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U.S. Buddhists, Hindus Back Evolution, Says Study

India West, News Report, Ashfaque Swapan Posted: Mar 13, 2009

Despite virtually unanimous support in the scientific community, there is considerable public skepticism in the U.S. about Charles Darwins theory of evolution, with 39 percent believing in the theory, according to a Gallup poll.

Hindus in the U.S., however, overwhelmingly accept the scientific consensus, with four out of five Hindus agreeing that evolution best explains the origin of human beings, according to a recent study by the Pew Center.

Buddhists, edging Hindus by a slight margin, were the greatest supporters among different religious groups, the survey found.

As the world celebrated the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin Feb. 12, his legacy is a study in contrasts: While there is virtual unanimity among biologists regarding the validity of his theory of natural selection, public opinion continues to show surprising pockets of resistance in some nations.

The resistance has come almost entirely from religious groups, led by Christian groups, who support an alternative theory called intelligent design, which accepts the existence or agency of a supreme being.

The International Society for Krishna Consciousness has recently joined in the fray.

As an organization that represents the Vaishnava tradition the largest denomination within the Hindu faith ISKCON reaffirms the reality that the concept of an intelligent designer is not limited to Christians, the organization said in a statement. We join other Hindus, Muslims, people of other faiths, and those who profess no particular faith, in calling for a more balanced and objective exploration of the theory of evolution and its alternatives.

The theory of evolution should continue to be taught, because it is a fact that most scientists today accept evolution, contends Michael Cremo, an ISKCON member and scholar of Hinduisms response to evolution. But it is also a fact that other scientists, admittedly in the minority, accept some version of intelligent design. Educational institutions should reflect this reality, by making room for a neutral presentation of the alternatives to the Darwinian theory. Let people make up their own minds.

However, skepticism among scientists about intelligent design in unanimous.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has stated that "creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of species are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science." The U.S. National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science have termed it pseudoscience. Many in the scientific community have been less kind, bluntly calling it junk science.

Public opinion in the U.S., however, continues to be surprisingly resistant to Darwins theory. According to an August 2006 survey by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life and the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 63 percent of Americans believe that humans and other animals have either always existed in their present form or have evolved over time under the guidance of a supreme being. Only 26 percent said that life evolved solely through processes such as natural selection.

Hindus in the U.S., however, do not share this view. In advance of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin's birthday on Feb. 12, the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life released a report exploring the evolution controversy in the U.S. The Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey found that views on evolution differ widely across religious groups.

Buddhists and Hindus led the study with 81 percent of Buddhists and 80 percent of Hindus agreeing that evolution is the best explanation of the origin of human life on earth, followed by Jewish (77 percent) and unaffiliated (72 percent) groups. Muslims (45 percent) were the fifth least enthusiastic about Darwins theory in the 12-group study, with Jehovahs Witnesses (7 percent), Mormons (22 percent) and evangelical Protestants (24 percent) being the least enthusiastic religious groups.

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