More Evolution & Politics

There was a really good article about the Dover evolution controversy in Salon. Before I get to that, a colleague made a really good point today. He argued that the evolution controversy is being kept alive by Republican operatives who are using this as a wedge issue (and I thought school prayer would be the wedge issue).

So here’s some thoughts regarding the article:

  1. “This country wasn’t founded on Muslim beliefs or evolution,” Buckingham [one of the anti-evolutionists], a stocky, gray-haired man who wears a red, white and blue crucifix pin on his lapel, said at the meeting. “This country was founded on Christianity, and our students should be taught as such.” What strikes me about this statement is the hate: equating evolution with Muslims (who implicitly are terrorists). The idea that we’re going to be able to convince people like Buckingham is ludicrous.
  2. As “The Wedge Strategy” suggests, many CSC fellows are troubled more by the philosophical consequences of evolutionary theory than by the fact that it contradicts a literal reading of the Bible’s book of Genesis. Most of them — though not all — are too scientifically sophisticated to hew to a young-Earth creationist line like Hovind’s. In mainstream forums, they eschew sectarian religious language. As seekers of mainstream credibility, they don’t want to be associated with the medieval persecutors of Copernicus and Galileo. Instead, they try to present themselves as heirs to those very visionaries, insisting that dogmatic secularists desperate to deny God are thwarting their open-minded quest for truth.

    Most CSC fellows even accept that evolution occurs within individual species. What they dispute is the idea that random mutation and natural selection led to the evolution of higher species from lower ones — of man from apelike ancestors. Such a process seems to them incompatible with the belief that man was created in the image of God and that God takes a special interest in him. The Mad Biologist: I’ve made this point before, that many of the anti-evolutionists have not come to grips with the idea that man isn’t the center of creation. Get over it.

  3. This past December, Republican strategist Jack Burkman appeared on MSNBC’s “Scarborough Country” to back creationism in terms of populist democracy. “Why should the state and the federal government have a monopoly on defining what constitutes science?” he asked. “I see no problem with presenting a creationist view in the schools, given that 70 percent of Americans want that. The law should reflect democratic desires. It should reflect public desires.” The best argument that the creationists have got is that it’s only fair to teach both sides,” Matzke said. “The problem with that argument is that science is not a democracy and a lot of times there aren’t two correct sides. There are people who believe that the sun goes around the earth. They’re called geocentrists. That doesn’t mean we should teach that.”
    In Dover, though, people tend to interpret positions like Matzke’s as elitism… The Mad Biologist: The elitist argument has been made before in the context of cold fusion (and oddly enough, Republicans were the ones making it). The Eastern elites were portrayed as opposing cold fusion as an attempt to maintain their power, when in fact, cold fusion was bad science. You don’t get to vote on theories.

The more I think about it, rather than trying to split the difference in the culture wars, we need to meet them head on. By that I mean name calling, attacks, and all sorts of nasty stuff. I’m tired of these troglodytes cowering behind the altar. If they don’t want me to attack their religion, don’t force it into my classroom.

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