logic.

  9. Patrick Alcorn

    Pat , Creationists operate from a position of fear not rationality. Ergo no amount of facts or logic can move them. It is only when they can face this fear ( hidden in the guise of Faith) can they become open to reason. This takes time and a willingness to really let go of supperstion and indoctrination. It took a long time for me , it can happen, so don’t give up on them just keep making them uncomfortable enough to think and question and many will come around.

  10. Brian Opsahl

    Science deals in facts, Religion works on faith, So how you reach your conclusions on these issues is very complex. We have to be smart enough where to seperate facts from fiction. There is stuff in the Bible that defies Man and God. Stories that were writen to teach us lessions about life but very little in facts. Science on the otherhand deals in factual conclusions, and to ignore them at your own detrament is ignorance at it’s best.

    God gave us the intellagence to be Scientest, or a Micro Biologest, or many other things that can solve problems to our envrioment,cure sickness,and many other problem solving issues. I’m sure their are many in Science who can seperate the two.

  11. klem said: “So its easy to see how socialist lefties can think that the question is sssooooooo stupid. Wow.”

    Um – the stupid part is when they ask “why are there still apes”. THAT is the stupid part of the question, klem. It’s like asking “if Americans came from Europeans, why are there still Europeans?”

    Got it?

    As for the overlap of creationism and global warming denial – the National Center for Science Education recently extended its coverage from defending the teaching of evolution to also defending the teaching of climate science to our nation’s students. They found that there was so much overlap in the people and methods used by the deniers that the NCSE could cover both issues with the same approach and same watchdog systems.

    I strongly recommend “Merchants of Doubt” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway which shows that many of the same scientists (backed by the same conservative think tanks) were behind:

    Denial that smoking is dangerous
    Denial that second-hand smoke is dangerous
    Denial that industry was creating acid rain
    Denial that acid rain was dangerous
    Denial of the hole in the ozone layer
    Denial that the ozone hole was dangerous
    Denial that CFCs contributed to the ozone hole
    Denial of Global Warming
    Denial that Global Warming was caused by human activity
    Attacks on Rachel Carson for her role in the DDT ban

    It’s the same story over and over, funded by the same industries, backed by the same scientists, promoted by the same think tanks, and influencing the same gullible portion of our society.

  12. Jim Pettit

    Excellent article, Pat.

    Reading comments like Rubio’s is almost enough to make one believe that some sort of brain-eating worm has crawled en masse into the ear canals of the Right and gnawed its way through their synapses and dendrites and neurons, quickly and quite effectively removing every last shred of critical thinking ability they might have had. As jefflz wrote, our country is indeed the laughingstock of the world, and, worse, it’s getting more so every day, with pandering fools like Rubio leading the downhill parade. These are amazing times we live in–and I don’t mean that in a good way.

    Many on the Tea Party Right like to shout that it’s time to “Take America Back!” But just how far back they want to take the nation is anyone’s guess.

  13. Most people who don’t believe in Santa Clause also don’t believe in the Easter Bunny either.

  14. Brian Opsahl

    Right…on Rick !! Exactly

  15. Take a look at the Committee on Science, Space and Technology. It’s chair is neocon Ralph Hall of Texas who would like to get rid of the EPA and virtually any science that’s critical of dirty industries. Other members on the GOP side are Todd Akin (not for long) and Paul Broun the wackadoodle from Georgia.

  16. Rick, don;t forget Alar!

  17. Brian Opsahl

    We have just witnessed 2 100 year storms in the last 3 years alone, what the Scientist told us back 10 years ago is starting to happen today as they said it would. If we choose to ignore the facts as some suggest (republicans) we could possibly destroy our chance to make the changes needed to turn this around and recognize what needs to be done.

    Putting your head in the sand about this issue will only make it worse,but dealing with it head-on today could change our futher and our kids chance to have a normal enviroment to be in the Sun,or breath normal air that we take for granted.
    Remember when China hosted the Olyimpic games in 2008 you could see the Orange colored air hovering over that city from all it’s industrial Toxins and to many people living in one place….do you see that getting smaller…no you don’t …which means it only gets worse as time goe’s on…mark my words eventully mass amounts of people will start dieing from breathing that Orange colored air…!!

