Faith Based Straight Jacket
Atrios brings up an interesting point about the new Pew Poll that shows the country rather dramatically trending Democratic (and John Quiggins fascinating take on it, here.)
He says that the whole conservative "wordview" is getting harder and harder for moderates to wrap their minds around and I think that's true. I was reminded of this from a couple of years ago, in which the highly educated conservative intelligensia were asked about the subject of evolution:
William Kristol, The Weekly Standard
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I don't discuss personal opinions. ... I'm familiar with what's obviously true about it as well as what's problematic. ... I'm not a scientist. ... It's like me asking you whether you believe in the Big Bang."
How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I managed to have my children go through the Fairfax, Virginia schools without ever looking at one of their science textbooks."
Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I've never understood how an eye evolves."
What he thinks of intelligent design: "Put me down for the intelligent design people."
How evolution should be taught in public schools: "The real problem here is that you shouldn't have government-run schools. ... Given that we have to spend all our time crushing the capital gains tax I don't have much time for this issue."
David Frum, American Enterprise Institute and National Review
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I do believe in evolution."
What he thinks of intelligent design: "If intelligent design means that evolution occurs under some divine guidance, I believe that."
How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I don't believe that anything that offends nine-tenths of the American public should be taught in public schools. ... Christianity is the faith of nine-tenths of the American public. ... I don't believe that public schools should embark on teaching anything that offends Christian principle."
Stephen Moore, Free Enterprise Fund
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I believe in parts of it but I think there are holes in the evolutionary theory."
What he thinks of intelligent design: "I generally agree with said critique."
Whether intelligent design or a similar critique should be taught in public schools: "I think people should be taught ... that there are various theories about how man was created."
Whether schools should leave open the possibility that man was created by God in his present form: "Of course, yes, definitely."
Jonah Goldberg, National Review
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Sure."
What he thinks of intelligent design: "I think it's interesting. ... I think it's wrong. I think it's God-in-the-gaps theorizing. But I'm not hostile to it the way other people are because I don't, while I think evolution is real, I don't think any specific--there are a lot of unknowns left in evolution theory and criticizing evolution from different areas doesn't really bother me, just as long as you're not going to say the world was created in six days or something."
How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I don't think you should teach religious conclusions as science and I don't think you should teach science as religion. ... I see nothing [wrong] with having teachers pay some attention to the sensitivities of other people in the room. I think if that means you're more careful about some issues than others that's fine. People are careful about race and gender; I don't see why all of a sudden we can't be diplomatic on these issues when it comes to religion."
Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Of course."
What he thinks of intelligent design: "At most, interesting."
Whether intelligent design should be taught in public schools: "The idea that [intelligent design] should be taught as a competing theory to evolution is ridiculous. ... The entire structure of modern biology, and every branch of it [is] built around evolution and to teach anything but evolution would be a tremendous disservice to scientific education. If you wanna have one lecture at the end of your year on evolutionary biology, on intelligent design as a way to understand evolution, that's fine. But the idea that there are these two competing scientific schools is ridiculous."
William Buckley, National Review
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Yes."
What he thinks of intelligent design: "I'd have to write that down. ... I'd have to say something more carefully than I can over the telephone. I'm a Christian."
Whether schools should raise the possibility that the original genetic code was written by an intelligent designer: "Well, surely, yeah, absolutely."
Whether schools should raise the possibility--but not in biology classes--that man was created by God in his present form? : "Yes, sure, absolutely."
Which classes that should be discussed in: "History, etymology."
John Tierney, The New York Times (via email)
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I believe that the theory of evolution has great explanatory powers."
What he thinks of intelligent design: "I haven't really studied the arguments for intelligent design, so I'm loath to say much about it except that I'm skeptical."
Pat Buchanan, The American Conservative
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Do I believe in absolute evolution? No. I don't believe that evolution can explain the creation of matter. ... Do I believe in Darwinian evolution? The answer is no."
What he thinks of intelligent design: "Do I believe in a Darwinian evolutionary process which can be inspired by a creator? Yeah, that's a real possibility. I don't believe evolution can explain the creation of matter. I don't believe it can explain the intelligent design in the universe. I just don't believe it can explain the tremendous complexity of the human being when you get down to DNA and you get down to atomic particles, and molecules, atomic particles, subatomic particles, which we're only beginning to understand right now. I think to say it all happened by accident or by chance or simply evolved, I just don't believe it."
