Every time someone does a poll that includes a question on evolution, I die a little inside. Why? Because even though the theory of evolution is backed up by decades worth of evidence and is the basis of modern biology, only around half of adults in the United States think it’s true. That makes me incredibly sad.
Even though the percentage of people who think evolution is true is depressingly low, there is a definite split between the political parties. According to a new Harris poll, only 36 percent of Republicans have accepted this basic scientific fact. Compare that with 52 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of independents.
For anyone who would like to see scientific progress, having one political party be so opposed to this kind of thing is disheartening. However, it’s one thing for hoi polloi to hold these beliefs, as much of a bummer as that is. It’s quite another for the people we nominate to hold elective office to reject basic science.
And yet that is the situation we have in Texas right now. Three of the four Republican hopefuls for lieutenant governor came right out and denied evolution. Only one candidate declined to endorse inserting creationism in public school curriculum. State senator and lieutenant governor candidate Dan Patrick probably missed the point the most:
“Our students … must really be confused. They go to Sunday School on Sunday and then they go into school on Monday and we tell them they can’t talk about God,” said Patrick. “I’m sick and tired of a minority in our country who want us to turn our back on God.”
This comes right on the heels of the Texas state board of education approval of biology textbooks over the objection of creationists.
Statements made by the other candidates aren’t any more encouraging. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst apparently believes that a bible story is on equal footing with scientific evidence in science class, although his remarks were more tempered:
“I believe that in fairness we need to expose students to both sides of this,” he said. “That’s why I’ve supported including in our textbooks the discussion of the biblical account of life and creation, and I understand there are a lot of people who disagree with me, and believe in evolution.”
This stance isn’t anathema to public officials and would-be public officials. Texas governor Rick Perry came out against evolution in the 2012 election. In fact, four of the GOP candidates for president in 2012 expressed anti-evolution views (and Mitt Romney was characteristically waffle-y).
This isn’t really about the science of evolution, of course. Any supposed controversy that surrounds evolution is entirely manufactured. There is evidence to suggest that there are reasons other than just plain stubbornness that keeps humans from accepting evolution as scientific fact. But that’s not an excuse. The world is becoming more and more dependent on the scientifically literate. We can’t afford to elect people who refuse to accept this reality.
Image credit: Mike Licht