While killing time in a bookstore, I came across Godless: The Church of Liberalism by Ann Coulter. According to the blurb: “Liberals' absolute devotion to Darwinism, Coulter shows, has nothing to do with evolution's scientific validity and everything to do with its refusal to admit the possibility of God as a guiding force.”
It’s news to me that liberals are devoted to Darwinism. I’ve seen just as much Darwin-bashing on the political left as I’ve seen on the political right. More so, in fact.
But another thing bothered me with Anne’s book. It was her equation of religion with conservatism, especially in the realm of social issues. She is not alone in this regard. Most social conservatives seem to feel that religion is their one and only mainstay. It’s almost as if they feel that their values must be accepted on faith alone and cannot be defended by rational argument.
This point was made recently by columnist Heather Mac Donald:
… So in the American Conservative piece I wanted to offer some resistance to the assumption of conservative religious unanimity. I tried to point out that conservatism has no necessary relation to religious belief, and that rational thought, not revelation, is all that is required to arrive at the fundamental conservative principles of personal responsibility and the rule of law. I find it depressing that every organ of conservative opinion reflexively cheers on creationism and intelligent design, while delivering snide pot shots at the Enlightenment. Which of the astounding fruits of empiricism would these Enlightenment-bashers dispense with: the conquest of cholera and other infectious diseases, emergency room medicine, jet travel, or the internet, to name just a handful of the millions of human triumphs that we take for granted?
Is Heather Mac Donald less of a social conservative because she is not religious? Conversely, is the political right more socially conservative when it talks the talk of religious folk? Heather addressed these questions in her recent article “What is Left? What is Right?":
Skeptical conservatives--one of the Right's less celebrated subcultures--are conservatives because of their skepticism, not in spite of it. They ground their ideas in rational thinking and (nonreligious) moral argument. And the conservative movement is crippling itself by leaning too heavily on religion to the exclusion of these temperamentally compatible allies. Conservative atheists and agnostics support traditional American values. They believe in personal responsibility, self-reliance, and deferred gratification as the bedrock virtues of a prosperous society. They view marriage between a man and a woman as the surest way to raise stable, law-abiding children. They deplore the encroachments of the welfare state on matters best left to private effort.
They also find themselves mystified by the religiosity of the rhetoric that seems to define so much of conservatism today. Our Republican president says that he bases "a lot of [his] foreign policy decisions" on his belief in "the Almighty" and in the Almighty's "great gifts" to mankind. What is one to make of such a statement? According to believers, the Almighty's actions are only intermittently scrutable; using them as a guide for policy, then, would seem reckless.
Over thirty years ago, social conservatives hitched their wagon to religion through groups like the Moral Majority. They succeeded electorally, being key to the election of several right-of-center governments. Indeed, they—and not economic conservatives—have been the main voting base for such governments. Yet they have lost out to economic conservatives in shaping public policy. How come?
It’s just that most people out there don’t believe in the Bible. To win them over, you have to come up with something better than: “Because the Bible says so!” Faith-based arguments simply don’t cut it when the time comes to present talking points and influence policymaking.
Ann, it’s not because of Darwin that social conservatives today have so little impact. The fault lies more in the dubious alliances they’ve made in order to elect governments more responsive to their concerns. It also lies in not having arguments that make sense to secular people. Before lashing out at Darwin, you should take a cold hard look at this faith-based strategy. It isn’t working.