Monday, December 21, 2009

Denying Evolution and Climate Change

I suppose I ought to have thought before of one reason so many American conservatives deny that our carbon dioxide emissions could change the climate: because this is science, and since science supports evolution, they reject the whole enterprise. This comes to my attention from Orac at Respectful Insolence, protesting an essay by "Intelligent Design" proponent Senator Rick Santorum, who wrote:
Given this uncertainty, I think most Americans find the experts' cocksureness unsettling. Despite the bravado and billions of dollars in media hype supporting the climate alarmists, only 37 percent of respondents agreed that man is causing global warming in a recent Rasmussen poll. Why? Well, maybe because Americans don't like being told what to believe. Maybe because we have learned to be skeptical of "scientific" claims, particularly those at war with our common sense - like the Darwinists' telling us for decades that we are just a slightly higher form of life than a bacterium that is here purely by chance. . . .
To my mind this is the real danger of the debate over evolution. It really doesn't matter very much if most Americans accept evolution or not. But because our understanding of evolution is in make ways the pinacle of our scientific achievement, anyone who looks at the matter seriously can only reject it by rejecting science as a way of learning about the world. Anti-scientific populism has all sorts of unfortunate real-world effects, from anti-vaccine hysteria to the crazed opposition to any restraints on carbon emissions. People who reject the scientific project are capable of believing just about anything, and when they vote their prejudices they can do real damage to the world. One reason to sweep the whole evolution vs. creation debate under the rug is that once people understand how good the science of evolution is they will have to make a choice between science and fundamentalism, and many of them will decide that science is bogus.

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