Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Republicans lead America's head-up-the-ass ignorance on evolution

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Americans are often characterized by non-Americans as ignorant, self-absorbed morons with their heads up their asses. This is often true, but I tend to recoil from such generalizations. Having spent much of my life in the U.S., and spending so much of my time focusing on the U.S., I know that Americans are a diverse lot and that it's rather unfair to judge the entirety of the American people based on the ignorance and self-absorption of a part of the whole.

The thing is, though, what if this part isn't just a small segment of the population but a wide swath that includes a massive number of people? And what if the sheer stupidity of this wide swath is so enormous that it threatens to define the country as a whole? Because, well, this:

According to a new Pew Research Center analysis, 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." The share of the general public that says that humans have evolved over time is about the same as it was in 2009, when Pew Research last asked the question.

About half of those who express a belief in human evolution take the view that evolution is "due to natural processes such as natural selection" (32% of the American public overall). But many Americans believe that God or a supreme being played a role in the process of evolution. Indeed, roughly a quarter of adults (24%) say that "a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today."

Yes, yes, I know, America is a generally religious country, and obviously it's religion, specifically evangelical Protestantism, that is behind much of this head-up-the-ass ignorance. But the numbers are staggering. It's bad enough that a third of Americans reject evolution. A quarter of Americans believe that evolution is divinely ordained (which is either wishful thinking or blatant stupidity). Add those two together and you get the full breadth of ignorance, with less than a third of Americans accepting non-divine evolution, or, you know, science without the taint of religion.

It is soon 2014. And while progress is being made on some fronts, such as gay rights, it's clear that America's journey through modernity is stuck in neutral while most of the rest of the world moves forward.

And, no surprise, the divide between enlightenment and anti-enlightenment largely follows partisan lines:

A new Pew Research Center poll shows a widening political gap over theories about how humans came to be, with Republicans growing increasingly skeptical about the idea that humans evolved over time.

Over the last four years, the percentage of Democrats who said they believe in evolution has risen by three points, from 64 percent to 67 percent. But the percentage of Republicans who believe in the theory has dropped 11 points, from 54 percent to 43 percent. 

So while there was a 10-point gap in 2009, there is now a 24-point gap.

Pew says similar shifts have not occurred for any other demographics, either racial or religious.

Yes, that's right, Republicans as a group are actually becoming more ignorant over time, the party embracing anti-enlightenment more and more.

And I would just add this: Evolution may be a theory, and scientists readily admit they don't have all the answers (because science isn't about having the answers but about learning more and more so as to reduce the scope of that which we do not know), but it's not about belief or non-believe. You don't believe in evolution. You accept science and reject ignorance, and with that acceptance you hold that the theory of evolution appears to make sense given what we know and can prove. You can believe in some "God," a mythological creation, but not the product of scientific research. Saying you believe in evolution is like saying you believe in math, or gravity, or the solar system. Which is to say, it's just plain stupid.

Just like Republicans, just like a wide swath of the American people.

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