In Presidential Coverage, Framing Evolution as Belief

At the History News Network, my American University colleague Lenny Steinhorn teams up with his brother Charles, a professor of Mathematics at Vassar College, to point out the misleading nature of the framing of evolution in presidential coverage. As they argue, political reporters overwhelmingly tend to describe evolution as a "belief" akin to believing in Virgin birth or miracles.

Lenny Steinhorn, author of The Greater Generation, a defense of Baby Boomers, is one of the most sought out strategists in Washington. [Of interest to readers, his work and teaching was recently profiled in the USA Today.]

Below, I've excerpted part of their main argument but the full essay is a must read:


Consider the Republican presidential candidates who said they didn't "believe in evolution" at a debate earlier this year. They may have been onto something - but for all the wrong reasons.

The truth is, we don't believe in evolution either. But we don't have to, because we know it to be factually true. And that's the nugget of insight that's too often been missing from the public debate ever since Darwin first laid out his theory of evolution almost a century-and-a-half ago.

As a natural phenomenon based on scientific evidence, evolution is not a matter of belief or faith, any more than gravity or genetics, and to ask whether someone believes in it is a nonsensical question, much like asking if someone believes in subatomic particles.

Yet read the popular press and you'd think that the truth of evolution is based not on science or knowledge but on one's personal worldview irrespective of evidence or proof, as if one's approach to evolution should be no different from the act of believing in, say, immaculate conception or the existence of God.

Recently we conducted a newspaper database search of the phrase "believe in evolution" and found nearly a thousand citations from the last five years. Typical is a New York Times article that describes a married couple as "Christians who believe in evolution," which suggests that scientific evidence and facts, like religion, can be true or false based on whether we believe in them or not.



A dark matter hurricane is crashing into Earth

Giving our solar system a "slap in the face"

Surprising Science
  • A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
  • It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
  • Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Keep reading Show less

Are we all multiple personalities of universal consciousness?

Bernardo Kastrup proposes a new ontology he calls “idealism” built on panpsychism, the idea that everything in the universe contains consciousness. He solves problems with this philosophy by adding a new suggestion: The universal mind has dissociative identity disorder.

We’re all one mind in "idealism." (Credit: Alex Grey)
Mind & Brain

There’s a reason they call it the “hard problem.” Consciousness: Where is it? What is it? No one single perspective seems to be able to answer all the questions we have about consciousness. Now Bernardo Kastrup thinks he’s found one. He calls his ontology idealism, and according to idealism, all of us and all we perceive are manifestations of something very much like a cosmic-scale dissociative identity disorder (DID). He suggests there’s an all-encompassing universe-wide consciousness, it has multiple personalities, and we’re them.

Keep reading Show less

New study reveals what time we burn the most calories

Once again, our circadian rhythm points the way.

Photo: Victor Freitas / Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Seven individuals were locked inside a windowless, internetless room for 37 days.
  • While at rest, they burned 130 more calories at 5 p.m. than at 5 a.m.
  • Morning time again shown not to be the best time to eat.
Keep reading Show less