We are the 99%

June 6, 2007

Evolution in God's Own Party

I caught a little of the Republican Debate last night. I thought those Red-Staters were supposed to be straight talkers? Take a look at how the "issue" of evolution was discussed. According to the transcript, Governor Huckabee was asked whether the story of creation is as reported or described in the Bible. His answer:
It’s interesting that that question would even be asked of somebody running for President. I’m not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth-grade science book. I’m asking for the opportunity to be president of the United States.
Actually, it's rather frightening that the question has to be posed to someone hoping to become President. The state of affairs has gotten so bad that it's no longer a given that the leader of the free world would be scientifically literate.
But you’ve raised the question, so let me answer it. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth.” To me it’s pretty simple, a person either believes that God created this process or believes that it was an accident and that it just happened all on its own.
Take a look at what Huckabee does. God created the process. Leaving the door as wide open as both creationism (and it's academic cousin Intelligent Design) and evolution are both processes.
And the basic question was an unfair question because it simply asks us in a simplistic manner whether or not we believed — in my view — whether there’s a God or not. Well let me be very clear: I believe there is a God. I believe there is a God who was active in the creation process. Now, how did he do it, and when did he do it, and how long did he take? I don’t honestly know, and I don’t think knowing that would make me a better or a worse president.
Now the big guns come out. The question of evolution is the question of God's existence. Spoken before a Republican audience looking for a solid political conservative, the message is clear.
But I’ll tell you what I can tell the country. If they want a president who doesn’t believe in God, there’s probably plenty of choices. But if I’m selected as president of this country, they’ll have one who believes in those words that God did create. And as the words of Martin Luther, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” And I will not take that back.
Really? There are "plenty of choices" of candidates who don't believe in God? Who? What party?

Having spun the question away from evolution and to defending his own belief of God's existence, Huckabee is asked a more pointed question. Does he believe that the biblical story of creation is literally true?
My point is, I don’t know; I wasn’t there. (Laughter.) But I believe whether God did it in six days or whether he did it in six days that represented periods of time, he did it, and that’s what’s important.
I'm pretty sure Claus von Bulow never schtupped Marie Antoinette, even though I wasn't there. The argument Huckabee is using ("I don't know, I wasn't there") is actually a criticism of evolution. It goes like this: Since the evolutionists claim the process took place billions of years ago, they can't also claim to have witnessed it directly. And since science only works with the data of what is direclty witnessed by scientitists, how can "evolution" be said to be a science?

Sneaky Huckabee.

The Straight-talkin' Senator John McCain's answer was even more frightening:
No, I believe that’s up to the school districts. But I think that every American should be exposed to all theories.
Why should scientific illiteracy be an option for school districts? Too bad Wolf Blitzer didn't ask about the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Ladies and Gentlemen, your GOP. Where scientific illiteracy is no obstacle to Presidential aspirations.

18 comments:

Jonathan Potts said...

That scientific illiteracy is no obstacle is scary enough. That it might be a prerequisite is even scarier.

Rob Carr said...

I'm not so sure the President and Vice-President believe in God. They seem to be more in tune with the "Do as you will" crowd -- the crowd that doesn't tack on the "As long as it hurts no one" part.

"Fair and Balanced" Dave said...

Really? There are "plenty of choices" of candidates who don't believe in God? Who? What party?

Bingo! The ranks of people holding elective office in the country include almost every racial and ethnic group as well as openly gay men and lesbian women. However, to the best of my knowledge, there is not one professed athiest holding elected office in this country.

"Fair and Balanced" Dave said...

Please excuse the double-posting but I couldn't let this bit from McCain's answer go unchallenged:

But I think that every American should be exposed to all theories.

In its own way, I think this answer is worse than Huckabee's. McCain is parroting the standard line used by proponents of so-called "Intelligent Design" (what these people either fail to mention or don't know is that "Intelligent Design" is not a valid scientific theory).

Anonymous said...

Scientifically literate reader here that feels like you've crossed the line on this post. I mean, really, what did you want and/or expect them to say? If a candidate takes the hard line in either direction, the majority of centrist voters is alienated. Evolution is well-founded in science, but creation is a matter of spirituality. We (currently) lack the scientific tools to extrapolate back to T=0, and that is exactly the domain of spirituality. There is no reason why the two cannot peacefully coexist without scientists calling creationists "scary religious zealots" and creationists calling evolutionists "atheist hedonists." To me, as a scientist, it is the unexplainable that is most interesting. I found Huckabee's response appropriate for the forum. I'm sure most here will disagree, but that is what makes our country great- the freedom to disagree.

Schmuck Shitrock said...

Anon: We atheist hedonists call them "scary religious zealots" when they try to put what you call spirituality into science textbooks. We don't complain about it when they try to put it into their catechisms, or rant about it from their pulpits.

We leave them alone to their delusions, and ask in return that they have the Constitutionally-mandated good manners to do the same to us.

If they (or you) care to pursue the unexplainable, have at it and FSM bless you with an extra meatball; but when you do so, you are not acting as a scientist but rather as a philosopher or shaman. Nothing wrong with that. I enjoy doing it myself, but I don't attempt to force my school board to teach my opium dreams in Biology class.

Patrick said...

I thought Huckabee's answer was brilliant, and hardly an example of scientific illiteracy.

He successfully dodged the question (will he piss off the millions of registered voters who are biblical literalists?), while at the same time poked his finger in the eye of those who would insist he answer in the affirmative (lefty skeptics, many of which have blogs).

