Research conducted at the University of British Columbia and Union College found that people's death anxiety was associated with support of intelligent design and rejection of evolutionary theory.
Death anxiety also influenced those in the study to report an increased liking for Michael Behe, a prominent proponent of intelligent design, and an increased disliking for Richard Dawkins, a well-known evolutionary biologist.
The findings suggest that people are motivated to believe in intelligent design and doubt evolutionary theory because of unconscious psychological motives.
The study was lead by UBC Psychology Assistant Professor Jessica Tracy and and UBC psychology PhD student Jason Martens. It was published in the March 30 issue of the open access journal PLoS ONE.
"Our results suggest that when confronted with existential concerns, people respond by searching for a sense of meaning and purpose in life," Tracy said. "For many, it appears that evolutionary theory doesn't offer enough of a compelling answer to deal with these big questions."