Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
Despite the winter storm that hit Kentucky yesterday, a standing-room-only crowd battled the elements to attend the Creation Museum’s debate between Science Guy Bill Nye, and creationist Ken Ham. The topic of the evening? Whether creation—the belief that God created humans is their current form—is a viable model of origin in today’s modern scientific era.
Because a discussion of this type often generates passionate-to-extreme reactions, attendees were screened by metal detectors, and police led bomb-detecting dogs through the museum prior to the event. Thankfully, the debate, moderated by CNN’s Tom Foreman, proceeded cordially.
In essence, Nye asserted that “we cannot use [Ham’s] model to predict the outcome of any experiment, design a tool, cure a disease or describe natural phenomena with mathematics.” Nye reported that he did not have a problem with creationism being debated in philosophy, psychology and religion classes.
Ham, on the other hand, argued that creationism is a viable alternative to evolution and should be taught in public schools. He believes that instructors should have academic freedom to present challenges to evolution; that way, students will hear both sides of the origin issue and be able to evaluate each for themselves.
According to PRRI, 57 percent of Americans believe humans and other living things have evolved over time, while 38 percent say humans and other living things have existed in their present form since creation. However, only 30 percent of the public believes that humans evolved through natural processes, such as natural selection, while nearly as many (27 percent) say God played a role in guiding human evolution, or report that they were unsure how humans evolved.
Further, not all Americans who doubt evolution embrace young earth creationist beliefs, the idea that God created human beings within the last 10,000 years. Nineteen percent of Americans believe that God created human beings in their present form within the last 10,000 years. About as many (15 percent) believe that God created human beings, but do not believe the act of creation occurred 10,000 years ago.