Strike Three!: Evangelicals, Vaccines, and Science Denialism

I say, three strikes and you're out.

Evangelicalism's quarrel with science started with evolution, going way back to the Scopes Monkey Trial. That might be "Strike One!" but, truly, I have some sympathy here. I can understand why a conservative evangelical Christian would struggle with evolution. You really do have to do a deep and radical rethink in how your approach Scripture to bring Genesis into conversation with Charles Darwin.

Then came climate change. "Strike Two!" many would say. And yet, the science here is so correlational you can see how people could gravitate toward scientific voices that confirmed their felt convictions.

Still, the massive amount of climate change denialism among evangelicals seems really fishy. Why is this view so widely held among evangelicals? Unlike evolution, no literal reading of the Bible is getting in the way of looking objectively at the climate science. Statistically speaking, then, we should expect views on climate change among evangelicals to mirror those in the general population. But that's not what we find. So clearly something sociological is going on in this community, some epistemic bias that is causing them to look at the science in a peculiar way.

But still, if one was being generous, you could see, given the complexity and controversies of climate science, how people could have a hard time, on their own, locating trusted scientific voices amidst the cacophony of social media.

But then came vaccines for COVID-19. 

As a group, evangelicals tend to be COVID-19 anti-vaxxers. To say nothing about wearing masks.

I really think this has to be "Strike Three!" 

Seriously, I know an evangelical can jump into the comments to debate evolution, climate change, or vaccines. Fine. But those siloed debates are missing what is now a clear pattern: Evangelicals are science-denialists. Again, I don't mind a close debate about any of these particular issues. What I'm pointing to is how this particular community is demonstrating a clear and consistent epistemic bias against science. Issue after issue, it's pretty predictable where this group is going to land. 

What's the source of the bias?

I know atheists might disagree, but I don't think it's the Bible or faith. Yes, a Biblical literalism is in play with evolution. That's true. But as I noted above, there's nothing in the Bible or the Christian creeds getting in the way of looking objectively at climate change. And the same goes for getting in line for a vaccine. 

So the bias has to be coming, and this is really no surprise, from partisan politics, the conflation of evangelicalism with the Republican Party. And to me, that is both sad and hopeful. Sad, as I wish that conflation of faith and politics didn't exist. One shouldn't be storming the Capital in the name of Jesus. But also hopeful in that, should any given evangelical be able to swim their way clear of the partisan riptide, they will find that Jesus is happy for you to get a shot. 

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