published Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Rick Perry and evolution

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry is the latest high-profile politician to purposefully and publicly stir religion, science, education and politics into an unsavory stew. The result is an affront to most people of genuine faith, a setback for public education, a sullying of science and an embarrassment to the millions of Americans who believe that politics ought to be about good governance rather than a vehicle for self-promotion.

Perry, the governor of Texas and, according to recent polls, the favorite to win the Republican nomination for president, made it clear during a recent campaign talk that he believes in "intelligent design" -- code words for evolution. He told a young questioner in New Hampshire that evolution is "just a theory" with "some gaps in it." He added that in Texas they teach "both creationism and evolution."

Those statements might serve a vital political purpose for the ambitious Perry, who is courting the right and far-right wing of his party, but they deny the truth on the one hand and defy widely accepted research on the other. A man who wants to be president, though, should stick to the truth. If he does not, someone will set him -- and the public -- straight.

It didn't take long after Perry made his statements about evolution for that to occur. A large number of individuals, including many from his own party and many with deep religious beliefs, quickly challenged his statement that evolution is "just a theory" and publicly contradicted his account of what is taught in Texas schools. In both instances, the challengers got it right.

They pointed out that decades of research into the fossil record and the human genome as well as related studies in other areas had produced an almost unassailable body of evidence to support the principle that all life on Earth arises from a common ancestor or gene pool. Consequently, most scientists now believe that evolution does occur. The only remaining questions are how and why it does. Perry obviously prefers to think otherwise.

His thinking, though, is not always clear and straightforward -- if his statement about what is taught in Texas schools is an example. Though he indicated that both creationism and evolution are taught in his state, the facts do not support his contention. Again, there's prima facie evidence to the contrary.

Texas, it turns out, does not teach creationism. Teachers can talk about creationism, but they can't teach it. David Bradley, a conservative member of the Texas Board of Education, told the Texas Tribune that "it [creationism] is not specifically in the Texas curriculum."

Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, agreed. She told the Tribune that "Texas science standards do not call for teaching creationism in the classroom." Reporting by Politfact.com, a Pulitzer Prize-winning website, supports the statements by Bradley and Miller.

If Perry is unwilling to acknowledge the preponderance of evidence that supports evolution and if his statements about what is taught in the schools of the state he governs is incorrect, the question, of course, is why he chose to answer the question in New Hampshire the way he did. The obvious answer is that Perry either is uninformed, or that he is willing to pursue any avenue, questionable as it might be, to promote his political prospects.

His pro-creationism stance should endear him to a significant segment of Republican voters who put what they believe to be political correctness and dogma ahead of national interest. Their votes -- particularly in a crowded primary field -- could turn the election Perry's way. The candidate clearly understands that.

Americans, regardless of their political preference, deserve better from presidential hopefuls. Broad discussions of policy issues, not sound bites that cater to the practitioners of political partisanship, would better serve the nation at a time when a variety of economic and social issues threaten the nation's equilibrium. Perry's grandstanding on evolution suggests that he fails to understand that.

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timbo said...

Harry, when you're right you're right . Although I'm a conservative , they views on evolution by rick perry basically disqualify him as a candidate for any office. His stance unscientific and should be repudiated . I'll make a deal , you religious people stay out of the science class and we scientists will stay out all the churches .

August 29, 2011 at 9:22 a.m.
conservative said...

It is obvious to me that this writer is an atheist. I do not deny him this right. Those who believe in evolution DO deny that God created the world and mankind - "In the beginning God created the heaven and earth". Many of these believers in evolution also want the mention of God removed from society and also bring up ridiculous claims of "settled science" in a poor attempt to make new converts. Again, they have the right to be atheists. Ultimately, either they are right, or God is right!

August 29, 2011 at 10:04 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

Not true-evolution is compatible with Christianity and every other monotheistic religion. The only groups that find evolution a problem are those that adhere to literal interpretation of religious text.

That you don't like evolution or believe it doesn't make it any less true.

August 29, 2011 at 12:32 p.m.
conservative said...

Ikeithlu, belief in God and evolution are not compatible. ALL scripture is given by inspirition of God. Genesis 1:1 is scripture and thus the word of God and states- "In the begginning God created the heaven and earth". Evolution denies that God created the world and mankind. These atheists by definition refuse to believe that God created the heaven and earth. Again, either atheists are right, or God is right!

August 29, 2011 at 6:29 p.m.
lkeithlu said...

You can believe in God and accept evolution as His way of providing the diversity of living organisms. Evolution does not address life's origins.

Many scientists, including evolutionary biologists, are deeply religious, not atheists.

See this site: http://www.clergyletterproject.net/

August 29, 2011 at 8:04 p.m.
EaTn said...

Does Rick Perry have some kind of health issue that keeps his mouth in the open position? Almost every photo I've seen has his mouth in the open position like he's trying to catch flies.

August 29, 2011 at 8:39 p.m.
ceeweed said...

Perry's belief that self appointed "prophets" should have domain over our entire government is scary and very hard core. How is his crazy notion any different than that of the Taliban? Perry would do better starting his own T.V. ministry, he already has the hair for it.

August 29, 2011 at 9:05 p.m.
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