I was asked to comment on a statement made in a debate that the U.S. is a theocratic and anti-intellectual nation because a vast majority there don’t accept Darwinian evolution, and many still subscribe to creationism.
In my view, it may not be quite right to say on the basis of the attitudes of the populace towards evolution, and even though the majority of Americans still believe in God and are affiliated to religions, that the U.S. is a theocratic nation. It is very likely that this situation prevails in Canada, Australia, many European nations, and India also.
As I see it, the USA is NOT anti-intellectual even though the vast majority in the country may be indifferent to or ignorant of what intellectual discourse means. Indeed it is not any different than most other modern non-Communist countries. For a nation to be anti-intellectual the government , the media, and the political leaders generally should all decry, denigrate, and devalue education, intellectual pursuits like science, literary criticisms, history, philosophy etc., and have scant respect for professors, writers, scholars, and thinkers. A nation can be called theocratic only when its statutory laws, penal code, and legal framework are all dictated by the scriptures of a particular religion.
Then again, many historians of science have pointed out that belief in God spurred the emergence of modern science. Depending on one’s denominational preference and faith anchor, people have argued that modern science arose from Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Puritanism, etc. In the view of others, again depending on the scholar’s faith affiliation, it has been claimed that Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism are religions which can be and which are in harmony with science.
I don’t wish to go into the details of these theses endopotent truths: i.e. propositions which bring great inner satisfaction to those who embrace them as truths. I will simply say that all these works are interesting and persuasive up to a point. What one may say on the basis of recorded facts is that scientific productivity became impressively abundant after the secularization of societies countries, that modern scientists seldom rely on their personal religious connections and worldviews when they are engaged in doing serious science, and that the scientific productivity of modern theocratic nations (wherever scriptures and religious heads dictate politics and behavior) has been embarrassingly minimal.
February 14, 2011