Why this resistance to human evolution? Religious commitments play a role, to be sure, but pointing to religion isn’t enough to explain why human evolution, in particular, engenders such a chilly reception in Americans’ hearts and minds. After all, a view of the solar system with humans at its center was eventually displaced (if ungracefully), and people aren’t nearly so troubled by the idea that plants evolve. There’s something special about human evolution—something that many find existentially upsetting, even untenable.
Research in experimental psychology offers a host of compelling explanations for why this could be. Perhaps humans are innately predisposed to creationism. Perhaps religious beliefs are “natural” and contemporary scientific commitments the psychological anomaly. There is something to be said for these claims, but if creationism—and the rejection of human evolution—is the belief toward which our species is naturally predisposed, we’re faced with an equally perplexing mystery: How is it that some people manage to embrace human evolution, and, indeed—to borrow Darwin’s phrase—to find “grandeur in this view of life”?