quote:The evc debate is simply the latest permutation of the science vs. religion debate that's been going on for centuries, quite intensely since the enlightenment.
I don't see how this really answers the question. Religions have responded to science in a wide range of ways, ranging from acceptance of scientific findings and support for scientific research to complete rejection of science and the murder of scientists. So the fact that creationism is a religious view doesn't really tell you why, in this particular place and time, this particular religion has chosen to reject this particular part of science, and why it's raising a public stink about it.
Even if you confine yourself to conservative Evangelicals in the U.S and their attitude toward evolution, the picture is not simple. At the beginning of the 20th century, fundamentalists (as they were soon to be called) were not crazy about evolution, but many managed to make some sort of peace with it, and opposition to evolution was certainly not a major issue. Even in 1917, when _The Fundamentals_ was published, evolution was a minor issue and the articles on the subject in that series were not all negative. By the early to mid 20's, however, fundamentalism had embraced anti-evolutionism whole-heartedly, and their attacks on teaching evolution turning into a public campaign -- leading fundamentalism directly into the debacle of the Scopes trial. Shortly afterwards, fundamentalism withdrew into the backwaters of U.S. life and creationism subsided, at least as movement. (Evolution, to be sure, was not taught in lots of schools as a result of religious pressure.)
Anti-evolutionary fervor started to build again in the 60s, with the publication of Whitcomb and Morris's book, and for the first time young-earth creationism became the main force in the movement. That wave seems to have peaked in the 80s, with the latest wave, intelligent design, forming in the 90s and rising in recent years.
So why now? I don't know. One factor is the overall conservative political shift at the moment, which is perhaps a reaction to the changing ethical and social climate of the last 40 years, including the latest round of secularization of society, amplified by the feeling of crisis produced by 9/11. (One might want to draw a parallel with the original rise of anti-evolutionary fundamentalism, which was certainly fueled by the marked secularization of the U.S. in the decades around the turn of the centruy, and which was sparked by the sense of crisis produced by WWI and the subsequent Red Scare.)
Another important element may be the appearance of a politically savvy and intellectually respectable form of anti-evolutionism in the Intelligent Design movement.
Another factor may be that evolution simply wasn't taught much until roughly the early 60s, and so didn't present much threat. (Note that I'm unsure on the facts here -- my impression is that teaching of evolution increased during the 60s.) With the post-Sputnik concern for better science education, teaching evolution became more common, leading to more pressure against it from people who already opposed it. The pressure against it has been there ever since, but it has become more overt recently both because other factors have produced a tilt toward Republican control of the government, and because someone has finally come up with a version of anti-evolutionism that isn't laughably stupid.