Thursday, February 14, 2008

Does evolution matter?

Mike Huckabee, who doesn't seem to have any hope of clinching the Republican nomination anymore, has received a lot of flack for raising his hand when asked at the debate "Who here doesn't believe in evolution." He gets a lot of ribbing for it on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report for that. Jon Stewart skewered him a bit this week:

Yeah, the guy wears his faith a little too much on his sleeve for my taste. That's fine, for the most part. As an atheist, I pretty much have to expect that I won't see a President in my lifetime who's not a man of faith. Still, his comment about how the 10 Commandments "cover it all" is foolish no matter how you look at it. What about rape, Mike? It doesn't cover that one! And if the 10 Commandments were all they were cracked up to be, then why does the Old Testament and the New Testament have a bunch of other rules? I don't even think that Moses himself felt that those ten rules covered everything!

Back to the evolution thing, I did a bit of YouTube searching to try and get his comments in context. Here's a clip of him on Bill O'Reilly's show:

I suppose that I could live with it if a President said much of that. I'd have a much harder time with somebody who insisted that the Earth is only 6000 years old and that (un)Intelligent Design should be taught in a science classroom.

Still, one thing that I REALLY take exception to, and I'm absolutely sick and tired of hearing theists say is the false dichotomy of how either a deity created everything or everything is just an "accident" (or "random"). Ummm...I don't believe that everything's random or an accident. I've read books by many prominent atheists, and they don't use either one of those words. It's a total strawman argument. So, what do I believe then? I believe that the universe and the Earth just is - you know, much as theists believe that God just is. The universe has always been here in some form or another, and this is where we're at now. As for the species, there's absolutely nothing random about Darwin's theory - adaptation happens to allow a species to survive. Hardly an "accident." So, any theists out there? Stop saying that atheists believe it's all random. We don't. Nobody's even saying that, so don't argue it.

Even though I don't find Huckabee's comments regarding evolution to be offensive, it still doesn't sit quite right with me. If it was between him and another candidate, and everything else was equal, but the other one accepted modern science's stand on evolution, then I'd vote for the other guy.

The thing is, I'd like to have a President who is informed on some basic issues regarding science. Evolution, despite what some will tell you, is a very basic part of modern science. You can't teach biology without teaching it. You can't talk about the human genome without addressing it. Want to break down what's in our DNA? Better get ready to hear how you're related to a fish, 'cause we have genes in common with them too. Much of the problem is that most people don't understand the basic definition of the word "theory" as they don't understand that when a scientist uses it, he or she is referring to something that's as close to fact as anything in science can ever be. (No sacred cows in science - which is why it appeals to me.) Gravity is a theory. The Earth spinning on its axis is a theory. Evolution is a theory in the same sense, and when ID proponents insist on "all the theories" being taught, they fail to realize that ID is NOT a theory no more than astrology or alchemy are.

So, if a candidate is going to ignore the basic fact of evolution, what else is he or she going to ignore? Global warming? (Not much of a stretch there. How large a percentage of the scientific community needs to be in favor of this before the deniers finall call it quits? 'Cause there's always going to be some yahoo whose paid off by the oil companies who'll say otherwise.) The Earth being round?

So what then? Do those things matter? Well, who has more influence than The President? And if he's going to deny scientific reality, what other aspects of reality will he (or she) deny?

Perhaps it's a slippery slope, and perhaps not believing in evolution shouldn't be the deciding factor, but it most certainly should be a factor.

1 comment:

Gary Fouse said...


As a parent who once put his son in a Baptist school with disasterous results, I have to say that Baptists seem to believe that if you are not a Baptist, you are going to Hell. I don't accept that. They seem to have a certain intolerance.

Actually, we will never really know how many of our presidents were only nominal Christians, who only paid lip service to Christianity.

Between Huckabee and Romney, religion aside, I think Romney was the better guy.