Reconsidering Anti-Science

The Genesis Flood, published in 1961, marks for many the beginning of the modern Creationist movement.

A recent New York Times editorial characterized the Republican Party as the anti-science party.  In the polarized world of the 21st-century United States, anti-science is an often-used label, but it obscures the actual modern nature of the beliefs of candidates like Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Sarah Palin, as well as 2008 candidate Mike Huckabee.

How is it modern? Consider that after World War II, when the United States was in a superpower technology race with the Soviets, science was assumed to be best done in free democratic societies based on Enlightenment principles.  In 1959, our nation brought evolution into the limelight when it celebrated the Darwin Centennial. 

Two years later, in 1961, the book The Genesis Flood – which asserts a 6,000-year-old earth, six-day creation of the word, and a literal global flood event – became an instant best seller in Christian book stores and churches. Modern Creationism was born. Within 20 years, the Young Earth Creationist movement challenged science education in the United States, seeking equal time in science classes.  An Arkansas law requiring the teaching of Creationism was struck down in 1981 in federal court, but the movement continued to grow; Christian schools and homeschooling movements using Creationist curricula spread across the country. 

It would seem that Creationism is an attempt to return to a time before the complexity of modern biology and physics—both of which assume an ancient universe—but Creationism has, well, co-evolved with post-World War II science. Creationists follow a “pick and choose” model when it comes to science; most of engineering can be taught without reference to Darwin or to the awkward bits of Einstein that point to a very old universe, for example.  Medicine can also be taught, if not medical research, and most of chemistry, physics, and math can be learned without crossing Creationist lines. 

The newer version of Creationism, Intelligent Design (ID), accepts the age of the earth and focuses more on rejecting Darwin.  ID, like Creationism before it, also lost its bid to be part of classroom instruction (a court ruling in 2005). ID represents a rapid adaptation by Creationists who needed a better brand for a tarnished product. 

But Perry, Bachmann, Palin and Huckabee are modern in their thinking – because no one else has made this combination of claims before. They can declare climate science a myth, Darwin evil, doubt the ozone layer is in peril, and declare the universe is 10,000 years old and still be in favor of science as they define it. 

Neil Gussman is Strategic Communications and Media Relations Manager at CHF.

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Posted In: History | Policy

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