Political Bookworm: Arguing with S.E. Cupp about evolution

Sunday, April 25, 2010

In "Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity" (Threshold, $24), S.E. Cupp writes: "The debate over the legitimacy of evolution isn't really about a battle between fact and fiction. It's about Christianity, and the liberal media's attempt to eradicate it from all corners of society." We asked Joshua Rosenau, public information project director at the National Center for Science Education, to respond to her argument:

S.E. Cupp's handling of science and religion misrepresents the nature of evolution, obscures the science of biology and dismisses the deeply held religious views of most Christians outside of the fundamentalist subculture.

Cupp presents creationism as "a counterargument" to evolution, yet never provides a clear account of what evolution is or what she thinks creationism means. Creationism is certainly not a scientific argument of any sort. It is a religious argument that abuses specific sciences and science as an enterprise. Cupp presents evolution -- and science generally -- as the enemy of religion. Reporters' "propping up of science," she writes, is an "attack on Christianity." If anything, it is Cupp's approach that insults Christians. Research detailed in Elaine Ecklund's forthcoming "Science vs. Religion" shows that many scientists are religious themselves and do not generally regard science and religion as enemies.

Cupp's deepest offense against science comes in treating opinion polls as measures of scientific validity. Creationism belongs in science classes, she claims, because it is "not a conspiracy theory," and "half the American population believes it." The former claim is dubious at best, and the latter is simply irrelevant.

A scientific theory is measured by its ability to make testable and correct predictions and to be accepted by scientists as a useful tool. Evolution is the foundation of modern biology, biotechnology and medicine, and a vital component of agriculture, engineering and other sciences crucial to American economic competitiveness, and polls cannot change the truth.

-- Joshua Rosenau

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