Denial of Evolution is a form of White Supremacy. So leads Allison Hooper, following in the rich philosophical tradition of Bill Nye. Like Nye, Hooper is barely scientifically literate and seemed to get her big break at PBS, designing science education programming. Not sure how she got in the door at Scientific American. Well actually, I do. This is one of many multiverses that rejection of objective reality opens the door to.
Hooper’s thesis is this: A) ancient black homonid teenagers are responsible for culture and B) holding them up as heroes will heal us of the vestiges of our racist past. Hooper does some amazing work here. She manages to get just about everything wrong. Her analysis of U.S. evangelical thought, her understanding of hominid evolution, her view of current science education. I will primarily address the method she uses to accomplish this amazing feat.
She removes her self from time and employs the meme-narrative story-telling technique. In her world, Creationists today are directly connected to the Ku Klux Klan by way of the meme generator in her head. Hooper has a meme of a Klansman connected to a meme of the Scopes Monkey Trial connected to a meme of some church she remembers attending or walking by when she was a kid. This pathway of iconography is how many of us, including Hooper, tell stories to ourselves. In fact, this is Hooper’s craft. One of her latest projects is telling the fairy story version of evolution to little kids. Not the one where hundreds of millions of years of death led to the first hominid (a proof against theistic evolution; see the powerful argument by Peter Williams below) but the one where the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA), the first eukaryote, Lucy, and you love each other and embrace each other in a very mysterious sort of time-travel solidarity.
Hooper’s thought processes are a perfect example of what Jonathan Wells warned about in his book, Icons of Evolution and the more recent follow-up Zombie Science: More Icons of Evolution. In Icons, Wells explains in a rather prescient way (pre-dating the use of memes in social media) the impact that icons have on our understanding of complicated and emotionally burdensome topics, such as the origin of life. Most of us rely on mental memes as place-markers on the bookshelves of our brain. My friend the empathy guru talks about this a lot on his blog, from a purely secular perspective. These memes should be recognized and dealt with as we mature.
Here is how I do this with my high school biology students. I ask them to tell me what image pops into their head when I say the word Darwin or evolution. The usual suspects include the classic ape to man sequence, a tree of life, a cartoon of Darwin with the head of an ape. I then ask them if this image or meme is evidence for a theory of origins. The answer of course is no, its just an image, left open for interpretation. Most folks think about big issues this way. It saves time and space. Wells’ book details why these memes, when pushed into the corners, do not provide strong evidence for evolutionary theory. Hooper should read Icons and maybe sit in on any high school biology class. She would quickly find that her caricature of Creationists and of evolutionists are both way off base.
Thankfully, this story is distasteful to just about everyone including anti-theist evolutionist Jerry Coyne. From his article, More mishigas at Scientific American: A claim that opposition to evolution comes from white supremacy, not religion.
“Well, she’s dead wrong about her thesis, as I’ll argue below, but also in her claim that evolution denialism “perpetuates segregation and violence against Black bodies.” It does nothing of the sort! You really have to distort your thinking to claim that people are prone to deny evolution because they’re white supremacists, much less embrace the idea that creationism (which is what I’ll call “evolution denial”, since they’re pretty much equivalent in America) creates “violence against Black bodies”. What kind of violence? Has any black person been harmed in the name of creationism? And what is it with this “black bodies” trope? That seems to me distinctly unwoke, since the trend in “progressive” language is to emphasize the humanity of oppressed people, i.e., “enslaved persons” instead of “slaves”. Saying “black bodies” instead of “black people” clearly dehumanizes people, and I deplore it.”
David Berlinski from the Discovery Institute took Hooper to task in his piece earlier today, On Evolution and Racism, Scientific American Goes to War with the Truth.
“Ms. Hopper is concerned about children and their education, but, in concealing Darwinism’s foul past, her version of history is wildly inaccurate. From not long after the theory of evolution by natural selection was first proposed by Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, evolution took two different paths. That of Wallace, who split with Darwin over human exceptionalism and came to espouse a proto-intelligent design view, supported equal human dignity regardless of skin color.
That of Darwin followed the pseudo-logic of the purposelessly branching tree. Humanity did not advance all as one, equally, Darwin taught. Instead, as he explained in the Descent of Man, Africans were caught somewhere between ape and human, destined to be liquidated by the more advanced peoples: “The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace the savage races through the world.” Darwin did not celebrate this, but he recognized it as what he saw to be a fact.”
Scientific American as well as National Geographic have been heading this direction for quite some time. We are in an age where the effects of post-modern thinking have made their way into nearly every conceivable cranny. And so how then should Christians read popular “science”?
Keys to Navigating Science Media in a Postmodern Age
- Acknowledge that objective reality exists (pretty easy I hope);
- Understand that this objective reality is discoverable because it was designed to be discovered and we have been given orderly minds capable of making sense of it
- Believe that the cause of the cosmos (orderly universe) is the trinitarian God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)
- Distinguish special revelation (God revealed to us in His word) from general revelation (God revealed to us through nature)
- Hold scripture higher than your mental model of how nature works or anyone else’s mental model of how nature works.
These keys should free you up to fearlessly explore all of our good Lord’s handiwork and sort through the baloney!