In the western world, the

In the western world, the US is unique in having a population that is strongly religious. Not only is religiousity strong, around a third of the population can be described as holding a fundamentalist form of Christianity. According to a Gallup poll reported in ABC News, one third of Americans agreed that the Bible is literally the word of God. The difference with other countries is astonishing. In the United Kingdom, the corresponding figure was 7 %.

One consequence of this literalism is that Americans are very likely to reject even the strongest scientific facts if it runs in the face of religious dogma. A case in point is the creation-evolution debate, which is essentially an American phenomenon. Of those Americans polled, 44 % believed that God had created humans directly in the last 10,000 years, a belief that on the evidence corresponds to believing in a flat earth. 39% believed in a form of theistic evolution, while only 10% really believed the Darwinian theory of evolution by natural selection.

There is no downwards trend over the years Gallup has asked these questions, either. Wikipedia reports 47 % creationists in a 1999 poll.

A further breakdown by shows what we should most likely expect: there is a huge gap between those with higher education and the rest. While 44% of the population are creationists, the corresponding figure for “scientists” is 5%. And if you ask only those scientists with respectable academic creditentials in the relevant sciences (earth and life), the number of creationists dwindles to 0.14%.

Given these figures, fundamantalists are likely to keep fighting to keep people scientifically illiterate, and particularly to keep evolution science out of schools. It is scary that half the population in the world’s one remaining superpower are superstitious, scientifically illiterate and religious fundamentalists. Historically, Christian fundamentalists have not been less prone to fanatic violence than, say, their counterparts in Islam.