Remember how not so long ago—in the first decade of the 2000s—there were big court and PR battles over creationism versus evolutionary science? Some Darwin-deniers boasted that their “wedge strategy” would make intelligent design theory intellectually respectable in academe, even as they lost one court case after another. Concurrently, Ken Ham began building his Bible-Literalist creation tourist draws. Nowadays, intelligent design is passé, and belief in creationism is in decline as support for bioevolution rises. There are many reasons for the decline of creationism, but the biggest is because Charles Darwin was right. That researcher who did more than any other to outline how natural selection is the driving factor behind the evolution of species – and the vast array of nasty diseases that afflict them – hit the biological nail on the head. And that fact is becoming ever harder to reject, even as those who try to deny it cause America to fall behind the rest of the world in responding to the latest pandemic that an uncaring nature dropped in our laps.
Evolution certainly has its positives—without it, earth would be a sterile planet; with it, we have big blue whales, adorable pandas, cute little kids, and Halle Berry. But amoral evolution also generated a host of deadly microbes that killed half of those kids, amounting to a historical death toll of fifty billion children. While there is no scientific evidence that proponents of intelligent design, such as microbiologist Michael Behe, are correct in their claim that a creator must have carefully crafted diseases for them to kill people, neither is there any evidence that a god has ever done anything to put a stop to the massive premature death caused by creation. In the absence of the latter, modern medical science has over the past century and a half proven amazingly successful at driving down juvenile mortality to a tiny fraction of what it was and drastically cut down the pandemics that used to decimate populations on a regular basis. It also more than doubled human lifespans via sanitation, vaccines, and antibiotics.
But we got overconfident, leading several researchers and medical experts to pronounce that the age of infectious diseases was coming to a close. Oops! Too many folks were not paying sufficient attention to Darwin. Although DNA evolution is not cognitively intelligent like we are, it is a form of quad-digital computer that, via mutations and gene transfer between microbes combined with rapid reproduction, is constantly running a vast global bioexperiment that allows infectious microbes to get a leg up if we let them. Alexander Fleming warned that the antibiotics he helped invent would have limited shelf-lives if not used carefully. Instead, we have casually and recklessly saturated both society and our livestock with antibiotics for little or no real gain, while not investing in research into dealing with the resulting mass microbial resistance. A significant portion have bought into the cultish belief that vaccines are harmful.
And when it comes to your rampant pandemics—why, that’s a problem of the olden times like medieval Europe, Victorian London, and 1918, no? That attitude, despite persistent warnings from medical authorities, inspired budget-conscious governments and populations to not put in place an integrated global warning system and containment strategy to nip in the bud the transference from disturbed animal populations’ germs into a world overpopulated by humans. Even though doing so would cost a small fraction of military spending; even though it is microbial diseases that still slaughter humans en masse. It does not help that most citizens are hard-pressed to grasp the exponential growth of microbes in host populations. Here in the United States, our self-boasting stable genius president has no interest in scientific methodology or medicine. He is backed by an outright fundamentalist creationist vice president who, in charge of coping with the COVID-19 crisis, cut back on pandemic preparations and then dithered until it was too late to minimize the new threat. Then the pandemic got boring and got in the way of economic revival and reelection (that he may or may not be interested in), so he just stopped dealing with the disaster.
It is not that the secular center-left has been perfect—distancing and mask-wearing were inconsistent at Black Lives Matter events, and anti-vaccine radicalism is not just a conservative notion. (For that matter, the criminal Chinese dictatorship that allowed COVID-19 to run rampant is formally atheistic.) But it is no happenstance that COVID-19 made its big comeback in the red states, where creationism remains the most popular. Anti-evolutionism is one of many forms of narcissistic denial of expertise in which irrational folk beliefs—often driven by religion —hold sway. Consequently, a large portion of Americana has faith that the will of its god is superior to mere earthly medical science in the form of annoying masks, social distancing, testing, and tracking that violate their “God-given constitutional liberty.” Thus the Ohio state legislator who pronounced he does not want to force folks to cover their faces because “we’re created in the image and likeness of God,” while Palm Beach residents charged mask proponents with “practicing the Devil’s law” and charged that face coverings “throw God’s wonderful breathing system out the door” while not mentioning that the virus the creator is behind, one way or another, does respiratory tracts far more damage. So creator-believing ministers insist on the divine right to hold maskless services in packed churches as the choir belts out aerosol-spreading hymns to his glory. And at the secular end, patrons are allowed their right to down booze in Bible Belt bars as a dismayed Dr. Anthony Fauci rolls his eyes.
It is therefore a supreme but not surprising irony that those who obstinately reject the reality of natural selection are most falling victim to the all-too-real-world Darwinian evolution of a coronavirus.
Meanwhile, up in Canada, over in the European Union, and in Australia—where theism and creationism are much less popular than the United States—infection rates are a small fraction of the American level. It’s a national scandal and international embarrassment that can be laid at the feet of theism, its conservative expression especially.
COVID-19 has confirmed that Darwinian science is correct, a benign creator cannot exist, and running a modern society as soundly and safely as possible requires that all nations be secular, science-based, one-person-one-vote democracies where faith-based supernaturalism does not hold sway.