In my latest Science Progress column, I muse on the most recent developments on the anti-evolution front, and also examine the bigger picture:
In broader perspective, one might view this latest stage in our ongoing evolution conflict in the United States as presenting reasons for hope. After all, in the space of thirty years, we’ve moved from the stupendous absurdities of “creation science”—the attempt to teach students about a biblical flood having laid down the fossil record, about humans and dinosaurs living together (on the ark, among other places), and so on—to Texas’s vague, poorly written agnotology. That’s progress, if it’s to be measured merely by the substantive positions that anti-evolutionists are now forced to advocate.
However, it’s important to remember that “creation science” and “intelligent design” alike were beaten back in the courtroom, not in the court of public opinion. Legal challenges, not popular ones, have whittled down anti-evolutionism to its current lawyerly state. And unfortunately, such progress has no parallel in public surveys about evolution. There are tons of polls out there, but I’ve always preferred to rely on Gallup because, as the National Science Foundation notes, they’ve asked the same question repeatedly since 1982. And there’s no movement: 46 percent of the public agrees with the statement, “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”
This is not merely anti-evolutionism; it is a specific and extreme form of creationism, the so-called “young earth” variety, which relies directly on biblical literalism. Such a stance rejects the past 200 plus years of science not just in the field of evolution, but in geology and, most assuredly, cosmology, where many of the same literalists question the Big Bang. This core anti-science swath of America wants far more than to have students “analyze and evaluate the sufficiency of scientific explanations concerning any data of sudden appearance, stasis and the sequential nature of groups in the fossil records.” It wants its children entirely shielded from the teaching evolution, even though it has already raised them at home to doubt and disbelieve in the first place. That’s why the current, sneaky creationist language will serve its purpose: For every kid brought up to equate Darwin with a full frontal assault on religion and morality, only the slightest semblance of doubt and questioning will be seized upon and do its own work from there. Biology class won’t have any impact; the beliefs of childhood will last throughout life.
I go on to weigh what it would take to ever bring our evolution wars to an end. You can read the full column here.