Though the opponents of Darwinism technically won the famed Scopes Trial of 1925, that event is generally regarded as a decisive triumph for the theory of evolution. After Clarence Darrow had exposed the educational and philosophical deficiencies of the Tennessee anti-Darwinians to a national audience, never again would it be intellectually respectable in America to oppose evolution. The “Scopes II” Trial in Arkansas three years ago only enhanced evolution’s intellectual status. Yet to anyone who takes evolution seriously, it may now appear that, on its own terms, the theory is a mistake.
For evolutionists, all adaptations of behavior, form, and even thought must be judged only on the basis of how well such adaptations assist those organisms possessing them to survive and propagate. By this standard, adherence to the theory of evolution is now suspect as a bad adaptation: those groups most likely to believe in evolution—the elite, well-educated, agnostic, and well-off—are precisely those reproducing themselves most slowly. In contrast, those groups least likely to accept evolution—the poorly educated, religious, and socially marginal—are passing on their genes at a much faster rate.
This is especially puzzling because evolutionists control economic and social advantages that should make reproduction much easier: they live in nicer neighborhoods and homes; they eat more nutritious food; they are required to do less demanding labor; and they have access to superior medical care. Despite their favorable environment, many of these well-fed, well-educated individuals voluntarily choose to have only one or two children and often none at all. Many of them actually seem more concerned with seeing that whooping cranes reproduce themselves than with transmitting their own genes. Such attitudes may be altruistic. They certainly cannot be successful evolutionary adaptations.
Evolution, it is true, has always shared with Malthusianism a rather pessimistic view of the ability of rapidly expanding populations to acquire sufficient food. Yet Darwinism assumes that whatever food is available will go to those genetic populations most successful in reproducing themselves. It is hardly surprising that the social Darwinians of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s were ruthless in grabbing up as much of the world’s limited resources as they could for themselves and their own (often large) families. What is surprising is that the heirs of these families, who are still rich and who are even better-versed evolutionists, are saving baby whales while having no offspring of their own.
In contrast, those populations notable for their skepticism toward evolution are busy having babies. Fundamentalist Baptists, for instance. In spite of their often limited resources, meager education, and unfavorable social placement, the Baptist population is reproducing itself far faster than the agnostic evolutionarist population. Baptists not only have more children but they also win more converts than do those denominations that have made their peace with Darwin.
Though Catholics have generally been less vehement and public in their opposition to evolution, their willingness to build large families is similarly linked to a resistance to Darwin. Papal condemnation of modernism included a rejection of Darwinism, so Catholic schools either did not teach the theory or taught it in an unfavorable light—at least until fairly recently. The remarkable fall in Catholic birthrate in, recent years coincides with a new post-Vatican II openness to the saints of modernism, including Darwin.
The Mormons provide yet another example of negative correlation between group fertility and acceptance of evolution. Most Mormons, including the better-educated ones, reject evolution as a matter of faith, while (according to a recent Wall Street Journal article) no group in America has a higher birthrate. Though a more sociologically diverse group than Baptists, Mormons possess no unusual wealth to support their exceptional birthrate. And like the Baptists, Mormons are doing much better at proselytizing than are the main-line American denominations.
Sociobiologist and evolutionist E. O. Wilson believes that certain “religious practices. . . consistently enhance survival and procreation of the practitioners” and therefore the genes fostering such practices will be “favored” in the evolutionary struggle. But if belief in evolution itself erodes religious faith and practice, as it appears to do, where does that leave evolutionists? Are their genes thereby disfavored?
Clearly there are many more evolutionists today than there were a century ago, and their beliefs are now orthodoxy in the public schools. But still, current demographic trends must give an evolutionist pause. After all, in any given high school biology class, those students most willing to have children are precisely those most resistant to evolutionary theory. Unless shielded by religious conviction or even by simple ignorance, the desire to propagate does not appear to survive Darwin’s touch. Granted, evolutionists insist upon a very large time scale. Current trends might be just an unusual blip in the big picture. But, perhaps a million years from now Baptist and Mormon paleontologists will regard Darwin’s Descent of Man and fossilized dinosaur tracks with the same bemused curiosity.