The Evolution Fight as Social Project

I both agree and disagree with Kevin Drum’s take on evolution: Kevin’s clearly right that if the conservative position on evolution were really about evolution, it wouldn’t be a big deal. The vast majority of people can get by just fine without any understanding of the topic (even with stuff like public health issues around antibiotic resistance, telling someone “just don’t be stupid and abuse antibiotics” is probably about as effective as going into the details of the evolution of resistant bacteria).

But the conservative position on evolution isn’t really about evolution at all.

It’s about politics, specifically a long-term political project to muddy the waters with voters who would ordinarily be least likely to vote for conservatives, low-income people with a high school education or less. That’s one reason the fight has never really extended to expunging evolution from college biology departments – college grads aren’t really the target audience here. The real goal isn’t to attack evolution, but to socially wall off these voters as much as possible from  voices and authority figures that could conceivably compete with those useful to conservatives – pastors, the military, conservative media, etc. Making the low-information voter forever distrustful of expertise is a dangerous project, and one that liberal strategists ignore at their peril.

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