Of course I'm liberal, I believe in liberty.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The War Against Evolution

As you may have noticed, the fundamentalists in this country have declared war against evolution and the scientific method it is founded on.

A great article in Salon, "The New Monkey Trial", details just how obsessed, organized and well funded these holy warriors are and they are well on their way to victory.

For example, we learn that Dr. Jonathan Wells, who appears to be a reasonable scientist who just happens to believe in "intelligent design" instead of evolution, actually decided at a very young age to dedicate his life to fighting the evils of evolution -- long before he ever earned a "Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from Berkeley and another in religious studies from Yale.

A member of the Unification Church whose education was bankrolled by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, he's written that he sought his degrees specifically to fight the teaching of evolution. As he put it in an article on the Moonie Web site True Parents, "Father's words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father [Sun Myung Moon] chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle."

Be scared, people. This world is at war between the forces of religious fundamentalism and enlightened reason. Enlightened reason must win.

Dr. Wells is a senior fellow at a group called the Center for Science and Culture which proposed a wedge strategy that "seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies."

"The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built ... Yet a little over a century ago, this cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science. Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art."

We live in a country where 48% of the population believes dinosaurs walked the earth with humans, even with all their education and the press trying to tell them otherwise. (Heck, one out of four adults still think the sun goes around the Earth.)

Think how that number can climb once they visit the Dinosaur Adventure Land "the place where dinosaurs and the Bible meet" or the soon to be completed Genisis Park.

Chris Mooney doesn't think the threat is all that serious, despite all of this.

That said, I'm not as pessimistic as Goldberg. Although Democratic politicians tend to be cowards on this subject, the elite media still have no love for creationism, and that's a powerful force to be reckoned with. Science's defenders should bring out national television crews, and let them interview the Bible-thumpers who come out for these battles on the local level. One of these types appears in Goldberg's article--and I'm telling you, mainstream journalists are not ready to embrace people like this.

Kevin Drum agrees, the liberal (or at least well educated, elite) media will save us.

I think Chris is right. As I've said before, the mainstream media really is biased toward showing what they're familiar with, and what they're mostly familar with is their fellow college educated social liberals. Unfortunately, this is a two-edged sword: when it comes to the crackpot end of the spectrum, lefty crackpots get a lot of press and end up convincing a lot of people that liberals are nuts, but conservative crackpots are mostly considered weird loons confined to their weird little rural communities and are therefore ignored.

I, however, am far more pessimistic. I think the threat is real and building. I guess the November election really shook me; before that I had great faith in the corrective force of democracy. Democracy didn't correct itself.

I now think of our society as much more delicate, much more unstable than I thought only a few months before. I don't think the elite in the fourth estate are going to save us from this one, not on their own.

Remember, most of us 'elite' think of science as a very different endeavor than, say, the priesthood. After all, scientific theories must be falsifiable and withstand years of observation, experimentation and criticism before any scientist will begin to think of a theory as fact.

But to the lay person, science is no different than any other elite endeavor; a bunch of people in power they don't know get together to determine their version of the truth, then preach it to everyone else.

Have you looked for a gluon lately? No, me neither. There is a huge, real difference between science and religion, but the lay person takes either one on faith. To them it doesn't seem so different.

It's not hard for creationists to convince the public that the evidence for evolution is weak. Scientists accept evolution as something very close to fact, but Americans never have. In a November 2004 CBS News/New York Times poll, about evolution, 55 percent of the respondents said that God created humans in their present form. Twenty-seven percent believed in the evolution of man guided by God, and 13 percent believed in evolution without God.

So it should come as no surprise that the majority of Americans -- 65 percent, according to the poll cited above -- favor teaching creationism alongside evolution in public schools. Creationism is the perfect culture-war issue because it inevitably pits majorities in local communities against interloping lawyers and scientists. In a country gripped by right-wing populism, it's not hard to stoke resentment against scientists who have the gall to think that they know more than everybody else.

But some are already fighting back. For the punch-line to this comic go here (via Majikthise).

Be nice, be sensitive, but fight back. I don't want my child growing up in the world these fundamentalists are trying to build. And to all those 'conservative' libertarians out there, look with whom you are allied. Do you really think these people have the same vision for America you do? Do you think it is even close??