If the first talking snake had kept shtum, we wouldn't be here. Eve wouldn't have eaten the forbidden fruit. But she listened and was curious. So she fell into humanity, thank God. Good old snake, say I. I celebrate its independence of mind. Satan? Neh, that's a later interpretation. The snake was part of the divine purpose. God allowed it into the garden, aware of its linguistic abilities. He knew what would happen. Jesus commended dove-like innocence. AND the wisdom ... of the snake.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Only in America

Creationism’s natural habitat is the USA. The rest of the world, by and large, accepts the evolutionary/old universe consensus. While schools in America are urged to "teach the controversy", in Britain there is no controversy to teach. In the State-funded, church-sponsored primary schools where I conduct weekly assemblies (and lead the children in prayer, Americans eat your hearts out!) the shelves are stocked with science books that assume an ancient earth and an evolutionary basis to explain how we came to be here. For Adam and Eve, see under religion. I have never seen a creationist textbook and I wouldn’t know where to look.

What does America have, that Britain doesn’t, which could begin to explain this?

This is a theme I will be pursuing throughout June, when I shall be in the States myself. For the moment I offer this thought:

America has

  • Fox
  • Talk Radio as ideology
  • Televangelists
  • Sectarian higher education (e.g. Bob Jones University)
  • gun ownership
  • major resistance to abortion law
  • no established Church
  • large and wealthy Bible belt
  • A President who sees his faith as an electoral asset

Britain has

  • the BBC, required by law to be non-partisan; regulations affect commercial stations too. Fox couldn't operate here
  • tightly regulated commercial radio mostly music-based
  • a National Health Service paid for out of taxation (and still essentially free), with private medicine a minority option
  • no death penalty
  • The Church of England - the established church, to which all British subjects technically belong. It has a distinguished tradition of academic scholarship....
  • a pluralistic and multi-faith society, with a strong Moslem/Hindu/Sikh presence in many inner cities
  • compulsory religious education in State schools (and in theory a compulsory act of collective worship - although this is rarely observed in high schools); this presumes an agreed syllabus drawn up by professional scholars - and that implies "non-fundamentalist"
  • advanced secularisation - the great majority of us do not attend church and those who do tend to be older, with a preponderance of women
  • a Prime Minister whose faith is seen as an electoral liability, so he generally keeps quiet about it (as his one-time press officer said, "we don’t do God").
  • no real quarrel with abortion law. We might not like it but anything's better than a return to the days of "Vera Drake"
  • relatively few problems over gay rights/same-sex civil partnerships (except, one has to admit, in the Church!)

In other words, creationism does well in America because cultural conditions are relatively favourable to its flourishing; and poorly in Britain because they are hostile to it. Creationism is part of an American culture of the Right - a damaging observation, because it implies that the perceived truth or otherwise of its propositions depends on the social climate. Even in America, creationism gets better reviews in Texas than New York; I wonder why?

H2O + SO3 = H2SO4 however is equally true on both sides of the Atlantic, the snake declares, acidly.

Cos that’s science, y’see.


Blogger Colleen said...

I hope you come to Arkansas!

2:20 am  
Blogger One of Freedom said...

Nice observation. I suspect there are a number of unique qualities of American culture that are not universally shared - as a Canadian I butt heads with several of these all the time. Scientific ignorance is relatively tame compared to the wacky ways that much of American fundamentalism views and uses the scriptures. Neat blog, I'm enjoying a little read here.

9:20 pm  

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