Whether your party is becoming more ignorant, or whether ignorant people are increasingly drawn to your party, the conclusions to be drawn when over 50% of those who identify as members also proudly admit that they have a 19th Century understanding of the universe cannot be called encouraging. Thus the Pew Research Center’s just released data showing that only 43% of Republicans understand and accept evolution is bad news for that party, and indeed for the nation as a whole.
Democrats have nothing to be proud of, as just two thirds (67%) of them told Pew that they believe in evolution, but at least the members of that party are getting smarter: the last poll, in 2009, showed 64% had absorbed the conclusions of Charles Darwin and Stephen Jay Gould. Republicans, in contrast, have gone backwards, dropping from 54% to the current, pathetic figure. For the American public as a whole, the takeaway is that a full 33% are incompetent at life, for that is what complete confusion about and misunderstanding of the world around us means in practical terms.
An inability to understand and accept evolution has wide-reaching implications. It is impossible to make sense of the natural world while stubbornly insisting that the fossil record is false or misleading, and that somehow, some way, mankind just popped into being, exactly as he and she are today, “at the beginning of time.” Holding this view in defiance of the overwhelming evidence of science and history makes it impossible to make sense out of geology, astronomy, anthropology, biology, paleontology, anatomy, zoology, physics, biochemistry and history itself. It demonstrates deficits in critical thought, intellectual curiosity, basic logic and common sense, as well as power of analysis, observation and problem solving. Might these missing abilities implicate trustworthiness, diligence, responsibility, and competence to perform other tasks and comprehend other important matters? Of course. Would these flaws make it more difficult to obtain and hold a job, run a business, or participate in democratic government?
The ugly truth is that we each have an obligation to our society, families, culture and nation to carry our share and be as productive as our abilities, health and opportunities will allow us to be. Willful ignorance, which is exactly what rejecting the discoveries and conclusion of science over the past 150 years is, makes fulfilling that obligation nearly impossible. In 2013, one need not have am elite college degree to learn the basics of evolution; one only requires the ability to read, the initiative to watch and listen, and something approaching average intelligence. That’s all. I would like to know the proportion of the unemployed who fall into that willfully ignorant 33%. I would like to know how many incompetent and corrupt elected officials have been given power by majorities of voters dominated by members of that bumbling, confused 33%. The stubbornly ignorant are an anchor pulling down American society in a thousand ways, and there is no excuse for it.
This is not, like the insistence of Phil Robertson and others that homosexuality is a sin, a misguided belief that can be explained by religion and morality alone. Science cannot argue with morality: there is no way to prove gays are not sinners, if someone believes that an all-knowing deity has so pronounced them. But the Earth does circle the sun, and this is provable, despite what the understandably mistaken authors of the Bible thought. Denying the evidence of science cannot and should not be respected, nor should it be tolerated. Ignorance is intolerable. Willful, stubborn and arrogant ignorance, when it undermines the hopes, dreams and well-being of everyone else, is nefarious.
There is an obligation to seek basic competence in living, and 33% of the public are breaching that duty.
Most of them are Republicans. Is a party dominated by the willfully ignorant and incompetent trustworthy? The Republican leadership needs to ask itself the question, before the 67% who aren’t incompetent answer it for them.
Graphic: Garden of Eden