ABSTRACT

Large segments of the American public are skeptical of human evolution. Surveys consistently find that sizable minorities of the population, frequently near half, deny that an evolutionary process describes how human life developed (Berkman and Plutzer 2010; Keeter and Horowitz 2009; Newport 2012). When measuring confidence in their position, substantially more respondents have confidence that evolution is not the best explanation for human life than those who are confident that it is (Miller, Scott, and Okamoto 2006). In international comparison, these high rates in the United States are clearly outliers (Mazur 2004; Miller, Scott, and Okamoto 2006). Why is it that such large proportions of the American population deny the basic legitimacy of evolution? What generates and sustains these beliefs in the face of scientific consensus?