Friday, March 11, 2005

Politically Incorrect History??

An article in Slate reviews a recent bestselling "history" book: The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History. From what I've read about it, the book appears to be the far right's answer to Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Why am I writing about a history book on an evolutionary genetics blog? Well, the Slate review points out a similarity between this neo-con anti-intellectualism and the anti-evolution movement:
[I]n the Bush years, conservatism has embraced not only the familiar ridicule of the eggheads but a rejection of the very legitimacy of independent, nonpartisan expert authority. The wisdom of legal professionals, such as those in the American Bar Association, is now denied, and, since George Bush took office, no longer used by the White House in evaluating candidates for federal judgeships. Mainstream journalism, such as that in the major newspapers and network news shows, is deemed liberal, slanted, and unreliable. The faith-based belief in creationism, enjoying renewed support of late, is accorded equal (or greater) weight as the scientific theory of evolution.
(The emphasis is my own.)

First of all, I'm proud of the author of the review (David Greenberg, an Assistant Professor in the History Department at Rutgers University) for recognizing that creationism is nothing more than "belief" while evolutionary biology is "theory." It appears we may be getting the message across.

I'd like to avoid political statements at all times on this blog, but I'll break the rules because the author (or his publishers) are attacking academia. The Politically Incorrect Guide's cover states:
Everything (well, almost everything) you know about American history is wrong because most textbooks and popular history books are written by left-wing academic historians who treat their biases as fact.
Now, I always thought that Zinn wrote his book because traditional textbooks often taught history from the perspective of the power elite.
A People's History of the United States is the only volume to tell America's story from the point of view of -- and in the words of -- America's women, factory workers,African Americans, Native Americans, working poor, and immigrant laborers.
-from the back cover of A People's History

If Zinn wrote his book to tell the story of underrepresented groups that textbooks tend to neglect, then I'd have to assume that most history books are not "left-wing academic" propaganda. By claiming the moderate is the far left, the radical right attempts to appear more moderate. Similarly, by falsely legitimizing creationist beliefs and attacking evolutionary theory, creationists are trying to artificially inflate the scientific legitimacy of their ideas. You cannot change what is mainstream by claiming the norm is radical, just like you can't make your ideas scientific by attacking the imperfections in science.


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