The Original Sin

Richard North Patterson sucks his thumb at considerable length in The Pandemic and the GOP’s Science Problem: The party’s uneasy relationship with science goes back decades. For me, this is the key part:

“It’s hard to know,” writes Max Boot, “exactly when the Republican Party assumed the mantle of the ‘stupid party.’” But one might look to the 1970s as the gateway to a politically calculated dismissal of scientific knowledge.

Having allied with evangelicals over social issues, the GOP’s political class found it expedient to honor fundamentalists’ most fundamental premise: creationism. Evangelicals flocked—and the GOP became an anti-evolutionary haven. As recently as last year, Gallup found that 55 percent of self-identified Republicans—as compared to 40 percent of the general population—agree with the statement “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”

Conservative media vilified evolutionary science. “Everybody that believes in Darwinism is corrupt,” pronounced Rush Limbaugh in 2010. “Liberals love anything that allows them to say there’s no God.”

The Original Sin

You may think my observations hyperbolic, but if you do, I would respectfully disagree. The emergence of someone like Trump became inevitable when, in the nineteenth century, parts of the Christian community concluded that Darwinism could not be reconciled with religion. That, therefore, Darwinism must be rejected root and branch. That there is an irreconcilable conflict between reason and science, on the one hand, and religion, on the other. That preservation of your immortal soul requires you to reject reason and science and embrace unsupported faith.

That reaction to Darwinism was by no means inevitable. But it happened. And it had a lot of consequences.

It forced people like me to make a choice as a teenager in the early 1960’s: my tribe, my ancestral religion, or my rational mind? I made that choice decisively. But it was really hard. And it’s really hard here in 2020, for a great many people.

In theory, you could adopt the view that science is a reliable guide to some matters—for example, what electricity is, and how it works—but an entirely unreliable guide to other matters, such as biology. But that requires a sort of metaphorical frontal lobotomy. Much more “logical,” somehow, to go whole hog, one way or the other.

So, if science is an entirely unreliable guide, it follows as the night the day that smoking doesn’t cause cancer, climate change is a hoax, and the coronavirus is going to disappear without any further effort on our part.

Darwin is going to win. Once again, Darwin will win this fight. Bigly. And brutally.

I hope it will be taken as a sign from God that you really do need to rethink your position on evolution and the whole science versus religion thing.