Creationism isn’t innocuous
I have to admit, I’m boggled at Kevin Drum’s reaction to the news that nearly half of Americans are young Earth creationists, with the God-guides-evolution people being the second largest group, and the people who actually accept evolutionary theory only making up 15% of the population.* He completely misreads the situation and frankly does so in a way that I personally felt thrown under the bus.
The fact is that belief in evolution has virtually no real-life impact on anything. That’s why 46% of the country can safely choose not to believe it: their lack of belief has precisely zero effect on their lives. Sure, it’s a handy way of saying that they’re God-fearing Christians — a “cultural signifier,” as Andrew puts it — but our lives are jam-packed with cultural signifiers. This is just one of thousands, one whose importance probably barely cracks America’s top 100 list.
And the reason it doesn’t is that even creationists don’t take their own views seriously. How do I know this? Well, creationists like to fight over whether we should teach evolution in high school, but they never go much beyond that. Nobody wants to remove it from university biology departments. Nobody wants to shut down actual medical research that depends on the workings of evolution. In short, almost nobody wants to fight evolution except at the purely symbolic level of high school curricula, the one place where it barely matters in the first place. The dirty truth is that a 10th grade knowledge of evolution adds only slightly to a 10th grade understanding of biology.
Kevin takes it as a given that fights over what’s taught in high school are strictly about symbolism and have no real importance. I suspect that’s a much easier view to take if you’re the beneficiary of a good public school in a blue area or lucky enough to have gone through or been able to put your own kids through private school. For someone who went to a rural high school in Texas, the notion that high school doesn’t matter strikes me as ridiculous in the extreme.
The reason conservatives target high schools (and junior high schools and elementary schools) isn’t because they’re playing peanuts. On the contrary, conservatives understand something liberals don’t, which is that if you get people while they’re young, you usually have them for life. This is also, incidentally, why conservatives pay more attention to pop culture than liberals. Liberals are great people—I’m one of them!—but we have a tendency towards preening individualism and therefore discount the importance of things like what’s in the classroom and what’s on TV because we personally feel we’re iconoclasts who aren’t affected by it. Which can, as in this case, cause us to neglect to remember that in fact this is the air most people breathe, and the quality of that air matters.
Read the rest of this post at Pandagon.