According to a recent Pew poll, the number of people denying that human beings slowly evolved over millions of years is about the same as it was four years ago. The main difference is that the belief gap appears to be widening based upon political party affiliation:
In 2009, 54% of Republicans and 64% of Democrats said humans have evolved over time, a difference of 10 percentage points. Today, 43% of Republicans and 67% of Democrats say humans have evolved, a 24-point gap.
When you consider that more than half of Americans also believe that the devil is a living, breathing entity who literally walks among us, the evolution poll results are actually a little better than I would have expected. Sizeable minorities also believe in UFOs, witches, ghosts and astrology. Throughout our brief history, the championship of ignorance as a virtue has dominated the American landscape, much to the bafflement of the rest of the educated world. And New York Times columnist Charles Blow smells a Republican conspiracy to explain the widening gap:
I believe this is a natural result of a long-running ploy by Republican party leaders to play on the most base convictions of conservative voters in order to solidify their support. Convince people that they’re fighting a religious war for religious freedom, a war in which passion and devotion are one’s weapons against doubt and confusion, and you make loyal soldiers.Blow notes that the self-described staunch conservatives denying evolution are also staunch viewers of Fox News, that cesspit of cable hate propaganda. The increasing denial of science, he believes, is the direct result of the GOP propaganda surge.
But maybe, just maybe, their cynicism and cruelty will end up biting them in the butt. People still have to pay to get the message, and the pay is getting mightily reduced through the parallel surge of austerity. My comment:
The same people who deny evolution and climate change also believe that the devil is an actual living person. Polls show that between a half and two-thirds of Americans are convinced that Old Nick walks among us.
As the wealth gap between rich and poor widens, so too does the gap between ignorance and enlightenment, critical thinking and paranoia. People have got to blame somebody for their suffering, so it might as well be Satan. I reckon that a fair number of those most recently polled on evolution probably thought they were being questioned on evil-ution, and thus summoned their guardian angels for succor against the disembodied voice on the other end of the phone line.
Meanwhile, if the Republicans think they can maintain their grasp on power simply by fomenting the ignorance of their base, they'd better think again. Life itself is getting too damned expensive for millions and millions of people. Those losing unemployment benefits and food stamp assistance are already having to give up watching Sarah Palin in favor of eating. The cable TV industry just reported its worst year ever, losing a million new customers on top of the five million who've already cut the cord.
So who knows? Maybe people will go to the library. And when they discover that all the "Left Behind" books have been checked out, they'll discover Darwin's "Voyage of the Beagle," and get hooked on Science, vote their economic interests, and we'll all live happily ever after.
The devil you say!