A lot of people ask me just how many Christians actually believe in extraterrestrial life. Of course, creationists also want to know how belief in extraterrestrial life compares amongst creationists and evolutionists. These are excellent questions.
In general, we estimate the number by noting that, for example, 75 percent of Americans self-identified as Christians and 50% believe in extraterrestrial life, so we estimate that perhaps 37.5% of Christians believe in extraterrestrial life. Obviously, that’s pretty inexact and the ballpark figure you quote could be way off simply because subgroup beliefs don’t always reflect the larger group to scale.
Christianity and Extraterrestrial Life
A 2013 Survata Poll conducted by interviewing 5,886 online respondents from September 16 to September 18, 2013, is currently the only such poll (to my knowledge) to attempt to break down belief in extraterrestrial life by religious belief.
Overall 37% of the respondents answered “Yes” when asked “Do you believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life?” By comparison, 21% replied “No” while 42% said, “I’m not sure.”
If we estimate the percentage of Christians who said yes to that question according a US population of 75% Christianity, we get 27.75% of Christians affirming the existence of extraterrestrial life. This is interesting because the actual number of Christians who said “Yes” to that question is 32% with 33% saying “No” and 35% saying “I’m not sure. ” A whopping 55% of atheists and agnostics said that they believe in extraterrestrial life, making them 76% more likely to believe than Christians. I call that ironic.
The numbers varied by Christian denomination, of course, but only Baptists and those who identified their denomination as “Other” fell below the 30% line of support for extraterrestrial life at 29% and 27% respectively. They were also the only two groups to rise of the 30% line of denial of alien life; Forty percent of Baptists answered “No” to the question of extraterrestrial life.
Creationism and Extraterrestrial Life
The question remains as to the number of creationists versus evolutionists who affirm or deny the existence of extraterrestrial life. No polls have been conducted along these lines, although a 2015 YouGov Poll might she’d some light on the issue. On September 14-16, 2015, 1000 adults were questioned on their beliefs concerning alien life. 54% answered “Yes, I believe there is extraterrestrial intelligent life,” 24% answered “No” and 22% answered “Dont know.” Now what’s interesting about this poll is that if they answered “No,” they were then asked to select which reason best explained their disbelief in the existence of extraterrestrial intelligent life. A whopping 65% stated that they did not believe in intelligent extraterrestrial life because humans were created by a God or another higher being. Another 31% stated that “The Earth is unique – it is the only place capable of sustaining intelligent life.” So their reasons for denying the existence of intelligent aliens was because of special creation and the Rare Earth/Anthropic Principle. Basically, we’re looking at a supernaturalist and naturalist’s reasons for denying ET.
Without further evidence, all we can conclude from this poll is that perhaps 2/3rds of those who deny the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life do so because they believe that such a belief contradicts special creation or supports evolution.
An Ipsos poll conducted on June 23-25, 2015 asked 1005 adults whether they believed life on other planets is possible. They were asked whether they strongly agreed, somewhat agreed, somewhat disagreed, or strongly disagreed. There was no option to select “I’m not sure,” although I’m sure that for all intents and purposes that’s exactly what the “somewhats” are. Overall, 79% of the respondents agreed while only 21% disagreed, compared to 37% who strongly agreed and 11% who strongly disagreed that life on other planets was possible. By further comparison, 45% of those who believe “Life on Earth came about through natural processes following observable rules of biology and physics (Evolution)” strongly agreed that life on other planets was possible, while only 6% strongly disagreed that alien life exists; meanwhile 30% of those who believe “Life on Earth was created by a specific act (or acts) of a higher being (Creationism)” strongly agree that life on other planets is plausible compared to 11% who strongly disagree. Note that the number of creationists and evolutionists who strongly disagree combined is roughly 17% and creationists make up about 2/3rds of that dissent, corresponding to the YouGov poll results above.
The larger takeaway is that more creationists affirm the possibility of extraterrestrial life than deny it. In fact, we creationists are about 2.7 times more likely to believe ETs possibly exist than not. This compares to evolutionists who are 7.5 times more likely to affirm the possibility of extraterrestrial life than not. If this poll is accurate (and it does seem to significantly correlate to other polls), evolutionists are only 1.5 times more likely to affirm the possibility of extraterrestrial life than creationists.
We remind our readers that according to a 2014 Gallup poll the percentage of creationists in America is 42% versus 31% theistic evolutionists and 19% purely naturalist evolutionists. The YouGov poll numbers for evolutionists doubtlessly include both naturalistic and theistic evolutionists. What these polls mean, if they’re accurate, is that while less creationists believe in the possibility of extraterrestrial life, the difference between the number of evolutionists versus creationists beliefs are actually negligible, meaning that the extraterrestrial debate isn’t another part of the creation/evolution debate as some evolutionists and creationists paint it out to be. At the very least, there are four positions regarding origins and the possibility of extraterrestrial life, given here in order of greatest support to least:
- Evolutionists who believe that extraterrestrial life might exists (whether they believe such life is common or rare) as a result of natural processes (45%).
- Creationists who believe that extraterrestrial life might exist if God created it (30%).
- Creationists who do not believe that extraterrestrial life exists (11%).
- Evolutionists who do not believe aliens exist due to the Fermi Paradox and the Rare Earth/Anthropic Principle (6%)
Of course, these polls don’t really tell you why creationists affirm this possibility. We only know that if people reject the idea of extraterrestrial life, it’s because of creationist beliefs or a belief in the Rare Earth/ Anthropic Principle. Quite obviously, there are more creationists who believe that God could have created life on other worlds than not, something to keep in mind as the conversation moves forward.