Okay, so nobody is looking to Miss USA contestants for intellectual guidance -- or to take a representative survey of general attitudes toward science in the nation, for that matter. But this YouTube clip of the contestants' answers to the question 'Do you think evolution should be taught in school?' has stirred up serious interest around the intertubes today, mostly because a majority of them didn't believe in evolution, and many said 'No.'
So what can we learn from these answers? Perhaps a bit about the nature of the ideological underpinnings across the United States' geography -- and how powerfully that ideological bias informs perspectives on the validity of science.
Predictably, the women who argue that evolution should be kept out of school are more likely to hail from red states. Not exactly a stunning revelation, but there 'tis. Contestants from deeper blue states, like Connecticut, New York and California, were more likely to be straightforward in answering 'Yes'. Darker red state candidates -- from Alabama, Mississippi, and Idaho are more likely to bluntly say no. Almost all are extremely squeamish in offering their answers, and most of them mentioned that they don't personally believe in evolution.
Image: Wikipedia, Angr/CC
Of course, these comparisons are anything but scientific. But you can't help but note how little regard science is given nearly across the board. And who wants to bet we would have seen a pretty similar brand of confusion and equally dismissive answers had the question been about belief in climate change?
It's important to remember that the lesson here isn't that Miss USA contestants are too dumb to understand evolution -- but that the ideological culture of the communities they belong to play a powerful role in their shaping beliefs. There's also the general decline in education in math and sciences to be taken into account.
Thankfully, the winner, Miss California, was unabashedly pro-science, and even referred to herself as a 'geek'. So there's still hope ...