Viewpoint: Fears grow that Trump’s anti-science extremism could fuel rise in creationism

Credit: Marco Ventura/Rolling Stone
Credit: Marco Ventura/Rolling Stone

Loss and humiliation do not make bad ideas go away. Rather, they can take on wilder and more outrageous forms that attract more and more adherents.

[Williams Jennings] Bryan’s embarrassment, which came at the legendary Scopes trial, provides the most famous example. Without an invitation, Bryan volunteered to help prosecute Tennessee teacher John Scopes, who stood accused of breaking a new Tennessee law against the teaching of human evolution.

One popular 1930s history book explained that “civilized opinion everywhere” was revolted by Bryan’s anti-evolution ignorance… But predictions of creationism’s demise were wrong. Anti-evolution sentiment did not die with Bryan’s swan-song testimony. In fact, it grew more radical.

As Gallup polls show, even today, about four in 10 adults think that humans were created “pretty much in their present form” within the past 10,000 years.

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Trump is reviving Bryan’s memory. The president’s shameful science denialism, like Bryan’s, has only made him more popular. Trump infamously touted ludicrous ideas about science and medicine, including recommendations to inject disinfectant as a cure for the novel coronavirus. Yet among Republican voters, Trump’s unbelievable and outrageous statements did not disqualify him. Entirely to the contrary — he secured the second-most votes in history as millions of Americans who feel scorned by elites flocked to the anti-expertise president.

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