Do you self-censor? Would you tell your co-workers what you think about immigration, gender issues, or evolution? It turns out that few of us will say what we think about controversial issues unless we know our audience shares our beliefs.
That’s according to a new survey of 8,000 people across the nation by the nonprofit More in Common. Their poll covered the following “sensitive topics,” according to the Washington Post: “immigration and immigrants; race and racism; gay, lesbian and gender issues; and Islam and Muslims.”
So what did More in Common discover?
[The survey] found that between 51 and 66 percent of Americans agree there is “pressure to think a certain way about” each of the aforementioned topics, with immigration seen as the least sensitive and Islam the most.
Meanwhile, 68 percent report that “it is acceptable for me to express what I think” about race, or Islam, only among “people who are like me.” On immigration, 73 percent feel that way; on gay, lesbian and gender issues, this figure is 70 percent.
Staggered by the Results
Washington Post writer Charles Lane finds these results staggering, and they lead him to ask whether we are a nation with free speech. Because this sounds a lot more like life under a Communist regime. Lane writes:
Most ordinary people found it unbearable to live under communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. The reasons varied: shortages of consumer goods, incessant propaganda, restrictions on travel.
Nothing was more psychologically exhausting than the constant pressure to watch every word one said, and to pretend to believe things one did not, for fear of negative repercussions. Dissidents called this “double morality” or “double consciousness.” It drove people crazy. Actually, it drove some to suicide.
It’s a telling comparison. But what subjects do you think the survey forgot to ask about? I’ll give you one guess.
You got it! They left out evolution and intelligent design. And that is a telling omission.
“Double consciousness” is exactly the right term to describe the position of the Darwin skeptic in academia. I know because staff at the Center for Science & Culture are in touch with many of them. Scientists, scholars, and even many in the general public keep quiet about dissenting views on evolution because it’s considered to be unquestionable “fact.” For example, as I wrote recently, the director of London’s Museum of Natural History holds evolution to be “irrefutable scientific law” and a key to “human health and prosperity.” In many social or professional interactions, simply to ask for a clear definition — “Before getting to whether it’s a ‘fact’ or not, what do you mean by ‘evolution’?” — is to court suspicion.
In some contexts, if you don’t subscribe to the right views on Darwinian theory, you can be ostracized and face serious career repercussions. Just take a look at some of the stories on our website Free Science. This reality is also why we don’t share pictures or names of Summer Seminar students. What if somehow their biology professor or classmates who hold staunch Darwinian views saw they were spending time learning from proponents of ID? Doors to research opportunities, tenured positions, and more could snap shut in their faces.
Oh yes, we self-censor on a myriad of topics. To judge from Mr. Lane’s article in the Post, intelligent design stands out as the sensitive subject that dare not speak its name.
Photo credit: Fuzz, via Pixabay.