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Creationism in Europe


Many people regard creationism as a North American phenomenon. Indeed, polls over the past three decades have invariably shown that creationism is immensely popular in the United States. Between 40 and 50 percent of the American population endorses the belief that God created the Earth (and life on it) more or less as it is today. The rest accept the fact of evolution, but the large majority believes that God has guided the process. Only 10 to 15 percent accept the scientific, naturalistic account of evolution. If we compare these numbers with the few figures that we have on Europe, it becomes immediately clear how exceptional the American situation really is.

In some Northern and Western European countries, such as Iceland, Denmark, and France, the acceptance rate of human evolution is higher than 70, sometimes even 80, percent. In Eastern European countries the acceptance rate is much lower, but it is still at least ten percentage points higher than in the United States (Miller et al. 2006). The only exception is Turkey, where no more than 30 percent of the public accepts evolution. Furthermore, American creationists actively battle the (exclusive) teaching of evolution in public schools—politically, in the courtroom, and on school boards, which has made them highly visible in the media. So it seems only reasonable to associate creationism with the United States.

Nonetheless, recent research in the historical and sociological sciences indicates that creationism is spreading across the globe. Historian Ronald Numbers has documented creationist activities from Australia to Canada, from Brazil to Korea (Numbers 2006; 2009). Incidents in various European countries have suggested that creationism is gaining a following on that continent as well. As a result, an increasing number of European scholars developed an interest in the phenomenon, and some published on creationist activities in the countries where they resided. However, most of this research was scattered across various magazines and scientific journals. Two Danish researchers—Hans Henrik Hjermitslev and Peter C. Kjærgaard—and I thought it would be a good idea to bundle everything we know about the recent history of creationism in Europe to get a good understanding of what exactly is going on in Europe. We joined forces with Ronald Numbers and invited ex perts from various countries to contribute. These efforts resulted in a recently published edited volume with the Johns Hopkins University Press: Creationism in Europe (Blancke et al. 2014). The book contains ten chapters discussing the situation in different countries or regions, plus four topical chapters; this article offers a sampling.

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Skeptical Inquirer
Jan Feb 2017

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