Born-again fears in age of science

August 20, 1999

Britain's creationists are a small, self-effacing band by comparison with their US counterparts. Their emphasis is on debates within the church rather than on changing the National Curriculum.

But the two groups (pages 2 and 14) share a disdain for well-founded knowledge that is a source of wonder for many, as well as being a powerful machine for the production of new science and technology.

Creationism's continuing refusal to perish - and its ability to win victories like last week's in Kansas - is partly a tribute to the pluralism of the US political system. Sociologists argue that US creationism is a highly specific phenomenon, characteristic of poor, white Protestant communities. However, this minority of a minority can have influence in the US system where politicians cannot afford to be seen to oppose religious beliefs, and where Silicon Valley and genetic engineering coexist with debate on the value of school prayer.

Creationism's persistence may be perplexing, but it reminds us forcibly that the advances of the modern era make some people uneasy just as they intrigue and enrich the majority. No campaign of education or persuasion can make a school of thought with substantial social and religious roots disappear.

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