Only half of people in Britain are certain evolution is true while a third do not believe in it at all, according to research released ahead of Darwin Day tomorrow.
The poll commissioned for Puffin Books also found more than one in 10 (12 per cent) believe in 'creationism', with the figure even higher for those under 29 (17 per cent) than for over-60s (nine per cent).
Nearly two-thirds could not recognise Darwin from a picture, while nine per cent had never heard of him.
The survey showed 29 per cent did not know he was responsible for the theory of evolution, with nine per cent believing he came up with the theory of relativity.
Seven per cent thought he was the author of The Da Vinci Code.
Older people were better informed than younger, with only 66 per cent of 16 to 29-year-olds aware of Darwin's theory compared to 84 per cent of those over 60.
There was widespread ignorance of Darwin's life and work, and of the principles of his theory.
The survey showed eight per cent of respondents had no idea Charles Darwin travelled to South America to conduct his research, with 44 per cent failing to name his ship correctly as HMS Beagle. Forty-four per cent did not know Darwin said we shared ancestors with monkeys and apes.
Two out of five respondents thought evolution was when one animal gave birth to a different type of animal, rather than the gradual changing of a species through natural selection.
Nick Spencer, senior fellow at Theos and author of Darwin and God, told Christian Today: 'The low level of recognition of Darwin and support of his theory is depressing – and seems to be getting worse. When Theos conducted its Rescuing Darwin survey a decade ago, we found there were around one in four evolution rejecters in the UK – though there were many more people who were just confused.
'"Part of the problem may be in the way in which a very well-attested scientific theory concerning the origin and development of species has been turned into a metaphysical one about the meaning and purpose of life – or rather the lack of both.
'If we want to see both Darwin and this theory given the recognition and respect they both deserve, we would do well to treat them as first-rate science and not the key to the meaning of the universe.'
Puffin commissioned the survey in conjunction with the launch of its new picture book adaptation of Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Sabina Radeva.