In these modern times, scientific nations are more likely to prosper and advance, reaping bigger rewards from brainpower.
So it's troubling that Americans are less accepting of science -- particularly regarding evolution -- than Europeans and residents of other democracies.
While more than 80 percent of Europeans acknowledge evolution as an accurate explanation for much of biology, only half as many Americans do so.
A new Gallup poll last month found that 39 percent of Americans believe in evolution -- and the number drops dramatically for churchgoers, the least-educated and oldsters.
Among Americans with only high school diplomas or less, just 21 percent said they accept explanations launched by Charles Darwin. Acceptance rose to 53 percent for college graduates, and 74 percent for those with postgraduate degrees.
Among weekly churchgoers, only 24 percent said yes -- but the rate was 55 percent among those who never attend.
Among young adults under 34, acceptance was 49 percent -- but it fell to 31 percent for the over-55 group.
This is depressing, because nearly the entire scientific world recognizes that today's animals and plants evolved from more rudimentary ancestors. The "theory" of evolution is an established fact. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington has huge museum halls displaying fossils and other exhibits proving it. Millions of American schoolchildren visit that scientific center.
The Detroit Free Press said the new Gallup findings are "worrisome" because they show woeful scientific ignorance in America.
The paper said it's "alarming when you consider that virtually everything biologists have discovered since [Darwin] either confirms or refines his theory of natural selection." It asked: "How can Americans find common ground on the subject of, say, global warming if most of us remain suspicious about a scientific consensus that has endured more than a century?"
Last week, Tennessee's state Senate approved a bill letting public school teachers dispute both evolution and global warming in their science classes. National science groups called this proposal a step backward into ignorance.
It's encouraging that young Americans are more accepting of the scientific principle of evolution. And the relentless decline of churchgoing in America, plus rising levels of education, portend more understanding in the future.
If it happens -- if America evolves to accept evolution -- it will be almost another proof of the theory.