Some conservative named Patrick Hynes is unhappy that the Republican candidates were asked their opinion of evolution. His argument is two-pronged: it is reasonable to disagree with scientific opinions on the matter, and it is unreasonable to ask the politicians of his party what their opinion of a scientific issue might be.
And here’s another tip for you, Skip: As I pointed out in In Defense of the Religious Right in a chapter titled “I Scream, You Scream, but We are The Mainstream,” everyday Americans are firmly on the side of evolution skeptics:
Seventy-eight percent of all Americans believe God created life on Earth, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. And 60 percent of all Americans believe either “Humans and other living things existed only in their present form” or that their evolution over time was “guided by a supreme being.” The only group in which more members believe in natural selection than believe humans and other living things have only existed in their present form is secularists. White evangelical Christians, white mainline Protestants, and white Catholics believe the opposite. (Patrick Hynes, “In Defense of the Religious Right,” p. 185, Nelson Current, 2006)
Yeah, and about 30% of Americans believe the sun goes around the earth, and about 65% deny the big bang. This is a foolish game; ask people who are ignorant of a field, and you’ll get all kinds of screwy answers. It doesn’t mean that they’re right, only that you’ve asked the wrong people. If you asked a group of biologists, astronomers, and cosmologists (you know, people who actually study the problems) you’d get a different and far more credible answer.
So what is this guy arguing? That non-secularists are stupid about science, or that science is all wrong because the local church-going drywall installer says so? Because I’d have to sign on with the former statement if those are my alternatives.
(Also, citing your own book in a paragraph which merely recites some numbers from a Pew survey is a little bit tacky, don’t you think?)
Now, I admit I run in a pretty low-brow crowd, but virtually every conversation with my friends on this subject reveals to me that I am hardly alone in my personal skepticism toward Natural Selection. I know of one person–just one–who believes we are, more or less, a slightly more fortunate breed of primate than our cousins the chimp and the gorilla. And, to be charitable, I do not value this person’s critical thinking skills.
Hang on there … so he has just cited a poll that shows most people disbelieve in evolution; it doesn’t add anything to say that all of his buddies also disbelieve, unless it’s to highlight his own isolation from credible sources. It’s nice that he notices his crowd is low-brow, but that doesn’t sound like a good endorsement of a presidential candidate. “He’s low of brow! He’s got average intelligence! He doesn’t understand science, just like you don’t! Vote Joe Slowcoach for President!”
The proper answer to the evolution question is, I don’t know. But MSNBC/Politico didn’t leave that option open to the candidates with this patronizing show-of-hands dictate.
“I don’t know” might well be the most accurate answer, but admitting ignorance doesn’t sound like good political strategy. A better answer would be “I’m not familiar with the evidence myself, but I’ll accept the conclusions of my scientific advisors, who, with the rest of the scientific community, are in agreement that evolution is the best explanation of human origins.”
I think the question is an excellent litmus test (I know that phrase seems to have acquired some negative meanings, but there’s nothing wrong with probing the competence of a candidate). The people who say “no, I don’t believe in evolution” are exposing both their ignorance and their obedience to false dogma, and ought to have been booed off the stage.
Unfortunately, as Hynes mentioned, the bozos are in the majority, and answering “no” probably doesn’t hurt their chances of being elected. That’s a solution to be deplored, not rationalized.
(via Alicublog, who practices the art of brevity)