Darwinian Politics of Health Reform in the U.S.

Tomorrow is Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday, and the Economist had a very interesting article about how his original theories have evolved over the past 200 years – and how a greater understanding of human evolution have revealed insights into human society and economics.

One of the most interesting observations in the Economist article is the differing levels of belief in evolution among countries.  The article explains these differences as possibly arising from the country’s safety nets for vulnerable people, i.e., individuals who have less concern about being able to obtain food or housing may be less likely to believe in God and be more likely to believe in evolution.  Essentially the linkage is this:

Better Social Safety Net -> Less Concern About Getting Food, Housing, and Healthcare -> Less Belief in God As Provider of Necessities -> Less Belief in Evolution

This theory is reflected in the Economist article’s chart (see below) which may indicate that Western countries with more organized, socialized and stronger safety nets are more likely to believe in evolution.

Economist - Darwin - Belief in Evolution by Country

Darwinian Politics and Religion
As can be seen from this chart, the people in the United States are almost exactly evenly divided, with about 40% believing in evolution, 40% not believing, and 20% unsure.  This split is essentially the same at voters, with the 20% unsure being the undecided voters in closely contested elections.

Implications for Health Reform
What this information may mean for health reform is that the disorganization of the U.S. health system may itself be producing fundamental resistance in the U.S. population to making changes which would strengthen the system and make it more organized.  That is, placing a greater emphasis on God as a predetermining force for fate and less belief in evolution as a force for changing species and societies, may make people less willing to trust the government or national organizations as sources for addressing their personal needs or concerns.

This may mean that successful health reform in the U.S. will need to gather more support from religious leaders and groups.  Campaign professionals have long realized that this can be key to winning elections, and some public health experts have recognized it as important for success in some public health initiatives.  It remains to be seen how important the support of religious groups will be for the success of health reform at the national level in the United States.  And if it turns out to be an important factor, if religious leaders  line up to support health reform in the U.S. – whatever shape that reform takes.

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