for National Geographic News
People in the United States are much less likely to accept Darwin's idea that humans and apes share a common ancestor than adults in other Western nations, a number of surveys show.
A new study of those surveys suggests that the main reason for this lies in a unique confluence of religion, politics, and the public understanding of biological science in the United States.
Researchers compared the results of past surveys of attitudes toward evolution taken in the U.S. since 1985 and similar surveys in Japan and 32 European countries.
In the U.S., only 14 percent of adults thought that evolution was "definitely true," while about a third firmly rejected the idea.
In European countries, including Denmark, Sweden, and France, more than 80 percent of adults surveyed said they accepted the concept of evolution.
The proportion of western European adults who believed the theory "absolutely false" ranged from 7 percent in Great Britain to 15 percent in the Netherlands.
The only country included in the study where adults were more likely than Americans to reject evolution was Turkey.
The investigation also showed that the percentage of U.S. adults who are uncertain about evolution has risen from 7 percent to 21 percent in the past 20 years.
Researchers from the U.S. and Japan analyzed additional information from these surveys in an attempt to identify factors that might help explain why Americans are more skeptical about evolution.
Led by Jon D. Miller, a political scientist at Michigan State University, the team reports its findings in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science.
American Culture and Evolution
The team ran a complex analysis of the statistics, testing for a causal link between aspects of U.S. culture and Americans' attitudes toward evolution.
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