American Reformations

Steven Doloff

Near the end of Walden (1854), the memoir of his famous lakeside spiritual retreat from 1845 to 1847, Henry David Thoreau wrote: “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." We may hear in this oft-quoted metaphor the strains of that particularly American “music" of individualism, of which Thoreau and his mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson became our nation’s most renowned pied pipers—and to which so many citizens still so ardently march.

Among the great diversity of ideological parades in progress across this country today, two whose steps contrast most jarringly are the faith-based Christian fundamentalist belief in the literal truth of the Bible’s account of human origins and the science-based evolutionary account of the same. While there may be no neutral referees for this etiological dance-off, there are regularly conducted surveys of the steppers themselves. The results never cease to amaze (at least the science-based). A May 2014 Gallup poll reported that a whopping 42 percent of American adults believed that God created humans in their present form. These numbers have remained relatively stable as we press on with the twenty-first century, and the reason may not be what you think.

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