Why Do Americans Hate Evolution?
In a recent Salon interview with Karl Giberson about his new book,
"Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution," he made a
very insightful observation about the difference between America and Europe
concerning fundamentalism and the acceptance (or lack thereof) of evolution:
…Europe doesn't have a robust fundamentalist subculture like America has had since the early parts of the 20th century. American religion has been characterized by an entrepreneurial spirit. In Europe, many of the great religious traditions wasted away because they were supported by government. They didn't need to be popular and have lots of people coming to worship on Sunday to continue. So they atrophied and people lost interest.
In America, without that kind of governmental support, religious leaders had to be entrepreneurial. So a charismatic evangelist can come up with a brand-new approach to faith and touch some chord contemporary with people's needs. It's why we see people like Rick Warren, a very popular guy who is revolutionizing the way a lot of evangelicals think about their faith. He's obviously tapped into an anti-evolutionary fundamentalism and biblical literalism that people find important and like.
Let me rephrase his comments a little more cynically: In Europe, preachers, being as lazy
as other humans, were supported by their government, didn't try very hard to
bring in new converts. Eventually, Europeans, being as lazy as other humans,
were not cajoled with fear and guilt, became more enlightened, and therefore,
can't understand why this is an issue with America.
American preachers, due to the (once upon a time) separation of church and
state, had to make a living by converting people and then convincing them to
give them their money. By instilling fear into the people, and then assuaging
that same fear, these preachers became a permanent fixture in the hearts of
middle America. Interesting idea, no?
Perhaps once these churches get so rich, people will start to see them as the
leech they are. Of course, just how rich do they need to get? Perhaps this is
why churches don't want to say††See this article for one of the richest. .
I also think it has something to do with what I call, Freudian Specialness.
The idea comes from a unverified quote attributed to Sigmund Freud that goes
something like this:
Great revolutions in science have a common denominator: They knock human
arrogance off one pedestal after another of our conviction about our
previous conviction about our own self-importance.
People want to be special. They crave to be important. Believing that God
personally created them in his image and personally cares and watches out for
them, gives people a great sense of comfort and security.
There are those of us who feel that the rise of human intelligence and culture
is nothing short of awe inspiring. To see where we have been and where we are,
so instill a huge amount of specialness for human life.
But can someone believe in supernatural beings and natural selection‡‡You see, 'evolution' is a fact…
Natural selection is the theory. at the same time?
If an invisible hand didn't wind up the clock of this world to get it going in the past,
and if this hand currently doesn't show up to save people from tsunamis, cancer††See this article ,
and annoying neighbors, I'm not sure where a higher power fits?
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