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Call of fowl play on the theory of evolution

HERE'S a question: have we evolved to believe in creationism?

Let's progress another step with this observation: there's just nae tellin' some folk. I speak after the bombshell news that nearly half of Americans believe in creationism. America, famously, is the headquarters of the free world, so you can believe in anything, even if it is mad. They're not the first people to believe mad things en masse, and they won't be the last.

Is it wrong to apply the word "mad" to such folksy folks? Watch my lips: the world was not created in six days by a deity. No siree, bub. I realise there are more sophisticated theories of intelligent design than the aforementioned biblical baloney.

It may even be that intelligent design and evolution can be reconciled. Not by me, maybe. But live and let live, even if that maxim is contrary to survival of the fittest. Luckily, evolution isn't necessarily about survival of the fittest, which is just as well for me. The thing about evolution is it isn't really a theory you can choose to believe or disbelieve. It is, to the best of our admittedly fallible knowledge, a fact. You might as well say gravity is a theory. In a certain sense, it is, but if you'd like to throw a hammer straight upwards, your head will shortly tell you the truth of the situation.

Americans under advisement believe God created mankind 10,000 years ago, possibly on a Monday, though not a bank holiday (read the small print on his employment conditions). According to a Gallup poll, only 15% of our simian brothers and sisters across the sea believe humans evolved without the assistance of God.

Slightly more – 16% – believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim. I'm surprised that, with his surname and an imaginary apostrophe, they don't believe he's Irish.

These mental emanations from across yon pond are troubling. Insensitive people often refer to "thick Americans", but my experience of the species is overwhelmingly one of charming, polite and intelligent folk. Maybe I move in the wrong circles. I've never been escorted through the backwoods.

Which brings me circuitously to South Korea. Now North Korea, everyone knows, is bonkers. Who has not looked on agog at the military displays, mass outpourings of emotion towards a figurehead, synchronised flag waving and sheer, unmitigated sycophancy? Enough of the Royal Jubilee.

In South Korea, a creationist campaign has forced publishers to remove evolution from school textbooks. In particular, they disliked mention of the Archaeopteryx, an ancestor of today's birdies, but are seeking to remove references to Darwin's finches.

Fowl play or what? What we have to fear here in the 21st century (unbelievable how time flies, isn't it?) is mass irrationality. Only yesterday, as it were, we were persecuting witches (21% of Americans in the above poll also believed in witches, presumably not in the nice, pagan sense). And only the day before yesterday we had Bay City Roller mania.

Mass irrationality can also exist at micro level. If you've ever experienced small, isolated communities, you'll know how Wicker Man they can get, with sinister, torch-lit processions and ludicrous ethnic beliefs.

How do people get themselves into such states of mental imprecision? On the website Newsnet Scotland yesterday, political commentator David Torrance noted a scene in Ridley Scott's new movie Prometheus, where a scientist claims humans evolved from alien life forms. Asked if she has any basis for such a belief, she replies: "No, but it's what I choose to believe."

Mr Torrance suspects the No campaign on the independence referendum may be similarly based. While it's true the intellectual case for Unionism is feeble in the extreme, it is a legitimate belief based on emotion. The recent holiday weekend, in some ways, saw it made flesh and flags.

It would be invidious to conflate creationism, Unionism, royalism, the Bay City Rollers, Wicker Men and the persecution of witches under the heading of "mass irrationality". Nevertheless, we're entitled to stand agog and wonder if evolution is ever a case of two steps forward, one step back.

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