British Creationism

In the last couple of years, I have been hearing a lot more about creationism in Europe, particularly Britain. A recent poll apparently has that among the British, “More than half of the public believe that the theory of evolution cannot explain the full complexity of life on Earth, and a ‘designer’ must have lent a hand.” Compare that to the notoriously low rate of church attendance in Britain.

In some ways, I am surprised. In others, I am not.

I am surprised because I am more used to creationism from the United States and Muslim countries especially, and also but less often from not-as-secularized countries outside of Western Europe. From Europe, it used to be I only ran across creationism in fundamentalist enclaves, and, even more significantly, among the Muslim population. Strong anti-evolution sentiments expressed in polls and creationist pressure on science education used to be rare. Now they are increasingly visible.

I’m not surprised because I see “secular Europe” in terms of the decline of the credibility and social influence of organized Christianity. This does not mean that normal human tendencies toward supernatural belief have vanished in Europe, but mainly that they have become sidelined or perhaps channeled into diffuse and socially ineffectual forms.

Latent tendencies can get activated again. So my guess is that when some groups make a push defending creationism and make it a publicly salient issue, common intuitions about design readily surface. Much of this depends on politics: if science is culturally strong, many will passively support ideas such as evolution without necessarily knowing much about it. Otherwise, a politically savvy anti-evolution movement can organize design intuitions in their favor and create pressure on education.