Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

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What We Argue About When We Argue About Evolution

Among hot-button controversies of the day, Darwinian evolution may be unique in being a question on which people express forceful opinions all the time, at high levels of the media and politics, all under a protocol where it's the norm to have not even a basic idea what you're talking about.

So Wall Street Journal online columnist James Taranto tries to take to task author Jacob Weisberg for Weisberg's column on Slate that includes this derisive reference to Republicans in Congress:

Some of the congressional Republicans who are preventing action to help the economy are simply intellectual primitives who reject modern economics on the same basis that they reject Darwin and climate science.
Weisberg has demonstrated ignorant prejudice in the past. He has written elsewhere that intelligent design is the assertion "that gaps in evolutionary science prove God must have had a role in creation." But Taranto, a conservative, seems to understand even less than Weisberg.

He nicely offers that Weisberg could be more polite in casting insults:

Darwin is a red herring here. Although disparaging people for holding harmless religious beliefs as "intellectual primitives" is awfully uncivil, we agree with Weisberg that people who "reject" the theory of natural selection are mistaken.
I've never met a single person, nor heard of one, who "rejects" natural selection. This is not a matter of science but of sociology: They do not exist.

If anyone did reject natural selection, they would be not only "mistaken" but probably delusional. In reality, the evolution debate turns, in part, on the question of how much of life's history can be explained in the neo-Darwinian terms of natural selection operating unguided on chance genetic variation. Darwin skeptics argue, not on the basis of "religious beliefs" whether harmless or otherwise, that the development of complex life may be explained in this Darwinian fashion only up to a point.

The scientific not religious question is where to set the "edge of evolution," as Michael Behe puts it. ID theorists also argue about whether, given the apparent limit to the explanatory power of Darwinian theory, a different explanation involving teleology may be scientifically called for.

How the evolution issue will be adjudicated by our culture in the long run, I of course don't know. But the chances of a favorable outcome, defined as one where most thoughtful people grasp the truth of the matter whatever that may be, would be greatly enhanced if opinion leaders learned the basics before speaking or writing in public.