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Cupp skips the facts in arguing against evolution

You can find S.E. Cupp’s commentaries on Tucker Carlson’s new conservative website The Daily Caller. You can read her in the online New York Daily News, and you can see her in her role as TV personality/commentator on Fox and CNN.

Now she has a new book due out next week called “Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity,” with a foreword by Mike Huckabee. The former presidential candidate vouches for Cupp’s devotion to facts in arguing her points: She “uses the sharp blade of careful research, thoughtful reasoning, and brilliant logic,” he writes, adding “she reaches a level of substance many writers twice and thrice her age only hope for.”

The thrust of Cupp’s argument is summed up in her introduction in which she says the American media, “with careful, covert nudges from the Obama administration,” are leading a revolution. “This revolution, already in full throttle around the country,” she writes, “is being waged against you and me and every other American, and its goal is simple: to overthrow God, and silence Christian America for good.”

It is important to distinguish between rhetoric and fact and to hold authors accountable for the information they impart to the public. Statements of fact should have no trouble withstanding educated scrutiny. Mike Huckabee endorses Cupp’s methods. Her “substance,” as Huckabee terms it, is scattered throughout the book. So let’s single out one chapter to zero in on, as a measure of the entire work. I have chosen Chapter Four – Thou Shalt Evolve. In this chapter, Cupp sums up her take on evolution like this: “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.”

As I don’t have the credentials to assess Cupp’s understanding of evolution, I have called on an expert in the field. I asked Joshua Rosenau to weigh in on Cupp’s scholarship. Rosenau is public information project director at the National Center for Science Education, which is a not-for-profit organization devoted to the teaching of evolution in public schools. Among its 4,000 members are scientists, teachers, clergy, and people holding a variety of religious beliefs.

Here is Rosenau’s response to Cupp’s chapter on evolution.

By Joshua Rosenau

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. This is the sort of misrepresentation which leads her to concoct an anti-Christian conspiracy on the part of reporters, and – bizarrely – to say that Darwin is "quite literally the Anti Christ" for liberals.

Cupp presents creationism as "a counter-argument" to evolution, yet never provides a clear account of what evolution is, nor what she thinks creationism means.

Creationism is certainly not a scientific argument of any sort. Scientists, teachers, federal courts, and reporters all recognize that creationism is a religious argument that abuses specific sciences and science as an enterprise. In addition to evolution – the foundation of modern biology – many young earth creationists reject conventional plate tectonics (the basis of modern geology), and the basic physics behind radioisotopic dating methods. Conservation of mass and energy, not to mention basic thermodynamics, go out the window to concoct scenarios by which a global flood could transpire. All this abuses science as a way of testing claims about the world, twisting it to allow supernatural religious claims to supersede empirical science.

Cupp presents evolution -- and science more 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 which 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.

Nor do Christian non-scientists, as illustrated by a string of powerful statements from the leadership of Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopalian, and Presbyterian denominations, among others. Their views were put eloquently in a letter signed by more than 12,000 Christian clergy: "We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. … [T]he theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth…. To reject this truth or to treat it as 'one theory among others' is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance … We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. … We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth."

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.

Scientific truth is universal, and Cupp wrongly focuses only on American polls. A 2006 analysis found that America was the second-least accepting of evolution among 35 industrialized nations, ahead of Turkey but behind scientific powerhouses like Cyprus, not to mention religious nations like Italy, Poland, and Ireland.

Regardless of polling, 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.

Cupp might have done her readers a service by even glancingly noting the scientific basis for evolution's nearly uniform acceptance among practicing biologists, or at least looked to the more meaningful surveys of scientists' opinion.

Cupp claims that statements about evolution's support among scientists are themselves "another way of saying faith and science are incompatible and believers are on the losing side of the argument." This argument insults the many Christians – scientists and non-scientists – who accept evolution and find science and religion compatible.

On top of misrepresenting the nature of science and the nature of religion, Cupp's coverage does violence not just to the science of evolution, but to the public's expectations of science journalists and science teachers. She misreports recent history and legal proceedings. She twists math itself to claim that 44 percent is "not a minority."

She concludes by complaining that "the liberal media is not interested in acknowledging our nation as a deeply religious one," and repeats her claim that evolution is a weapon used to attack Christians.

In fact, Cupp is the one who seems uninterested in acknowledging the nature of American religious faith. Many Americans find that evolution deepens and informs their faith, and reject the anti-science stance Cupp (an avowed atheist) attributes to religion. That many Americans do find evolution contrary to their religion does not, in any event, change the scientific truth of the matter.

