Bible and flag at the White House

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Joel Fulleda

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The first battle was won in 2002, but the war unleashed in the United States by Darwin's opponents has already been declared for more than half a century. Since October 2002, Ohio has become the first state of the Union to stipulate that in science courses students must "know how scientists continue to investigate and critically analyze certain aspects of evolutionary theory."

In the space of a few years, the so-called "creationism", which contrasts the idea of ​​a divine Creation with Darwin's evolutionary theses, has become the most advanced and threatening point of the new fundamentalist religious alignment of the United States. Parallel to the expansion of the political cultures of the far right beyond its traditional social basin, the anti-evolutionist movement has also spread to the whole country, taking its theses into the White House.

But if at one time this religious right might have seemed willing to wage only a "battle of ideas", that today the goal is to impose a new creationist imprint on national education and research, is all too evident. "In a school district in Cogg County, Georgia, teachers are urged to discuss 'controversial views on evolution,'" say John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge in The Right Right, an essay on the overseas right.

"The republican conservatives - add the two British journalists - have also managed to include in the congress report on the No Child Left Behind Act a step in which schools are invited (while not requiring it) to teach" the whole range of scientific concepts " .

All clues, to which are added many others of the same sign, "of the growing will of the right to fight against what it considers the liberal" scientific establishment "by tackling it on its own ground and fielding an autonomous capacity for scientific research ". It is no coincidence that the right's last resort in this area is represented by the so-called “intelligent design”, a sort of attempt to explain scientific discoveries in religious terms as well.

However, one should not believe that the crusade against Charles Darwin's ideas is one of the many crusades launched by the American evangelical (Protestant) right in recent years. In fact, as Fabrizio Tonello points out in his From Saigon to Oklahoma City. Journey to the new American right, "not all evangelicals are fundamentalists: the latter were born at the beginning of the twentieth century as a reaction to the publication, in 1859, of Darwin's" Origin of the species "and to progressive theology that accepted a historical rather than a literal reading , of the Bible ».

These environments, writes Tonello, "took their name from the publication, between 1910 and 1915, of the" Fundamentals ", a 12-volume" manifesto "addressed to Christians who" consider it a duty (...) to fight without compromise against theology modernist and certain secularizing cultural tendencies ”». Thus, to believe in the literal sense "the biblical account of the creation of the world obviously meant condemning the theories of evolution."

Indeed, it was a trial that took place in Dayton, Tennessee starting in July 1925 that marked the real debut of the war in Darwin that we are still witnessing today. "The accused was the young biology teacher John Thomas Scopes - explains the Americanist Roberto Giammanco in The Imaginary in Power - Called to substitute in the class of the director of the Dayton public school, Scopes had used, for explanations, of a text that referred to evolutionist theories ». Theories that a Tennessee law had banned.

“Even before the doors of the little room where the city council met, the only one in Dayton that could vaguely resemble a courtroom opened - explains Giammanco - the meaning of the trial was already clear. It was the clash between the Bible and Darwin's Monkey. '

Since this first episode, the dimensions of the challenge launched by fundamentalists to secular institutions - be it schools, scientific research, even the legislation of individual states and federal legislation - has only grown and extended. "If the religious right has not been able to fully achieve its aims, it is certainly not for lack of conviction, but rather because someone has tried to prevent it - write Caroline Fourest and Fiammetta Venner in Tirs croisés - In American society there have been some cons -powers like the Supreme Court, but also a real social opposition formed by feminist, gay, anti-racist movements that have so far tried to prevent the worst from happening ”.

This was while increasingly disturbing signals were coming from the Washington political establishment. The cultural counter-revolution that the American right has launched against the timid conquests of the season of the struggle for civil rights of African Americans, pacifism and democratic movements and expression of the country's minorities, has in fact found open supporters in the White House itself.

According to the French sociologist of religions Sébastien Fath, author of God bless America and In God We Trust, the United States appears today as "a nation with the soul of a Church". In particular, Fath points out, "many observers are perplexed by the blatant religiosity of President Bush and the Manichean rhetoric of his administration".

Moreover, his illustrious predecessor, Ronald Reagan, had already announced this fundamentalist drift of the Republican Party about twenty years ago. In 1983 Furio Colombo noted in The God of America how Reagan, while attending an assembly of evangelical and fundamentalist pastors in Dallas, Texas during the 1980 election campaign, had made some very clear statements.

In one of these, for example, he openly declared himself "creationist". And Colombo, in giving an account of the event, underlined: «The offer of approval and support to the assembly means embracing positions of true fundamentalism. The assembly proposed in fact the end of the separation between church and state, the submission of every civil law to the moral precepts derived from the particular biblical interpretation proposed by the group ”.


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