The Frontal Cortex

Britain, America and God

The Economist has compiled a really interesting chart on the ideological differences between the American and British electorates. (I’ve been kind of obsessed with all things Anglo-American since the start of the John Adams miniseries on HBO.) The article focuses on the large gap between the two publics, but I was actually impressed by how, once you removed God and God-tainted issues (like abortion and homosexuality) from the equation, the two countries were actually rather similar in ways I wouldn’t have expected. For instance, both British and American voters feel virtually identically about increasing taxes to subsidize clean energy, the economic benefits of immigration, and the science of climate change.

That said, the religiosity gap is striking. I assume readers who really want some good old-fashioned deism bashing will get it elsewhere, but it’s still shocking that only 30 percent of Americans believe the theory of evolution “explains the origin of the earth,” compared with 40 percent who credit the Bible. (More than 60 percent of the British public credit evolution.) Of course, no sooner do I get angry at my fellow citizens than I notice that the Economist has asked a really idiotic question. The theory of evolution explains the origin of species, not the earth. Darwin has nothing to do with those cosmological forces that turned some interstellar dust into our lovely blue planet a few billion years ago. That said, the Bible also didn’t play a major role. But I can’t help but feel the Economist inadvertently asked a trick question.

On a related note, be sure to read Razib’s exhaustive summary of the psychology of religion.

Update: The post has been slightly modified to reflect some imprecise wording on my part. See the comments for details.

Comments

  1. #1 MartinM
    March 31, 2008

    For instance, both British and American voters feel virtually identically about increasing taxes to subsidize clean energy, the economic benefits of immigration, and the science of climate change.

    Some of those may not be as significant as they seem. For example, the question on petrol tax doesn’t really account for the fact that petrol tax in the UK is already very high, and a source of some controversy. Were the tax burdens comparable, I suspect you might see a fair difference in attitudes.

  2. #2 tincture
    March 31, 2008

    The theory of evolution explains the origin of life, not the earth.

    It does?

  3. #3 Russell
    March 31, 2008

    (Shaking head.) I wonder what fraction of Scienceblog readers know what evolution explains.

  4. #4 Derek James
    March 31, 2008

    How about: Evolution explains the diversity of life on earth, or the origin of species?

  5. #5 jonah lehrer
    March 31, 2008

    Ok, ok, my wording was imprecise. I’d think you can argue that evolution also explains the origins of life, since you have to posit some form of selection to get from some self-replicating nucleic acids to real living things. But you are all right, of course. evolution really explains the diversity of life.

  6. #6 Robert Carruthers
    April 1, 2008

    An Economist survey found 60 percent of the British think evolution explains the origin of the earth. Another recent survey found a quarter of the British population thought that Winston Churchill never actually existed.

    A trick question? No, just ignorant or easily misled respondents. British schools have been too busy ‘teaching’ PC pseudo subjects or gearing up to teach happiness studies to bother about elementary facts or English comprehension.

  7. #7 jfrancishill
    April 1, 2008

    A Deist Theory

    Let man cast the die
    and explain why.

    A trick question? Yes.
    And the Bible? Maybe not, but the ordinary people who
    litter the pages are the reason for the interstellar
    dust we now call home.

  8. #8 OftenWrongTed
    April 1, 2008

    Yet another point of view: THE BLIND WATCHMAKER, by Richard Dawkins, isbn: 0393315703. The Darwinian view.

  9. #9 jann
    April 1, 2008

    the bible brings a big impact of a persons life..
    God bless and good luck
    __________
    jann
    http://www.conjungo.com

  10. #10 fatih
    September 29, 2008

    te?ekkürler bilgi için , thanks
    http://smallvilledizi.blogspot.com/

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