Scientists are taking note.
Science Vol. 308, 8 Apr. 2005, page 165
For much of their existence over the past two centuries, Europe and the United States have been societies of questioners: nations in which skepticism has been accepted and even welcomed, and where the culture has been characterized by confidence in science and in rational methods of thought. We owe this tradition in part to the birth of the Scottish Enlightenment of the early 18th century, when the practice of executing religious heretics ended, to be gradually replaced by a developing conviction that substituted faith in experiment for reliance on inherited dogma.
In the United States, that understanding is now undergoing some
dissolution, as some school boards eliminate the teaching of evolution or require that religious versions of creation be represented as "scientific" alternatives. "Intelligent design," a recent replacement for straight-up creationism, essentially asserts that a sufficient quantity of complexity and beauty is by itself evidence of divine origin—a retrogression to the pre-Darwinian zoologist William Paley, who saw in the elegant construction of a beetle’s antenna the work of a Creator.
The present wave of evangelical Christianity, uniquely
American in its level of participation, would be nothing to worry about were it a matter restricted to individual conviction and to the
expressions of groups gathering to worship. It’s all right that in
the best-selling novels about the "rapture," the true believers ascend and the rest of us perish painfully. But U.S. society is now experiencing a convergence between religious conviction and partisan loyalty, readily detectable in the statistics of the 2004 election. Some of us who worry about the separation of church and state will accept tablets that display the Ten Commandments on state premises, because they fail to cross a threshold of urgency. But when the religious/political convergence leads to managing the nation’s research agenda, its foreign assistance programs, or the high-school curriculum, that marks a really important change in our national life. Twilight for the Enlightenment? Not yet. But as its beneficiaries, we should also be its stewards.