  18. There have been ~!4,000 articles posted in peer-reviewed science journals that speak of global warming. 24 reject global warming, the other 13,975ish differ on HOW it is happening not if it is happening.

    The numbers are assuredly more staggering in talking about evolution.

    Any person who denies either is not fit for political office as they are either irrational or blinded by their religious convictions.

    Also, here is the definition of faith for all of those who would even use the word “God” when talking about science:

    Faith, noun “Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.”

  19. The evolution battle is often MISrepresented as science against religion – this is baloney!
    The real battle is between good science and Darwinism. When Darwinian/Macro evolution is scrutinised using the scientific method, it crumbles.
    The scientific method demands: observation, measurement, repeatability. Darwinian/Macro evolution has none of these, all it has is circumstantial evidence which is open to interpretation. Ask yourself: What evidence is there that our great …. Great grandfather was a self replicating molecule?
    “Evolution” is a vague word. The main defintions in the text books are:
    1) “change over time”, this is silly as it is stating the flaming obvious.
    2) Micro evolution is minor changes within a species, this is real and observable and uncontested.
    3) Darwinian/Macro evolution (where the conflict is) which asserts that:
    a) All living things had a common ancestor. This implies that your great….. great grandfather was a self replicating molecule.
    b) The observable world has come into existence by totally natural, unguided processes and specifically WITHOUT the involvement of an intelligent designer.
    Have a look at this link for details http://youtu.be/fQ_h-S7IuaM

    Scientific evidence should be the core issue in scientific controversies like Macro evolution.
    Do a youtube search for “Persuaded by the Evidence” and consider the experience of 6 scientists which where once Evolutionists but became skeptics because of the evidence they saw in their respective fields.
    Mindlessly repeating the mantra that their is “mountains of evidence proving evolution” does not make it so.

  20. Brian Opsahl

    I would bet 10,000 bucks !! of Mitt Romneys money, those 24 that didn’t beleive in Global Warming are regular watchers of Fox news…seriously

  21. Craig KNAUSS

    Sorry theot, but you are wrong. The basis of Darwin’s theory was “survival of the fittest”. Those that didn’t adapt or possess capabilities to endure, perished. Traits that could be used in a changing environment allowed some species to continue. We can see the long term changes by observing extinct species. We can even see some of it in present species. Look at dogs, cats, horses, etc. Some of their evolution was deliberate through intentional breeding. Some of it was through natural breeding. Horses are no longer the size of dogs, are they? And dogs have longer DNA strands than wolves, even though they all evolved from a common ancestor. And why don’t African and Indian elephants have long, wooly hair?

    Perhaps you should ask yourself this – Why would an “intelligent” designer create thousands or millions of species that would have no chance for long term survival?

  22. Theot,

    If the THEORY of evolution (aka fact in science terms, kind of like the germ THEORY of disease) is so flawed, please explain the following to me:

    Why, despite the staggering diversity of life on this planet, all species have the same DNA base pairs to code genetics, proteins and enzymes to perform designated functions, and cellular organelles conserved throughout lineages. Why bone structure is conserved throughout mammals. Why embryonic structure and development is similar between fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Why keratin can form scales, feathers, and fingernails.

    Why would any of this occur if not for common ancestors from which all species evolved? There is bad science associated with evolution. It is performed by any idiot “scientist” that would look at all of this data and come to any other conclusion than evolution. Mainly, those are the ones who refuse their HYPOTHESIS (aka unproven idea) of intelligent design.

  23. Above should read “refuse to change their HYPOTHESIS of intelligent design”

  24. kevind1986

    So 61% of Inds believe in evolution vs 45% of Cons. What an earth shattering difference! Out of any group of 100 people, 16 more believe one way than another! Holy cow! This entire article is a straw man intended to support a PC diatribe. Science is how I make my living – but PC, as usual, has no point to make unless it is a childish shot at whomever disagrees with him. PC must spend a LOT of time alone.

