Human beings share 98% of their genes with chimpanzees, 92% of their genes with mice, 44% with fruit flies, 26% with yeast, and 18% with thale cress. I don’t even know what a thale cress is, other than it is a weed and one of the first organisms to have its entire genome catalogued. Here’s a picture of our relative….it’s actually rather pretty.
In an era of unprecedented amounts of information emerging from genetics, Americans continue to dig in their heels and reject evolution. Jon Miller of Michigan State has been studying attitudes towards evolution for 20 years. His most recent figures show that among the countries surveyed, only Turkey shows a lower acceptance of evolution than the United States .
Participants were asked, “Human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals, true or false? And here is how we answered:
Miller notes that the number of people in the United States supporting evolution dropped from 45% in 1985 to 40% in 2005. The good news, though, is that the number of people who completely reject the idea of evolution dropped from 48% to 39% during the same period of time. The biggest change came in those who were unsure about evolution. This group was only 7% in 1985 but grew to 21% in 2005. Of the new 14% in the unsure category, 9 came from the formerly rejecting and 5 from the formerly accepting.
We might put these figures in perspective with 2005 information from the Gallup pollsters . Between 50-75% of American teens believe in angels, astrology and the existence of extra-sensory perception (ESP). Smaller numbers believe in ghosts (20%) and the Loch Ness monster (16%). Scientists have a lot of work to do.
Personally, I have never understood the conflict between evolution and religion, and I consider myself a religious person. Science is based on observation of facts; religion on faith. These are parallel tracks that need not be in conflict. However, I have started including disclaimers on my course syllabi informing students that they are free to believe what they want, but they are expected to understand the principles of evolution.
 Miller, J.D., Scott, E.C., & Okamoto, S. (2006). Science communication. Public acceptance of evolution. Science, 313, 765-766.
 Winseman, A.L. (2005). Eternal destinations: Americans believe in heaven, hell. Retrieved August 1, 2005 from the Gallup Poll website: http://poll.gallup.com/content/default.aspx?CI=11770