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Neutralizing Problematic Frames in the Culture Wars: Anti‐Evolutionists Grapple with Religion

Symbolic Interaction

Published online on


This article contributes to the literature on culture wars work by examining how anti‐evolutionists neutralize the framing of their position as religious. Their efforts are uncovered by analyzing 570 letters to the editor published in American newspapers in the months surrounding a nationally covered 2005 federal judicial decision on the legality of the Dover PA, school board's decision to undermine evolutionary theory in the classroom. Anti‐evolutionists neutralized the framing of their position as religious through the processes of selective acknowledgement and disagreement with the problematic framing. These findings provide insights into the anti‐evolutionist movement, the nature of the culture wars, and the basic ways in which problematic frames are neutralized. First, it shows how public anti‐evolutionist discourse has not followed its leaders' efforts to minimize the religious motivations of the movement. Second, the wide variety of neutralizations partially explains the persistence of many cultural disputes. Third, this study calls attention to the under theorized role of disagreement and agreement in undoing problematic definitions of the situation.