The Public Interest

Enlightenments modest and otherwise

George Weigel

Spring 2005

TWENTY-FOUR HOURS after the 2004 election, Garry Wills, who has been known to write sensible things on occasion, came apart at the seams. In a New York Times op-ed titled "The Day the Enlightenment Went Out," Wills bemoaned an America in which more people "believe in the Virgin Birth than in Darwin’s theory of evolution." He then went on to characterize the United States today as a land beset by "fundamentalist zeal," "rage at secularity," "religious intolerance," and "fear and hatred of modernity" --qualities that Americans often ascribe to their unenlightened and premodern Islamist enemies. Whatever their source, Wills concluded, "Jihads are scary things. It is not too early to start yearning back toward the Enlightenment."

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