How evolution should be taught in public schools: "Evolution [has] been so powerful a theory in Western history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and often a malevolent force--it's been used by non-Christians and anti-Christians to justify polices which have been horrendous. I do believe that every American student should be introduced to the idea and its effects on society. But I don't think it ought to be taught as fact. It ought to be taught as theory. ... How do you answer a kid who says, 'Where did we all come from?' Do you say, 'We all evolved'? I think that's a theory. ... Now the biblical story of creation should be taught to children, not as dogma but every child should know first of all the famous biblical stories because they have had a tremendous influence as well. ... I don't think it should be taught as religion to kids who don't wanna learn it. ... I think in biology that honest teachers gotta say, 'Look the universe exhibits, betrays the idea that there is a first mover, that there is intelligent design.' ... You should leave the teaching of religion to a voluntary classes in my judgment and only those who wish to attend."
Tucker Carlson, MSNBC
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I think God's responsible for the existence of the universe and everything in it. ... I think God is probably clever enough to think up evolution. ... It's plausible to me that God designed evolution; I don't know why that's outside the realm. It's not in my view."
On the possibility that God created man in his present form: "I don't know if He created man in his present form. ... I don't discount it at all. I don't know the answer. I would put it this way: The one thing I feel confident saying I'm certain of is that God created everything there is."
On the possibility that man evolved from a common ancestor with apes: "I don't know. It wouldn't rock my world if it were true. It doesn't sound proved to me. But, yeah I'm willing to believe it, sure."
How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I don't have a problem with public schools or any schools teaching evolution. I guess I would have a problem if a school or a science teacher asserted that we know how life began, because we don't so far as I know, do we? ... If science teachers are teaching that we know things that in fact we don't know, then I'm against that. That's a lie. But if they are merely describing the state of knowledge in 2005 then I don't have problem with that. If they are saying, 'Most scientists believe this,' and most scientists believe it, then it's an accurate statement. What bothers me is the suggestion that we know things we don't know. That's just another form of religion it seems to me."
Ramesh Ponnuru, National Review
Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Yes."
What he thinks of intelligent design: "To the extent that I am familiar with it, and that's not very much, I guess what I think is this: The intelligent designers are correct insofar as they are reacting against a view of evolution which holds that it can't have been guided by God in any way--can't even have sort of been set in motion by God to achieve particular results and that no step in the process is guided by God. But they seem to give too little attention to the possibility that God could have set up an evolutionary process."
Whether intelligent design should be taught in public schools: "I guess my own inclination would be to teach evolution in the public schools. I don't think that you ought to make a federal case out of it though."
You can find more dancing on the head of a pin at the link.
All of these people are obviously professional GOP whores and have a huge personal interest in trying to thread the wingnut. Some are willing to buck the base straightforwardly, notably Krauthammer, who went to medical school, but as I wrote when I first posted on this, the discomfort and dissonance is palpable among most of these people:
What do you suppose it's like to be intellectually held hostage by people who you know for a fact are dead wrong on something? It must be excruciating.
I suspect this is the biggest problem with conservatism today. As Atrios says, you have to buy the whole worldview (or at least be willing to publicly whore for it) in order to truly be part of the movement and that is becoming untenable.
But the professional Republicans soldier on, losing adherants of all stripes as they continue to pretend their worldview is coherent, as Jonathan Chait pointed out last week:
Only 13% of [congressional]Republicans agreed that global warming has been proved. As the evidence for global warming gets stronger, Republicans are actually getting more skeptical. Al Gore's recent congressional testimony on the subject, and the chilly reception he received from GOP members, suggest the discouraging conclusion that skepticism on global warming is hardening into party dogma. Like the notion that tax cuts are always good or that President Bush is a brave war leader, it's something you almost have to believe if you're an elected Republican.
A small number of hard-core ideologues (some, but not all, industry shills) have led the thinking for the whole conservative movement.
National Review magazine, with its popular website, is a perfect example. It has a blog dedicated to casting doubt on global warming, or solutions to global warming, or anybody who advocates a solution. Its title is "Planet Gore." The psychology at work here is pretty clear: Your average conservative may not know anything about climate science, but conservatives do know they hate Al Gore. So, hold up Gore as a hate figure and conservatives will let that dictate their thinking on the issue.
Reflexive rightwing hatred of hippies is certainly part of it. But their superstitious, primitive base requires that they repudiate science generally (stem cells, abortion, evolution etc) or the entire worldview starts to fall apart. This is unsustainable in the modern world and people are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with people who think like this --- or are held hostage to people who think like this --- in positions of power. The results of faith based governance have been pretty stark.