Replying to Razib

In Sunday’s post I wrote the following:

People like [Kevin] Shapiro, George Will, or Charles Krauthammer are lonely voices in the conservative wilderness, accorded about as much respect in the Republican party as pro-lifers are in the Democratic party. Every conservative politican of any prominence is anti-Darwin, and virtually every right-wing media outlet publishes anti-evolution articles on a regular basis. Indeed, as Chris Mooney documented at book length, hostility towards science is an integral part of Republican politics today.

Over at Gene Expression, Razib took issue with these remarks. To counter them he presented the results of this Harris Poll. The poll questions concerned people’s views on questions related to evolution and creationism, with results broken down both by party affiliation, and ideological viewpoint.

I will come to the numbers in a moment, but first let me say that Razib seems to have missed my point.

I was not talking about rank and file conservatives and liberals. I was quite explicit that I was talking about prominent conservative politicians and right-wing media outlets. And it is a simple statement of fact, not crude stereotyping, to say that those two groups are overwhelmingly anti-Darwin.

Shall we run through the litany? Media first. It’s nice that the Wall Street Journal ran Shapiro’s essay, but virtually all of their other editorials and op-eds on this subject have been pro-ID. They have published articles by Phillip Johnson and Michael Behe among others. They also routinely feature the reporting of David Klinghoffer, who uncritically repeated the bogus charges of Rick Sternberg. In recent years the major conservative magazines like National Review, The Weekly Standard, Commentary and The American Spectator have all run numerous anti-Darwin articles compared to no pro-Darwin articles. (Many years ago National Review published a pro-Darwin article from the conservative political scientist Larry Arnhart. That article was mostly about using evolutionary theory to justify various conservative social theories. Not something most scientists would support.)

What about the major liberal magazines? The New Republic, Harper’s, The American Prospect, The Progressive and The Nation have run quite a few pro-Darwin articles among them, compared to not a single pro-ID article.

In the political arena we have President Bush unambiguously supporting ID. Two of the most prominent Republican senators, John McCain and Bill Frist, have supported ID, along with Republican stars Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback. The only Republican senator I know of who has opposed teaching ID is Christopher Shays of Connecticut. While the Democrats may not be as vigorous on this issue as I would like, I know of no Demcoratic senators who have supported teaching ID.

On the House side, I don’t know what Speaker of the House Hastert thinks on this issue. But majority whip John Boehner tried to pressure the Ohio State School Board into teaching ID. He was joined in this effort by fellow Republican Steve Chabot. The previous majority whip, Tom DeLay, was also relentlessly anti-Darwin. Again, I know of no Democratic representatives who have supported teaching ID.

Furthermore, in every state where teaching ID has become a major issue, it is Rebpublicans, not Democrats who are behind it. Every one.

I could go on with a consideration of Republican governors like Ernie Fletcher in Kentucky and Haley Barbour in Mississippi, but I think the point is made. Right now the driving forces in the Republican party and conservatism generally are overwhelmingly anti-Darwin. The driving forces in the Democratic party are not.

So what about those poll numbers?

Razib picks out three questions he finds especially significant. For simplicity, I will only here quote the conservative vs. liberal numbers. The Republican vs. Democrat numbers are similar, though a bit closer.

We find that 65% of conservatives vs. 37% of liberals reject the idea that humans developed from earlier species. 56% of conservatives vs. 31% of liberals reject the idea that man and apes share common ancestry. And 58% of conservatives vs. 35% of liberals reject the idea that the fossil record confirms evolution.

Razib chose not to mention the following number: 75% of conservatives vs. 48% of liberals believe in creationism. Another 7% of conservatives accept ID (strangely, the liberal number on ID is not given).

Commenting on this, Razib writes:

On all these numbers Democrats and liberals do better than Republicans and conservatives when it comes to acceptance of the scientific mainstream consensus, but the difference is quantitative, not qualitative. One can, I believe, stereotype on this issue with some effectiveness, but that stereotype must be bounded by the reality that a substantial minority of liberals and Democrats accept anti-evolutionary beliefs, while a substantial minority of conservatives and Republicans accept mainstream science. Jason states that Will & company have little influence in the Republican party or conservative politics. I don’t follow politics much, but my impression is to the contrary. And, might I add that the judge who presided over the Dover case was a Republican? (Emphasis in original)

Quantitative those differences may be, but we’re talking about huge, election-swinging quantities here. A conservative politican who supports evolution will be offending upwards of 75% of his base, for heaven’s sake. I think that’s strong confirmation of my point, that the driving forces in conservative politics today are anti-Darwin.

Since Razib admits that he doesn’t follow politics much, I can’t imagine the basis for his belief that people like George Will have great influence on this issue among conservatives. If he did start following politics, he would be aware fo the facts I outlined at the top of this post, and many others besides. Hopefully that awareness would also persuade him to not be so casual in throwing around words like “stereotyping”

Meanwhile, Razib is impressed that Judge John Jones, of Dover fame, is a Republican. Is he similarly impressed by the standard conservative response to Jones, expressed here by Phyllis Schlafly:

Judge John E. Jones III could still be chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board if millions of evangelical Christians had not pulled the lever for George W. Bush in 2000. Yet this federal judge, who owes his position entirely to those voters and the president who appointed him, stuck the knife in the backs of those who brought him to the dance in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Jones issued his ruling, a 139-page rant against anyone who objects to force-feeding public schoolchildren with the theory of evolution, on Dec. 20. He accused parents and school board members of “breathtaking inanity” for wanting their children to learn that “intelligent design is an explanation of the origin of life that differs from Charles Darwin’s view.”