Whether our nation is or isn't "deeply religious" does not change what science is or how it works, and does not change the century and a half of meticulous research which has convinced scientists that evolution is essential to biology and biology education.

By Steven E. Levingston  |  April 21, 2010; 5:30 AM ET
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Yeah, since when have fundamentalists ever let facts get in the way of their beliefs???

Posted by: cmecyclist | April 21, 2010 7:07 AM | Report abuse

We can expect this behavior from people who are that way inclined,

we all know how much they thrive off persecution.

In the end imagination and company in the shadows are way more important than Truth / Facts / Science

Posted by: Metaphysical | April 21, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

I was very surprised to discover that S.E. Cupp is an atheist.

Posted by: stardust55 | April 21, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Are people so stupid that they'd actually buy into Cupp's atheistic creationism, a total contradiction of terms?

Obviously this woman is out to make money - and doesn't even need to hide her disbelief in her own words. Amazing.

Posted by: AGreenhill | April 21, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Our politicians, especially conservatives, talk about how we'd pass on a debt-ridden nation to our children and grand children. But even worse is to create a whole generation of scientifically ignorant citizenry. I hope the likes of Cupp & Huckabee are in the minority and don't influence our education system.

Posted by: Sonny5 | April 21, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

S.E. Cupp says, everyone hates us and no one likes us.

Immmature atitude from an adult. period.

Not worth commenting on, trash reporting!

As a practicing Buddhist in America for 46 years now, I am tired of hearing about the Christians claiming foul, while they denigrate us Buddhist, and everyone else they can denigrate!


Posted by: patmatthews | April 21, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Shouldn't Cupp be handling some snakes or something?

Posted by: hitpoints | April 21, 2010 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Religion is a business and in the case of fundamental Christianity, an extortion racket! They will protect you from their enforcers if properly bribed; or burn your home and workplace to the ground, break your legs and make sure you never see the face of their GOD if you fail to give enough! These criminally insane humans indoctrinated since birth by the sick depravities of Christian priests and evangelists need help and isolation from the general population to prevent the spread of their viral disease! The pestilence has infected the Fox propaganda network from top to bottom and it needs to be inoculated and prevented from spreading the social conditioning to the especially susceptible population listening to their lies and distortions! The time is late and we are in danger of all succumbing to this mind deadening disease that renders human intelligence incapable of functioning and leads to a general removal of all human empathy and love!

Posted by: Chaotician | April 21, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse

My 11th grade Catholic religion teacher taught us that "Belief without knowledge is superstition". These folks who reject scientific knowledge of things such as evolution end up making their "beliefs " merely a collection of superstitions.
Try as they might to live in a Fred Flintstone world of humans and dinosaurs living at the same time, the facts don't support them. They need to grow up intellectually and spiritually.

Posted by: jmsbh | April 21, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

According to surveys, about 50% of adult Americans believe that Jesus created the world 6,000 years ago because they think it says that in their holy Book. It does not actually say that, but they don't know because they've never read their holy Book, or any other book for that matter. They are not just ignorant, they think their ignorance makes them better than other people. This is the whole point.

Enter people like this Cupp, who either see an opportunity to exploit ignorant people, or actually believe this nonsense. Since those inclined to follow her know nothing about science, religion, history, or logic, her contradictions and absurdities will not disturb them. The message is "You are better than those people, because you Believe, and they Don't!" Any attempt to educate people then becomes a sinister conspiracy against the religion that makes you better then them.

It is pathetic that this describes so much of the population of a supposedly advanced country.

Posted by: DaveHarris | April 21, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

"a Fred Flintstone world of humans and dinosaurs living at the same time"

On the contrary - that great baseball philospher Carl Everett said that dinosaurs never existed, because they weren't mentioned in the bible.

Posted by: EinDC | April 21, 2010 5:10 PM | Report abuse

I've concluded that christians (and in fact just about all people whose religion is an obsession) are good at two things: (1) disingenuousness (2) whining

Posted by: Freethinker2 | April 22, 2010 3:33 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Rosenau says on his blog that he has only read the fouth chapter of the book, so apparently context and the idea of a reviewer actually reading the whole book is passe.

That said, why are Christians getting blamed for something an atheist wrote?

Various posters question her motives; so what? Atheism has no set standards, so no particular action is inconsistent with being an atheist.

Heck, there are ministers who are atheists, so what? Atheists can do what they want.

That's what they tell me anyway.

Its kind of funny, they love to tell us there is no God to tell us what to do...and then THEY want to tell us what to do? LOL!

Posted by: jdatty | April 26, 2010 6:55 AM | Report abuse

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