OTTAWA, Canada (CCN) – A recent Canadian Press-Decima Research Poll shows Canadians are divided on the role God played – or did not play – in the creation of humans.
But that does not mean the Intelligent Design controversy raging in the United States will come to Canada.
According to the poll released July 3, 26 percent of Canadians believe “that God created human beings pretty much in their present form within the last 10,000 years or so,” while 34 percent said “human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided the process.” Another 29 percent say God “played no part.”
“These results reflect an essential Canadian tendency: we are pretty secular but pretty hesitant to embrace atheism,” said Decima Chief Executive Officer Bruce Anderson. “Our views on the role of science and spirituality lack consensus but these are not polarizing issues for the most part.”
Science journalist and author Denyse O’Leary, an expert on the Intelligent Design controversy, agrees the issues have not become politicized the way they have in the United States. “Canada is a much more secular country.”
“Recently some people have been making noises that the Intelligent Design controversy is going to be played out in Canada the same way as in the United States,” said O’Leary, author of By Design or By Chance: the Growing Controversy on the Origins of Life in the Universe. “That’s nonsense.”
American polling figures on similar questions show 20 percent more Americans than Canadians believe “God created man in his present form within the last 10,000 years or so,” O’Leary, a Catholic, pointed out.
She is more interested in the 29 percent of Canadians who answered “that God had not part in the creation or development of human beings.” In Quebec, that figure rises to 40 percent; among Bloc Quebecois supporters it shoots up to 51 percent.
But some poll figures may surprise those who assume Conservative voters would be more likely to hold religious views. The poll indicates that 31 percent of Conservatives believe God played no part, the same percentage as New Democratic Party (NDP) voters. Only 22 percent of Liberals agree, however.
O’Leary said those figures prove her contention that there is no “functional religious right” in Canada, nor do religious views dominate in any a particular mainstream political party. In the United States, Republicans are much more likely to be creationist or believers in some kind of intelligent design than are Democrats.
She also points to the much higher proportion of Catholics in Canada – about 43 percent according to the 2001 Census – and the existence of publicly-funded religious schools.
“We don’t have a government policy of aggressive secularization of the school system,” she said, noting that Americans would be astonished that Canadians in Ontario, for example, can direct their tax dollars to Catholic schools that can start the day with a “Hail Mary.”
About 77 percent of Canadians identify themselves as Christians, and an even higher number believe in some kind of God. Yet some of these people must also believe God played no role in the creation of human beings, if the Decima figures are accurate.
“There seems to be a fairly large group of Canadians who believe in a God who doesn’t do anything,” she said. “I think to some extent that’s what secularism is.”
There also seems to be a sizeable proportion of Canadians who hold the belief that God created human beings 10,000 years go. According to the poll, 29 percent of NDP and Conservative supporters support that belief, while 27 percent of Liberals do.
O’Leary pointed out the poll questions may “artificially inflate the number of people who supposedly think the earth is only 10,000 years old” – throwing them into the “young earth creationist” camp.
O’Leary said the poll questions make it difficult for a person “who thinks that God is very much hands on in human life to know how to respond,” because they don’t believe God is “merely guiding the process” but they reject the “young earth creationist” position.
Though the young earth position flies in the face of science, O’Leary points out there is scientific evidence for “a very small number of human ancestors.”
“There was never any large crowd of cave people,” she said, noting as far as Adam and Eve are concerned, there is not a “big clash” between the news coming from scientific organizations and the Bible.
O’Leary’s latest investigation concerns the nature of the human soul. Her latest book, co-authored with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, is The Spiritual Brain: A neuroscientist’s case for the existence of the soul (Harper 2007). It will be released in August.
She notes that starting about 100,000 years ago, people started bury their dead “in a fetal position” with gifts. “I tend to think that while just exactly what happened is a mystery, that’s the point at which you actually start to get human beings.”
“Benedict XVI has been fairly outspoken about our not being some random product of evolution,” she said.
Republished by Catholic Online with permission of the Canadian Catholic News Service.
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