By applying phylogenetic approaches to politics and beliefs, Nicholas Matzke from Australia’s National University found that US anti-evolution efforts evolve in the same way species do. This discovery will undoubtedly help scientists and researchers that are currently facing opposition from these types of efforts.
Phylogenetic analysis revolves around the study of family trees and shared characteristics between the various branches of said tree in order to identify a common ancestor as well as the process of evolution. This method is done through DNA sampling and careful observation of similar traits presented by the different branches of a species, eventually leading back to a common single-celled ancestor.
In order to apply this analysis to anti-evolution laws and proposals, Matzke switched DNA sampling with paragraphs and documents created with the goal of increasing the popularity of creationism while at the same time dismissing evolution. His study started from the first wave of anti-evolution laws, back in 1920 when the idea of evolution was deemed unconstitutional. This lasted for over 40 years, ending in the 1960s when anti-evolutionism started to evolve in a different manner.
The second wave engulfed both creationism as well as evolutionism, By maintaining a careful balance between the two, both of them maintained a steady growth across the country, even if evolutionism grew by a much lesser extent than its counterpart.
The final third wave stemmed from the case of Kitzmer vs Dover in 2005. This signaled scientists that a wave of “stealthy creationism” started to emerge among the general public. This type of movement does not mention either intelligent design or creationism, focusing on an alleged academic freedom. Intelligent design refers to the way through which the evolutionary process functioned throughout the ages, keeping in accord with a type of schematic, eliminating natural selection altogether. This schematic was supposedly created by a higher being, thus making this ideology a religious argument, not a scientific one.
Matzke’s research pointed out the fact that every anti-creationist bill started from one place, with every following bill growing out of the original one through the copying of segments or by simply maintaining its main idea. The point of origin was located in the state of Alabama in its early stages, expanding towards Louisiana and Tennessee in the following years. One of the most influential factors was the Ouachita policy, due to its call for an alleged critical analysis of evolution and even climate change.
Out of all the anti-evolution bills covered in the study, 65 in number, almost 95% of them were directly linked to creationism. This link was established through the statements which they contained or through identification of the sponsors of the bill.
Taking into account that US anti-evolution efforts evolve in the same way species do, it’s not that suprising the current widespread that creationism has in the country. Almost 35% of American citizens completely reject evolution, while, from the group that accepts it, 48% of them adopt the belief of an intelligent design, attributing evolution to a higher power.