Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chosen

There can hardly be anything better established and more widely accepted by scientists than that humans evolved from "less advanced" life forms over millions of years. Yet almost half of Americans believe that humans in their present form were created especially by God sometime in the last 10,000 years. A 2006 summary of polls in 34 developed countries showed only one -- Turkey -- with a lower rate of acceptance of human evolution.

A new poll on creationism by Angus Reid Public Opinion compares Americans to Canadians and Britons. The results are striking. Only 16 percent of Britons believe in a recent special creation of humans compared to 47 percent of Americans. Three times fewer! Twenty-four percent of Canadians are special creationists, half that of Americans.

How is one to understand these astonishing statistics? Is there something in the drinking water that makes Americans more susceptible to religious myth? Are we smarter? Dumber? Better educated? Less well educated? Or is it that Americans have generally been raised to believe in their specialness, their superiority among the nations of the Earth, their particular favor in the eyes of God? Does it all go back to the Shining City on the Hill, the new Eden established by righteous European Christians who were led by God to a New Promised Land and sustained there by his divine providence?

Take a look at Adam and Eve at the Creation Museum in Kentucky. Yes, exactly. Americans. Right off the cover of People Magazine. Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt. Not only did God create humans "in their present form" sometime during the past 10,000 years; he created them in OUR form -- white, Christian, middle-class, heterosexual, with a swimming pool in the backyard. Not only are we unrelated to chimpanzees; we are also elevated above all those folks of alien ethnicity and false religion who we want to keep beyond our borders.

Adam and Eve in the water-lily pool are the first chapter of the narrative of divinely-ordained American exceptionalism that we learned in school.