For the second time in a row Jamelle Bouie makes keen insights about science in society. But also for the second time in a row, he unnecessarily uses the sloppy, imprecise phrase ‘anti-science.’ Money quote:
But at this moment in American life, there’s no need for questions about evolution. They simply don’t tell you anything you couldn’t learn by asking a direct question about a specific issue.
With that said, it is true that all of this is good fodder for the culture war. Or put differently, the only reason to ask about evolution is if you want to know something about someone’s cultural group. A view on evolution doesn’t say much about public policy, but it can mark you as a certain kind of religious believer or give you a chance to affirm your membership in one tribe or another.
Which is to say that when a politician answers a question about evolution, they aren’t defending or rejecting science as much as they’re sending a message: I am one of you, and this is how you know.
My only complaint is this sentence: “But skepticism about evolution doesn’t translate to anti-science positions.” What on earth is an anti-science position? If he can’t define it (which he can’t) he shouldn’t use it. I realize I’m nitpicking. But in the off chance Bouie reads this post, I figured I’d reiterate my stance.
I’m also happy to see prominent journalists echoing arguments I’ve been making for years. His 6th paragraph is a more eloquent version of what I once said about Rick Perry:
It’s even stranger to use evolution and climate change when we have Rick Perry’s actual record as a governor, stated political views and publications to turn to. Surely these are much better governance indicators than passing comments on evolution. I see no need to use a bad indicator when better ones are easily available. Given that Chait et al. have themselves written extensively on Perry’s record, they shouldn’t have to reference either evolution or climate change.
And I love the fact that I could have written these sentences: “Who cares if Scott Walker believes in evolution? Why, exactly, does it matter?” Why indeed.