November 23, 2004
Only about a third of Americans believe that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is a scientific theory that has been well supported by the evidence, while just as many say that it is just one of many theories and has not been supported by the evidence. The rest say they don't know enough to say. Forty-five percent of Americans also believe that God created human beings pretty much in their present form about 10,000 years ago. A third of Americans are biblical literalists who believe that the Bible is the actual word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word.This is functionally equivalent to stating, say, "I don't believe in cheese." Not a whole lot of wiggle room here, people! And somehow I don't think 2/3 of Americans are making a nuanced epistemological challenge about what's knowable, either. While not very surprising, this is all nonetheless highly distressing.
And yet, 66.7% of Americans aren't living in caves, aren't disconnected from the electrical or telecommunications grids, aren't without indoor plumbing, aren't not buying digital cameras and laptops, aren't restricted to animal- and self-powered travel, aren't listening to music solely from the mouths of bards and each other, aren't living lives that last three decades, aren't going to bed at sundown, aren't subjugated to the will and whim of a king or emperor, aren't wearing clothes they made themselves, aren't eating only what they could catch or raise. So we're not totally in the hamper, at least; there's some shared functional acknowledgement of basic ontology. But this I would think has to qualify at minimum as an educational and theological crisis. (When I say "theological crisis," I mean, there's no reason Christian Sunday schoolers should be teaching that the fossil record is a hoax or that the science behind the Cosmic Background Radiation Explorer will eventually be discredited.)
Who ever thought "reality-based community" would become such a radical proposition?