Collective Realities: A Durkheimian Analysis of Evolution, Climate Change, and Southern Identity
Haverford College. Department of Sociology
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In this paper, I argue that the positioning of science and religion as necessarily oppositional institutions obscures their historical relationship, as well as the social and political mechanisms that have caused them to be positioned antagonistically in contemporary American cultural perceptions. I use Durkheim’s theory of religion, and specifically his concept of collective realities, to analyze the relationship between evolution, climate change, and American Protestantism. I conclude that the construction of a regional Southern identity has led to the development of a collective reality in which religion, not science, acts as the truth-bearing institution, and that the theoretical framework of collective realities can help explain why poor, white Southerners are disproportionately unlikely to believe in both evolution and climate change.