Charles Blow over at the New York Times editorial page has his knickers all in a twist over a new survey from the Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project that found many Americans still reject the atheistic view of evolution. Blow called the results of the survey “sad” and said “it’s embarrassing.” The December 30th survey found that “six-in-ten Americans (60%) say that “humans and other living things have evolved over time,” while a third (33%) reject the idea of evolution, saying that “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”
Rejecting out of hand the notion that 33% of Americans might actually be able to think for themselves, Blow resurrects the vast right-wing conspiracy to account for the fact that Americans still reject evolution, despite the fact that virtually every public school child and every student attending college is taught as fact that they evolved from a common ancestor and that life on earth came about as a result of some sort of “highly energetic chemistry” that produced a self-replicating molecule rather than by the design of an intelligent Creator. Blow says,
But I believe that something else is also at play here, something more cynical. I believe this is a natural result of a long-running ploy by Republican party leaders to play on the most base convictions of conservative voters in order to solidify their support. Convince people that they’re fighting a religious war for religious freedom, a war in which passion and devotion are one’s weapons against doubt and confusion, and you make loyal soldiers.
So it’s those scheming Republicans who are to blame for this embarrassing display of ignorance, as Blow sees it. Probably Karl Rove, too. And the Koch brothers along with George Bush.
Charles Blow calls the views of a third of Americans — the 33% — “extreme religiosity” and “a form of dysfunction” and then turns around and mocks those who claim there is hostility toward religion in this country. He writes, “This is a tactic to keep the Republican rank-and-file riled up.”
Before I get into what I believe is at the heart of Blow’s issues with the 33%, can we at least all admit that there are dumb people who believe in evolution as an explanation for how we got here and dumb people who don’t? Conversely, there are very intelligent people who are on both sides of this issue. Blow may be surprised to know that creationists walk among us, educated, employed, and succeeding in 2013 America.
Among my creationist friends I count several physicians, a few university professors (at state schools), engineers, an architect, and a NASA scientist who has received commendations for his pioneering research. Somehow these folks have managed to stumble though successful careers as members of the 33%. True, most have had to keep their creationist views on origins to themselves because this is America, after all, and alternative views on evolution, along with global warming skepticism and traditional views on marriage, are on that rapidly expanding list of things one cannot say in America (kind of like George Carlin’s Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television, but cleaner). Most people don’t even realize that creationists/intelligent design proponents don’t reject much of the science behind evolution, for example, natural selection, adaptation, mutation, and genetic drift. The fundamental disagreements come in beliefs about how life came about on earth, whether one species can evolve into a completely different species, and the age of the earth (by no means small differences, but accusations that creationists are completely anti-science amount to overblown hyperbole).
The issue at the heart of Blow’s complaints about the 33% has little to do with his sadness or embarrassment about the religious views of his fellow Americans. What would he have to be embarrassed about? Is he embarrassed to be a member of what he believes to be the evolving human race simply because the 33% disagree with him that the earth came about because of a Big Bang billions of years ago? No, as always, it’s the politics. Blow says,
I don’t personally have a problem with religious faith, even in the extreme, as long as it doesn’t supersede science and it’s not used to impose outdated mores on others.
Can you guess what those “outdated mores” might be? Do you think they have anything to do with “if” and “when” God created the universe? Nah. Blow says that there has been “anti-science propagandizing running unchecked on the right for years, from anti-gay-equality misinformation to climate change denials.”
The reality is that Blow is sad and embarrassed that the pesky 33%, many of them evangelicals, won’t fall in line with his pet political issues. He is sad and embarrassed that the 27% of white evangelicals — staunch conservatives — who don’t believe in evolution are diametrically opposed to his liberal political agenda. According to Blow,
Pew defines “staunch conservatives” as those who “take extremely conservative positions on nearly all issues — on the size and role of government, on economics, foreign policy, social issues and moral concerns. Most agree with the Tea Party, and even more very strongly disapprove of Barack Obama’s job performance.”
You see, those right-wing Bible thumpers are not a threat to Blow as long as they stay in their churches and keep quiet so that he and his friends can dictate the acceptable moral code. But when their staunch conservative beliefs spill over into the area of public policy, they become dangerous. Blow doesn’t “personally have a problem with religious faith, even in the extreme” as long as the faithful don’t try to influence public opinion or laws.
And this is the defining issue of our day. Blow and others who reject the notion of Christian moral absolutes have no problem imposing their own moral absolute of relativism on our society while going to great lengths to ridicule, marginalize and even silence those who disagree with them. Blow and the rest of the progressive left think they have the right to replace what they call “outdated mores” with their updated mores on marriage, climate “science,” taxes, abortion, and a variety of other social engineering issues. But merely stripping these issues of religious language and cloaking them in the mantle of “science” does not remove the persistent moral and ethical questions that we must wrestle with as a country. It usually only stops the debate and adds points to the scoreboard for the progressive agenda’s side. Someone’s morality will prevail in the cultural battles of our time. Obviously, Blow would like us all to live by his moral code. The 33% may yet have something to say about that.