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Alain Giguère

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40% of Canadians believe that life on Earth was created in six days (The ideal prelude to Wagner’s Das Rheingold!)

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 02-10-17 at 8 a.m.

Astounding findings

I have always been fascinated by the promises and expectations that come with new political administrations, particularly in Washington, D.C. But this year’s program is off the charts—and has got off to a roaring start! Aside from all the controversy surrounding the first days of this new administration, the personalities of Mr. Trump’s team deserve a close look. While no one’s role should be discounted, one especially colourful character is Ben Carson, Trump’s secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Dr. Carson, an eminent, retired neurosurgeon, had a long and accomplished career that earned him the highest professional distinctions. However, in politics, he has emerged as nothing short of distinctive. An ardent Seventh-day Adventist, he loudly proclaims his faith and his belief in creationism—a theory that maintains that life on earth was created by God in six days, as stated in the Bible—and considers the Big Bang theory and Darwinian evolution the work of the Devil!
(For more: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/09/ben-carson-creationism-six-days).

While it may be surprising to hear this kind of position in the United State, the extent of these same beliefs in Canada is astonishing. A CROP poll revealed that 40% of Canadians believe the Biblical version of creation in six days over Darwin and other theories of evolution! I’m stunned by the magnitude of this phenomenon: that’s two out of every five Canadians!

When we drill down by province, we find some regional variations: Québec and British Columbia number the fewest creationists (36% and 33%, respectively), while the most believers in the literal Biblical account are found in the Maritimes (49%) and Prairie Provinces (55%). Still, even in the most “skeptical” provinces, creationism represents the views of about one in every three individuals!

The sociodemographic findings come as less of a surprise. As one might expect, the Biblical account has more followers among older people (65 plus), residents of smaller towns or rural areas, and the poorest and least educated in the country.

Even among Millennials (18 to 34 years of age), one in three (34%) is a creationist.

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Frankly, our team was astounded by these findings. In an era where knowledge has never been more widespread, where information circulates freely and instantaneously on a multitude of platforms, this level of adherence to the Biblical version of creation is a tad shocking.

However, I believe it is more productive to try to understand the socioeconomic and sociocultural conditions that lead people to such beliefs instead of judging them.

Our era is not easy for everyone. Some find the challenges caused by the social and economic transformations harder than others. We know that believers in biblical creationism have great difficulty adapting to modern life and its risks. These individuals feel overwhelmed by the world around them, under personal threat, at a loss, without references to guide them.

The founding myths of our Judeo-Christian culture provide them with the comfort of meaning and certainty in the unsettling times they have to deal with.

One of most defining characteristics of creationists is how much they respect the traditional authority of institutions and leaders. In response to troubled times, they support strong, authoritarian leaders who can redress the situation. Populist political speeches telling them they’ve been abandoned by their institutions resonate with them. This is a theme of the new American administration, which was elected on a populist platform. Neither Canada nor Québec is immune to these political trends.

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A call for solidarity

I sincerely believe that bridges need to be built to include populations having trouble adapting. Revaluating our democracy and institutions should be on the agenda of all parties on the social stage who are able to contribute to the conversation. A more inclusive vision and strategy for all citizens, especially those who feel left behind in the wake of current economic and technological disruptions, should be on the agenda of all public institutions in the country, as should initiatives of corporate social responsibility. Otherwise, we’re headed for political upheaval!

Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold (The Rhinegold) creation of the universe overture

What better way to illustrate the theme of the origin of the universe, the world and life itself than with the overture to Wagner’s opera, Das Rheingold, which introduces Wagner’s epic tetralogy, Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).

The orchestral overture to The Ring’s first opera expresses the birth of the universe. The first murmur in the void before creation, in muted E flat major, gives way to the world, to life, as the music grows in power to celebrate the arrival of the living.

The video clip I have selected comes from a performance of the opera in Valencia, Spain. The Ring was staged like a science-fiction movie, projecting the action in a faraway galaxy. As you can see, to illustrate the idea of the void before creation, Zubin Mehta conducted the orchestral opening in total darkness using a glowing red flashlight for a baton!

You may find five minutes a little long for a video clip on a blog, but the music is absolutely glorious. It is, after all, the creation of the universe. Something that took God six whole days!

Wagner: Das Rheingold, Zubin Mehta, La Fura dels Baus, Valencia, 2007, Unitel Classica.