In a recent Salon article, Heather Digby Parton makes the tired argument that Republicans are too scientifically illiterate to hold office. Parton starts with Scott Walker’s answer on the subject of evolution:
For me, I am going to punt on that one as well. That’s a question politicians shouldn’t be involved in one way or another. I am going to leave that up to you. I’m here to talk about trade not to pontificate about evolution.
It’s tough to take issue with that answer. As liberals have reminded us time and time again, we must respect the separation of church and state. Walker is wisely putting his views on a highly controversial topic to the side. He’s absolutely right; it’s a question that politicians really have no business addressing at all. But to Parton, “it was amateur hour, to say the least.”
She uses this as a jumping-off point to demonstrate that “it’s not really religion that holds the GOP base together, it’s a sense of victimization.” According to her, conservative Americans cling to Bibles and intelligent design not because they believe it in their hearts but because it gives us a reason to feel persecuted. That this would come from a liberal is simply magnificent.
Somehow, the left is blind to the implications of their own ideology. If any group exists to feel victimized, it is them. At every turn, on every issue, the left blames America’s misfortunes on systemic racism, sexism, the patriarchy, rape culture, Christianity, white privilege, and every other phantom they can dredge up. Without this culture of victimization, the Democratic Party has no reason to exist at all.
What Parton mistakes for “victimization” is actually a trait few liberals would recognize: humility. The left has had a field day with the standard Republican “I’m not a scientist” response on subjects like evolution and climate change. They see it as a dodge. But what they never consider is that maybe it isn’t a dodge. Maybe it’s a simple admission that when it comes to scientific theories, a layman can only know what they’re told. Maybe it’s a way of gently saying, “Well, it’s hard to square twenty years of temperature stasis with the popular belief in global warming, but hey, what do I know?” Maybe it’s a kinder way of saying, “Macroevolution has never been observed, but hey, that’s not my department.”
Humility is the ability to understand that you can’t understand everything. It lays the foundation for the very open-mindedness liberals claim that we lack. It allows us to consider the possibility that not everything we see on the nightly news is the truth. It allows us room to ponder the possibility that the world’s leading scientists could be wrong – as they have been so many times throughout history. It also allows us to acknowledge that we, too could be wrong, which is something liberals could never bring themselves to admit.
“People who actually believe in science,” Parton writes, “are considered traitors to the cause.”
Not at all. As demonstrated by the much-ballyhooed rift in today’s GOP, there is room for many different brands of conservatism under our roof. Some put business first. Some put religion first. Some want government out of our lives altogether and some just want us to get serious about national security. We fight, we bicker, and we throw around terms like RINO. Like all families, we have plenty of dysfunction.
What we share is a belief that history provides a much better guiding light than the latest academic theory. If we’re slow to come around on things like climate change and evolution, maybe it’s because we understand, historically, how quickly thought can change. And we have the humility to understand that some questions can never be answered. Today’s “scientific consensus” could easily be tomorrow’s “cigarettes are great for weight loss.” Today’s “global warming” could easily be tomorrow’s “global cooling.” And today’s “evolution is a fact” could easily be tomorrow’s “remember when everyone thought we came from apes?”
Hell, today’s “liberal elitist” could become tomorrow’s “genius ahead of his time.”
Probably not, though.