Darwin vs. American Ideology: Why do so many of us reject Darwin?

Younger Charles Darwin
W
hy do so many Americans reject the Darwinian theory of evolution? One obvious answer (perhaps too obvious) is the opposition of fundamentalist religions.
    Consider, for example, Mary’s comment on OurValues.org this week. A librarian, she sends lists of books to her sister, a teacher in another state. In anticipation of this week, she sent a list of books for children about Darwin. “You forgot I teach in a conservative Christian school,” her sister responded. “We cannot talk about evolution. One boy brought in a book that said on the cover ‘Everything you need to know about Evolution’ and the inside pages were blank.”
    Another explanation was offered in a New York Times editorial yesterday: “In a way, our peculiarly American failure to come to terms with Darwin’s theory and what it’s become since 1859 is a sign of something broader: our failure to come to terms with science and the teaching of science.”
    Good point, but not enough to explain the opposition to evolution.
    The deeper issue – one that cuts to the core of the American ideology – is the purposeless of life implied by natural selection. Natural selection means that life is not guided toward a higher goal, “progress” is a questionable idea, and people and society are not on a path to perfection.
    That idea conflicts mightily with one of the core tenets of our American ideology – the utopian belief in social progress, the perfectibility of people and society. Indeed, it conflicts with the idea of America’s destiny.
    Many readers have been thinking and talking about Darwin this week. Feel free to scroll down on www.OurValues.org and read our earlier stories this week.
    What do you think of this distinctive issue in American life and culture?
    Why do you think so many Americans have trouble with Darwin’s theory?

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