Last week, the world celebrated what would have been Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday, and in less than a month, the Texas Board of Education will vote on how public schools should teach his most famous theory. Eighty-four years after the Scopes Trial ruled against Darwin and in favor of the Bible in Tennessee schools, evolution is still in the cultural crosshairs of controversy.
Amid the numerous and lengthy op-eds lauding Darwin's insight, intellect, and numerous contributions to the sciences, there was a poll that told a perpendicular story. According to Gallup, only 39 percent of Americans believe in Darwin's theory of evolution. The rest believe that God created humans as described in Genesis, or guided human evolution over a longer period of time. Or they have no opinion at all -- not exactly a ringing endorsement of Darwin’s chef-d’oeuvre.
But to hear the mainstream media, pop culture and liberal academia tell it, Darwin's theory is certain fact, and those who disagree are part of a backward and, well, still-evolving minority. University of Wisconsin professor Sean B. Carroll said in a CNN.com story, "The evidence for evolution is overwhelming. We can see it all around us."
Nicholas Wade wrote in the New York Times, "Not only was Darwin correct on the central premises of his theory, but in several other still open issues his views also seem quite likely to prevail."
And now some are making the case for so-called climate change as visible proof that Darwin’s theory is right. Azadeh Ansari cited, merely, “scientists,” everyone’s favorite amorphous body, when he wrote on CNN.com:
“In the 21st century, climate change is forcing species to evolve more quickly to survive on a warming planet, scientists say.. If drought conditions intensify and deforestation continues, many scientists expect to see great changes in the biological compositions of ecosystems over the coming decades. In other words, Darwin's theory of natural selection is still very much in evidence.”
With presumption like this, who needs specifics?
While Carroll, Wade and Ansari are talking about the scientific community's resounding acceptance of evolution, they only cursorily acknowledge or completely ignore the American public's rejection of it, which is just as, if not more deserving of analysis. After all, it's a revealing window into the cultural divide in America, a fairly convincing case against the questionable success of secularism, and a useful political tool in determining election outcomes, among other things.
To merely glance over the massive gap that exists between academic opinion and public opinion is remiss, but hardly unintentional.
The left’s systematic, surgical and sweeping crusade against Christianity hinges on an ability to condescend to the faithful, to paint them as “extreme,” and to quarantine them in far-right, backwoods, out-of-touch camps that they will contend are no longer relevant. Acknowledging nuanced points of view – say, for example, that theism and science are not mutually exclusive, and that other theories can accommodate both Darwin and the Bible – is not convenient or marketable. And the attack is coming from all sides.
Academics tell us science is good, religion is evil. Global warming is a fact, the Old Testament is fiction. Morality is relative, but liberalism is fixed. The masses are stupid, the educated are enlightened.
Environmentalists tell us science – not god – is angry, and condemns our hedonism, consumerism, capitalism and planetary greed. (But please don’t stop spending – just spend on our products, which may be more expensive than the ones you’re used to.)
Liberal media repeats that mantra, while running alarmist stories about clandestine Christians like Sarah Palin, speaking in tongues and performing ritualistic animal sacrifices in her Pentecostal church.
Celebrities gather in whatever trendy tabernacle of causes du jour is the momentary rage, and scold average Americans for having the audacity to be skeptical. Popular culture takes regular pot shots at Christians, caricaturing them as either hateful and intolerant, or stupid and redneck. (Sarah Palin, George Bush and a handful of others are routinely both.)
Liberal activists make social issues like gay marriage and abortion litmus-test issues. If you are pro-family or pro-life, you are homophobic and sexist. And, of course, you must be one of those crazy, intolerant, hateful Christians. (This, while they vandalize Mormon churches in California, and burn pro-lifers in effigy.) And President Obama scores former President Bush in his inauguration address, telling the world that, with a liberal in office, “We will restore science to its rightful place.” And for the first time in history, a US president acknowledged the nation’s “non-believers” – 2 percent of the country – in his speech.
Couple all of this with the wildly popular, but entirely inaccurate, intellectual trope that secularism has finally assumed its rightful position in the American cultural landscape, and it’s no wonder bloggers like “El Supremo” write on DemocraticUnderground.com, “Just 39 percent believe in evolution -- What an ignorant country!”
Last May another Gallup poll revealed the numbers were even lower, that only 14 percent of the country believes in evolution. And a few years ago a Harris poll revealed that 77 percent of all American adults believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. These findings were met with collective gasps, and the usual chuckles from the left. Those crazy Christians.
The fact is, 94 percent of the population believes in God, and 76 percent are Christians. The public relations war against Christianity (and Christmas) aside, the numbers tell the real story. And the left is losing the battle.
I am not a Christian, nor do I believe in God. I think Darwin’s theory of evolution is right, or at the very least, the best one I’ve heard. But instead of eradicating the country of Christian views, wouldn’t it be a much better exercise to actually exhibit the kind of tolerance for which liberals are known the world over?
More than a decade ago, “Ross,” the paleontologist character on the long-running sitcom “Friends,” and the rest of the gang are apoplectic when quirky, off-beat (and uneducated) Phoebe reveals she doesn’t “buy” evolution. “Evolution is not for you to buy, Phoebe. Evolution is scientific fact, like the air we breathe, like gravity,” Ross tells her.
We see in these latest polls that if the television show mirrored actual life, Ross would be the minority, not Phoebe. Looks like Darwin’s job is more Sisyphusean mountain than molehill.
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