What Half of All Americans Never Knew

In recent year I’ve forced myself to learn as much as I possibly could about evolutionary theory; how it worked, what evidence supported it, how it was discovered, where it might be going, etc.  Beyond the fact that I simply find the topic immeasurably fascinating, I’ve been devoting my time and effort to this study because it was never allowed me growing up.  Born and raised in the back-woods of the midwest, I was brought up in an ultra-conservative Christian fundamentalist family that taught me to disbelieve all claims made by science that contradicted scripture.  Upon my first attending Ringling, I was a young-earth creationist, meaning that I believed that the earth was 6,000yrs old and that God willed everything into existence shortly after the time that archeologists believe the agricultural revolution began, simply because I’d never been allowed to believe anything else.

In spite of the universal scientific consensus, the overwhelming mountain of evidence, and the fact that the entire study of biology makes absolutely no sense without evolutionary theory, only 21% of Americans believe that human beings evolved without the involvement of God, and 25% of those surveyed (as roughly agreed upon by numerous sources) said that “Human beings evolved but God guided this process.”  37% answered that “God created human beings in their present form,” in response to the question “Which of the following comes closest to your views on the origin of human beings?”

Most people here at Ringling seem largely unaware that there are a huge number of people out there who still don’t accept the theory of evolution.  In 2004, in response to the same survey, only 13% of Americans believed that humans evolved without divine guidance, so there have been considerable strides in convincing the United States population in recent years.  The fact remains that, of all industrialized nations, the United States is overwhelmingly the most religious and the least accepting of the theory of evolution, which puts us in an extremely dangerous position as the wielder of the most political and military power in the world with the least understanding of how it works.  I don’t think enough people appreciate how deeply this problem permeates the American mentality.  Growing up, I, and most everyone I knew, believed that we were created to use all of the earth’s resources as much as we wanted, and none of it mattered because the rapture and second coming of Jesus was going to happen within our lifetime.  They believe that the government and the whole of the scientific community are conspiring to undermine their religious beliefs to bring about a satanic, socialist new world order that will resemble 1984 and round up all the believers and persecute them in concentration camps like the Jews in Nazi Germany.  It wasn’t until my sophomore year when I started to look into evolutionary theory for myself that I realized all of this was complete nonsense, and that I had been lied to my entire life.  If we want our nation to progress and become thoughtful and responsible for our actions, this is the battle we need to fight.  People need to understand that evolution isn’t “just a theory”.  It’s one of the most substantiated and powerful ideas humans have ever developed to explain what we are and where we came from, and it needs to be understood if we are expected to survive in this age of chaos, global turmoil, and exponentially growing dangerous technology.

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