  25. KevinD,

    15% is not a large difference? I don’t know what kind of science you work in, but in many branches 15-18% (or 30%difference in polls for climate change) is a GIGANTIC difference. It is asssuredly enough to determine almost and facet of your healthcare, for example.

  26. Brian Opsahl

    You guys are way smarter than me, I used a snowmobile and 25 years of riding research in the Northwoods of Wisconsin to discover that every year we have to go further north to find snow. It gets warmer every winter, in places that used to messure snow in the feet now messure in inches.

  27. Poor Kevind1986!

    Apparently, he’s embarrassed by the survey’s showing that political independents are considerably more likely than his fellow conservatives to believe in evolution. So, he pretends that a difference of 16 percentage points is insignificant.

    Oh, but we’re supposed to be impressed that Kevin makes his living in the world of science. I guess that makes his otherwise illogical conclusions on this matter somehow acceptable.

    Poor Kevin! I guess he’s still upset about the election results. I wonder if he’s signed one of those secession petitions.

  28. Brian Opsahl

    In the World of Science doesn’t being a lab rat qualify you as a Scientest….lol
    Just sayin..!! Just because I work next Engineers dosen’t make me an Engineer…doe’s it ?

  29. shawnnews

    In college, we didn’t hear the terms “microevolution” or “macroevolution.” If I remember right, those terms came from students who first learned the theory in Christian schools. They weren’t terms used in the few biology classes I took that I can recall.

  30. shawnnews: Right you are.

    There’s more about creationists and their views of microevolution and macroevolution here:


  31. “No one thinks that Noah’s ark carried all of the species we have today. After they left the ark, the “kinds,” as we call them, then diversified.”

    Hahahahahahaha. Amazing.

  32. shawnnews

    I saw that one when I was looking it up. I didn’t want to use the link myself because it’s an atheism site rather than a science site. Science does not mandatorily presuppose atheism although evolutionists like Richard Dawkins are atheists.
    The conservative movement is really a gutter. Unfortunately they are dragging conservative churches along with them and getting them to inadvertantly support the party of vvoter suppression.
    I think in Europe they settled the evolution debate in the 1800s. I don’t think churches outside the US are like this since they I don’t hear them protesting about the Candaian or European medical system: the complaints arise simply from taking the contrary view of the Democrats. The Democrats believe in science and health care reform so the Republicans take contrary postions while maintaining lip service to general religious authority. If the Democrats endorse computers the Republicans will say that we should return to calculators and to God along with a cut in the capital gains tax.

    It really is poor because if we want to kick the Democrats out of the mess they made in Illinois, we have to vote for the people who believe in top-down religion, or that public unions are to blame for Illinois’ problems or that tax cuts always increase revenue.

  33. Leif Knutsen

    IMO the problem is that both parties share the same fundamental flaw to varying degrees. That is both are beholden to the “socially enabled capitalism” paradigm that allows, even encourages, to few to profit from the exploitation and pollution of the commons. You will only be allowed to profit as well if YOU accept the paradigm via investment in the fallacy, stocks, bonds, Wall Street, etc. Obviously this paradigm leads directly to the “haves” and “have not’s” that must continually fight for a piece of the action as the the resources of the planet and the life support systems that we all depend upon are rapped and pillaged, leaving only destitution in the wake. (Tar sands, acidified oceans, disrupted climate, etc.) A new paradigm is needed and it is one that has arisen from time to time in the past, usually in outlying cultures but those become quickly plundered by the more aggressive exploiters. The fallacy that those exploiters refuse to recognize to that exponential growth is not allowed in a closed system and Nature bats last. Nature is at bat and she has a strong line up. She will prevail. Respect and healing support for Earth’s fragile life support systems with our tail between our legs, that is humanities only recourse. It is sink or swim Folks. Survival of the species, one and all, or profits to the polluters. Your call!

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