Huckabee seems to get what Brownback and a lot of folks of the liberal persuasion who consider themselves educated do NOT get: that we're using the wrong catch-phrases in this debate - and he used that confusion to score some political points on national tv. Evolution v. Creationism is not a fair way to describe this debate - it's too simplistic.

"Scientific" or not, Intelligent Design IS a theory of evolution, just as Natural Selection is a theory of evolution. The former proposes that there is a higher power guiding the process, while the latter proposes that changes occur randomly (although it doesn't preclude the possibility of a God or higher power). The question of what STARTED the "process" is one that neither theory can answer.

"Creationism" as it has been commonly used, is more in tune with Genesis and other creation myths, which make no attempt to explain or acknowledge that species have evolved, and continue to evolve. Aside from it taking 6 days, it really isn't a "process" like ID or natural selection.

In comparing Huckabee's scoring some cheap political points via the God front to George Bush in 2000 (his favorite political philiospher? Christ), I'm much more impressed with Huckabee. Granted, the bar set by Bush is pretty low; I'm no closer to voting for Huckabee, but at least he seems to have a brain.

Maria said...

F&B Dave,

There was a news story recently about ONE California politician who was an out atheist. I think he was in the State Legislature, but I may be wrong on the exact office.

Maria said...

Patrick,

'"Scientific" or not, Intelligent Design IS a theory of evolution, just as Natural Selection is a theory of evolution. The former proposes that there is a higher power guiding the process, while the latter proposes that changes occur randomly (although it doesn't preclude the possibility of a God or higher power). The question of what STARTED the "process" is one that neither theory can answer.'

Intelligent Design does attempt to answer what STARTED the process. Their answer is that an Intelligent Designer started the process (hence the name). ID may be a theory, but it's not a scientific theory because it theorizes about an un-provable answer (ID/God).

Grad Student said...

I'm pursuing a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology, so I I'm fairly scientifically literate, and I believe in God. Sometimes, when you see how intricate the molecular mechanisms in control of a cell are, it's hard not to believe in a designer who was clearly a genius. On the other hand, evolution and "survival of the fittest" (and luckiest, because of population drift) is probably the right theory, and has been called "the best idea anyone ever had." So, it seems that Huckabee is on the right track trying to split the difference. Science can't be sure that there is no creator who either directly interferes with the process or set it in motion (Thomas Jeffereson was a Deist, and no scientific illiterate for his day). Religion practiced by lucid people can't refute the mountains of scientific data in favor of evolution. So evolution should be taught as a theory (albeit an extremely good one that is probably true) in science class, and God should be taught about in Sunday School. Do we really want unqualified science teachers teaching religion and unqualified preachers teaching science? Why is that so hard for my fellow Republicans to say?

Anonymous said...

Why is that so hard for my fellow Republicans to say?

Because that is not what they believe.

EdHeath said...

You know, we hardly believe much of the bible anymore. The Flood? The tower of Babel? All this business about what sorts of crops to plant, pigskins, the people living hundreds of years? At best some brave souls describe these as metaphors, but most people hope no one will ask them point blank. Of course there are some evangelicals (maybe a lot) who will stick out their chins, Cowher-like, and say they believe the bible word for word. But I think the real reason evolution is such a hot button issue is that it disputes the first story in the bible, pretty conclusively, and if the first story isn’t true, then maybe that part about God not liking gays also isn’t true (besides the business about people deciding not to believe in God). I think as long as the faithful can throw science back into the faces of Academia (as blasphamy), the faithful can defend the persecution of homosexuality.

Just my opinion.

Sherry said...

it's not hard to say, unless you believe that it is your duty as a faithful christian to convert everyone else. one way or another.

even if you do not really believe that to be true, many people that always vote do and so better to pander to them.

to me, those would be damned far more than the others that really do believe their merciless form of christianity.

if i believe in a hell.

and to those that would damn me, i say, just change the name of the religion and the creation story to that faiths and then see how much you'd like it to be forced on you by your government.

afganistan, iran anyone?


oh, and what happens when once christian sect decides the other is blasphemous? ireland anybody?

people can have morals and values and ethics without tacking on the seemingly obligatory, "judeo-christian"

Mark Rauterkus said...

Candidate Ron Paul is a Medical Doctor. He knows a thing or two about 'science.'

Grad Student said...

"Why is that so hard for my fellow Republicans to say?

Because that is not what they believe."

I find it hard to beleive that so many of the top tier candidates can really take the Bible as literal fact. Even in my Catholic high school we were taught that most of the Old Testament was allegory. So why do they pander so obviously to such a small minority of voters? The majority of Republicans are normal people. And a centrist Republican candidate would trounce a liberal Democrat in the general election. Why are there so few candidates who would pander to the middle? I think the prevailing logic of "go right in the primary and center in the general election" is wrong. We in the center could win them the primary and the general election.

Anonymous said...

amen, grad student, amen (pun intended)

Schmuck Shitrock said...

Candidate Ron Paul is a Medical Doctor. He knows a thing or two about 'science.'
Bill Frist is a world-class surgeon and also a Republican. His MD degree didn't stop him from pronouncing Terry Schaivo conscious after her brain had shrunk to the size of a walnut.

Science is not particularly relevant to most Republicans, just as courage and honesty have no meaning to most Democrats.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Bill Frist and Ron Paul are two very different people -- and different Republicans.

But, most of all, the label use of "most people" and "most politician" don't stick firmly on Dr. Ron Paul's back.

Nor mine as well.

But, interesting way to connect the dots in the reply.