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Perry and the Politics of Evolution

“The progress of Evolution from President Washington to President Grant was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin.”

Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams

The upcoming presidential campaign will almost certainly prove enlightening and singular. The United States will be the only country in the world where two candidates for its highest office will engage the country in a meaningful debate on evolution. For too long it’s been taken for granted although not by Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry who promise to revive the debate. If one of them is elected president it is almost certain that the new president would propose legislation to address evolution, most likely outlawing it although that is only a guess. Rick Perry has the most experience addressing evolution and that should work in his favor. In early July he put his imprimatur on the vexing problem of what to teach children by appointing Barbara Cargill the new chairwoman for the Texas State Board of Education.

Ms. Cargill was a biology teacher and is well qualified to judge evolution. As a board member she has voted to require that the theory’s weaknesses be taught in classrooms. In questioning evolution she mirrors Mr. Perry’s views on the subject. In an interview with the Associated Press Mr. Perry said that:

“There are clear indications from our people who have amazing intellectual capability that this didn’t happen by accident and a creator put this in place. Now, what was his time frame and how did he create the earth that we know? I’m not going to tell you that I’ve got the answers to that. I believe that we were created by this all-powerful supreme being and how we got to today versus what we look like thousands of years ago, I think there’s enough holes in the theory of evolution to, you know, say there are some holes in that theory.”

If people with “amazing intellectual capability” even though not identified, are opposed to the theory that should certainly be good enough for the rest of us and, should Mr. Perry become president, we can all hope that at least some of these people will be his advisors. Equally compelling is Mr. Perry’s tautological statement that “there’s enough holes in the theory of evolution to, you know, say there are some holes in that theory.”

Mr. Perry will not, of course, be permitted to get to the oval office without a challenge from an equally compelling intellect in the person of Michelle Bachmann. Although her campaign has been marred by occasional confusion, she, too, will help us focus on the need to rethink evolution. (Most notably she confused America’s movie hero, John Wayne, who killed outlaws on the silver screen, with one of America’s more notorious serial killers, John Wayne Gacy who murdered 33 teenage boys and buried 26 of them in the crawl space of his home. When not murdering children he performed as “Pogo the Clown” at charitable fundraising events, parades and children’s parties.) At the Republican Leadership Conference in June 2010 she said:

“I support intelligent design. What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide. I don’t think it’s a good idea for government to come down on one side of a scientific issue or another, when there is reasonable doubt on both sides. I would prefer that students have the ability to learn all aspects of an issue whether they disagree with my premise or not. I just believe in the science. And that’s why I believe that the federal government should be involved in local education to the most minimal possible process.”

In 2006, in a panel discussion on the subject, she said that are “hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel prizes that believe in intelligent design.” Given the opportunity to name the Nobel laureates to whom she was referring at the Leadership Conference she elected to ignore the questioner and went on to talk about other matters. If she becomes president, one of the first things she should do is create a task force to advise her on evolution so that the entire country can be brought up to speed on this vexing concept.

Neither of these candidates should be seen as one-issue candidates, however. Once Mr. Perry has put evolution to rest he can focus the country’s attention on global warming, which he says is simply a ruse by scientists “who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects” to procure grants. Michelle, on the other hand can focus on homosexuality. Fresh from her victory in Iowa she announced that when she is president she will reintroduce the ban on gay troops serving in the military. Speaking on CNN she said the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy has worked well and she would probably reinstate the ban.

By the time either of these candidates has finished serving as president, the United States will be a country of which all who have not fled to saner places, will be proud to be citizens.

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

 

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