Similar views were expressed by conservative stars Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Charles Colson, Michael Reagan and on and on. Meanwhile, can Razib name a single liberal pundit or commentator who criticized Jones? I sure can’t.

Razib closes with some discussion about socioeconomic factors that influence acceptance or rejection of evolution. I have my diagreements with his comments here as well, but for now I will not address them.

The bottom line is that there is a stark, important difference between the parties on this issue. The Republican party is anti-evolution, and generally anti-science. The Democratic party is not. That the Republicans are sometimes supported by people who are pro-science does not change that simple fact. I detect in Razib’s post a whiff of the standartd “above it all” approach to politics. That’s the one where you shake your head sadly at those silly partisans on both sides who live with the delusion that we have two, distinct, ideologically different parties, as opposed to one big amorphous, pandering, centrist glob.

Well, number me among the partisans. We do have two different parties, and on this issue (as with so many others) one of them is far preferable to the other. It’s that simple.

Comments

  1. #1 razib
    May 16, 2006

    Many years ago National Review published a pro-Darwin article from the conservative political scientist Larry Arnhart

    well, i might not follow politics, but you don’t follow national review. john derbyshire has been “representing” for the past year, and gotten a lot of grief for the issue from readers and a few other NRO contributors.

    in any case, you present a “half full” glass as if it is full. yes, santorum & co. have supported ID, but they’ve also flipped. you made the direct analogy to abortion rights, and that analogy is weak because people like santorum would never equivocate on abortion. they do regularly on intelligent design. you conflate equivocation and trial balloons and pandering with full bore support.

    the reality is that for the past generation the public has supported ‘equal time.’ the reality though is that whenever equal time does get enacted at the local-state level there is almost always a counteraction, often from ‘moderate republicans.’ there are some things that the republican leadership cares about, like corporate tax breaks and free trade, and there it acts. other things, like intelligent design, they talk now and then, but don’t generally act.

    and yes, i’m not particularly partisan, that doesn’t make me better, but perhaps a bit less prone to painting black & white portraits.\

  2. #2 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 16, 2006

    John Derbyshire writes for The Corner, which is the National Review blog. He has never published those musings in the print magazine, which was what I was talking about. (I referred to published articles, which is a lot different from mere blog entries).

    Santorum has not flipped on ID. He has backed off from openly advocating its inclusion in high school science classes, after the humiliation in Dover. That’s a big difference. Meanwhile, he’s perfectly happy to contribute forewords to ID books.

    I made no analogy to abortion rights. The analogy was between the way pro-lifers are treated in the Democratic party vs. the way pro-evolution/pro-science people are treated in the Republican Party. There are pro-life Democrats and pro-science Republicans. But they hold little influence when it comes time to write party platforms, or set a legislative agenda.

    Somehow the thought that top Republicans are merely pandering to creationists, but don’t really believe it themselves, is not very comforting. The fact remains that wherever teaching ID becomes a big issue, such as in Kansas or Ohio, it is always the Republicans who are behind it. And even when more moderate Republicans manage to defeat such bills, they usually just let them die quietly in committee. They don’t go to the floors of their legislatures and make stirring speeches in defense of science.

    Some issues are black and white. With the Republicans the best you can hope for is that they are just pandering to creationists and won’t actually act on their statements. The Democrats, with very few exceptions, genuinely don’t support teaching creationism or ID in schools. Why you feel the need to argue against something so obvious is beyond me.

  3. #3 kfnyc
    May 16, 2006

    YEA!

    when the NY Times publishes letters from people pointing out that our elected leaders see ID as a valid alternative and therefor de-facto we have a scientific controversy….I hurl…

  4. #4 razib
    May 17, 2006


    With the Republicans the best you can hope for is that they are just pandering to creationists and won’t actually act on their statements. The Democrats, with very few exceptions, genuinely don’t support teaching creationism or ID in schools. Why you feel the need to argue against something so obvious is beyond me.

    because it is not a hope, it is the reality. republicans on the non-local level pander, they don’t do anything substantive. focusing on the elites is irrelevant, this battle is going to be won at local school boards.

  5. #5 Ginger Yellow
    May 17, 2006

    “because it is not a hope, it is the reality. republicans on the non-local level pander, they don’t do anything substantive.”

    Santorum slipped an amendment into the House version of the NCLB act that was written by the Discovery Institute. It didn’t make it through the conference process, but you can hardly claim that it’s not a substantive act to introduce legislation mandating a “teach the controversy” approach.

  6. #6 Joe S.
    May 17, 2006

    Ginger Yellow:
    I’m glad you pointed that out. “Teach the controversy” is Newspeak for “teach creationism.” And allow me to be so bold to suggest that teaching creationism is a way toward pushing people to vote Republican.

  7. Santorum slipped an amendment into the House version of the NCLB act that was written by the Discovery Institute.

  8. #9 Seo Teknikleri
    January 2, 2008

    thank you

  9. #10 Pantera
    January 2, 2008

    YEA!

    when the NY Times publishes letters from people pointing out that our elected leaders see ID as a valid alternative and therefor de-facto we have a scientific controversy….I hurl..

  10. #11 aSk Blogcu
    April 1, 2008

    Thank You.