We’re All a Bunch of Losers

Both sides in our continuing culture wars assume they are losing.  Why?

We can see some recent examples from smart people on either side of the creation/evolution controversy right here on ILYBYGTH.

Recently, I argued that evolution was winning.  Winning big.

Some of the responses to that argument show that both sides are reluctant to admit they might not be losers in this fight.

For example, Tim, a self-identified homeschooling creationist, agreed that evolution was winning.  As he put it,

Creationists do not want creationism in public schools because it would taught incorrectly. Most pastors do not know how to accurately teach creationism, how in the world would we expect the average person to be able to? Does this in some sense prove evolution is winning? Sure, I could give you that. But we already know it will.

On the other hand, Bunto Skiffler took me to task for dangerously naïve optimism.  As he argued,

I believe General Westmoreland said something similar about our involvement in Vietnam before the start of 1968.

sincerely,
a person who lives in the fiefdom of Texas right now

Why doesn’t anyone want to admit they might be on the winning side?

I think the answer may lie with our very different definitions of winning and losing.

For evolution-promoters like me, creationists seem to be winning when they can impose any sort of non-evolutionary science in public-school classrooms.  Or even in private-school classrooms.  The fact that nearly half of American adults seem to agree with a strongly creationist idea about the origins of humanity makes it seem to folks like me that creationism is winning.

On the other hand, creationists might hearken back to a time when America’s public schools evinced a recognizably Protestant religiosity.  Back when kids in public schools read the Bible—the Protestant Bible, that is—prayed with their teachers, and generally learned that God wanted them to be better students.  Seen from that perspective, today’s public schools with their goals of pluralism and secularism might make it look as if evolution has won the field.

We must also consider the fact that pundits on both sides emphasize their own victimhood.  Reading the produce of Americans United or the Freedom from Religion Foundation makes American public schools seem under siege by powerful religious zealots.  On the other side, browsers of literature from the Alliance Defending Freedom or the Family Research Council might be forgiven for concluding that fire-breathing secularists crush any attempt at including healthy religion in public schools.

In other words, being a loser is attractive.

Each side emphasizes their own loser status in order to mobilize followers.  Evolution activists won’t be motivated to get off the couch if they are told that evolution is winning.  Creationist activists, similarly, might relax if they are told they need only be patient.

We’re all a bunch of losers in this fight.  Except, of course, we’re not.

I’ll say it again: Seen from an historical perspective, evolution education is winning.  If you don’t believe it, read my book.  Creation/evolution struggles have only deadlocked in the past thirty years or so.  In the 1920s, evolution barely made a dent.  Now evolution promoters feel put out if creationists have any influence at all.

Evolution is winning.  I’m not afraid to say it: I’m a winner.

 

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6 Comments

  1. Tim

     /  September 21, 2013

    But…. a winner of what?

    Reply
  2. Evolution is winning? I’d say that it’s already won.

    If you look at just the U.S. you can pretend that Creationism/ID is doing well, but the scientific consensus doesn’t come from ordinary citizens. Canvas biologists and you’ll see: evolution won many decades ago.

    Reply
  3. Patrick

     /  September 23, 2013

    “Great cultural arguments often produce a perceived underdog. It is a sympathetic status that evolutionists and creationists as causes and as people both may claim—depending on the circumstances…What underdog status produces most in a democracy is public sympathy, which if broad enough can decide the social standing of an American institution” (Larry Witham, Where Darwin Meets the Bible, 269-70).

    Reply
    • Very helpful, Patrick, thanks. I hadn’t heard about Witham’s book before. Do you recommend it? I just looked at the Amazon page and it looks very interesting, but it doesn’t seem to have generated much “buzz” in the decade or so it’s been around.

      Reply
      • Patrick

         /  September 25, 2013

        As a journalist, Witham provides what is in my opinion a terrific analysis of media coverage of the controversies. He’s a pretty engaging writer too, and I didn’t have any particular misgivings about the parts of the book that I read. Interestingly, I recall reading somewhere that Witham, like Jonathan Wells, is a member of the Unification Church (Witham does write for the Washington Times).

      • Patrick

         /  September 25, 2013

        Witham also co-authored an article with Edward Larson a few years ago for The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/article/inherit-ill-wind#axzz2fvo6ZTo0

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