In 1982, 44 percent of Americans believed that God created man in his present form. Wow -- the Dark Ages, right? Well…Today, forty-six percent of Amurricans believe it.
Are we getting stupider? Maybe, but that would indicate change, which almost half of us don’t believe in. It could be that creationism has more adherents than ever because it’s now called creation science, giving it that much more cachet. Or maybe it’s due to the quite justifiable feeling that the world grows more bewildering every day, and that creationism is a rock to cling to in the sea of confusion.
The charming story told in Genesis is easy to understand. It’s told in very simple language, and the plot is easy to follow. It has a classic villain (the serpent), and a popular theme (the damnable meddling of a woman). It has the irresistible attraction of any fairy tale.
Science, on the other hand, is hard. It strains the average citizen’s mind to think about even what causes the sun to go away at night, let alone what might have led to man in his current state. He doesn’t have the capacity or the patience for ideas. So he falls back on superstition. The tale of what happened in the Garden may be nonsense, but it’s reassuring nonsense. Because the moron can grasp it, he can wield it. His belief in it makes him the equal of the scientific man.
Science is impersonal, as well. The real story of the origins of life and the long, slow slog of evolution has none of the flattering allure of the one about God dropping us full-grown onto Earth, as the culmination of His week’s work of creation.
In a column in today’s New York Times, Adam Frank, a professor of physics and astronomy, writes about the change of climate (as well as climate change itself) that has come about since 1982, when he was an undergraduate.
“Instead of sending my students into a world that celebrates the latest science has to offer, I am delivering them into a society ambivalent, even skeptical, about the fruits of science...My professors’ generation could respond to silliness like creationism with head-scratching bemusement. My students cannot afford that luxury. Instead they must become fierce champions of science in the marketplace of ideas.”
A marketplace open to fewer and fewer customers.