Among the new crop of books with themes that would resonate with readers of this blog, one that caught my eye is Jerry A. Coyne’s recently published “Why Evolution is True”. I rushed out, bought it and read it.
The title says it all and is clearly aimed at an American audience. America’s reluctance to embrace evolution — which is the foundation of modern biology and stems from Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection — sets it apart from almost all other countries in the developed world. Polls generally show that only around 40 percent of Americans believe evolution is true while in most European countries the figure is closer to 80 percent.
A Harris poll in 2007 for example found that only 42 percent of Americans accepted evolution while 62 percent believed in the devil.
Most commentators attribute this to America’s high rates of religiosity. Evangelical Protestants in particular are suspicious of evolution with many accepting the biblical story of creation as they see it as the literal word of God.
There have been various high profile battles over whether or not to teach “alternatives” to evolution in the classroom. “Intelligent design” theory, which has scientific pretensions, is the latest attempt to bring a creationist alternative to evolution into the classroom. In a nutshell, it maintains that the complexity of life can only be explained by an “intelligent designer.”