Although I am ardent supporter of Barrack Obama and will gladly vote for him in the next election, it is nonetheless the case that he has (so far) failed to be the great uniter that so many of us hoped he would be. In my estimation, perhaps his greatest failing has been that he has not been able to lead the United States toward a compelling vision of the future. Indeed, so troubling has been the absence of such a vision that many moderate, democratic leaning individuals, like Tom Friedman, have started making explicit calls for the emergence of an independent party with a vision to move us beyond the polarized entangled mass of dysfunction that is our current government toward a long term plan that ensures that America will thrive in the future.
Why has Obama failed to develop a unified vision that can lead us toward the future? In my opinion, he has failed to recognize the simple fact that it is impossible to unify fundamentally incompatible visions of reality. Obama has an incredible ability to grasp complicated issues and arrive at reasonable conclusions, and if all parties he was leading shared the same foundational knowledge-value structure, he would be the right man for the job. But he is so dispositionally inclined toward integration and compromise that he has been slow to draw the line in the sand and marginalize positions known to be incorrect. This is a central issue because there exists in the United States of America a large portion of the population that has embraced a justification system that is simply incompatible with mainstream, scientific knowledge. I am, of course, talking about the social conservative wing of the Republican Party that embraces religious fundamentalism and a young earth creationist version of reality.
I argue in the final chapter of my book that “there exists a great and problematic divide” (p. 265) between the domains of modern academic knowledge and anti-intellectual religious fundamentalism, and that this divide must be remedied if we are to disentangle the current political morass and build a pathway of America’s future on a shared foundation. An excellent article in today’s New York Times, The Evangelical Rejection of Reason, makes precisely the point I do in the book. Deep Christian faith and spirituality need not be disconnected from modern scientific knowledge. However, literal religious fundamentalism, which is “defined by a simplistic theology, cultural isolationism and stubborn anti-intellectualism that most of the Republican candidates have embraced”, is in fact diametrically opposed to scientific understanding writ large.
In the mid 1990s, Philip Johnson spearheaded “the Wedge”, which attempted to position the construct of Intelligent Design in between Young Earth Creationism and secular scientific knowledge, in a way that aligned the religious against the secular. The wedge was a very successful strategy. The Times op-ed piece by Giberson and Stevens points the way to a counter wedge. Secular individuals like myself can be broadly aligned with the Evangelicalism laid out by the authors (and shared by many of my friends). Together, we must join forces and cure America of the “intellectual disaster” that is religious fundamentalism.