Friday, January 12, 2007

The world worries about global warming and religious fanaticism; the U.S. doesn't

Al Gore is still waiting for any measurable public reaction to An Inconvenient Truth in the U.S. Meanwhile, old Europe seems to be listening. At least that's what a recent Harris Interactive study suggests, conducted for France 24 and The International Herald Tribune in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and the USA, among adults ages 16 and over.

The most interesting aspect of the Harris Interactive study is that the U.S. is the outlier on most issues.
"Adults in the UK and the USA view terrorism as the greatest challenge facing the planet today with 49% of Americans and 43% of the British citing it as a greater threat than global warming, religious fanaticism, war, and nuclear proliferation."
As a result, U.S. respondents expressed lower concerns about global warming than respondents in Germany, Italy and Spain. Germans, Italians, and Spanish respondents also worried about religious fanaticism, which does not seem to be on the radar of many U.S. respondents.
"Religious fanaticism is the top concern in Germany, Italy and Spain; it is seen as the greatest threat by 42% of German, 40% of Italian and 39% of Spanish adults. This is followed by global warming; which is cited by 41% of Germans, 39% of Italians, and 33% of the Spanish."
This lack of concern about religious extremism is especially surprising in a country that -- more than 200 years after implementing one of the first enlightened modern constitutions -- still struggles with the issue of disentangling religious beliefs from evidence in its science classrooms, universities, and policy decisions.

And there's little indication that things will change. Just to provide some episodic evidence: A story in today's New York Times predicts that about one in 10 New Yorkers will belong to some kind of Pentecostal church by the end of this year. Pentecostal Christians, of course, believe in the Bible’s word-for-word authority and in speaking in tongues (or unintelligible utterances) as a way of directly interacting with god.

(Click here for the full report on the Harris Interactive study.)