Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Matthew Boudway, associated editor of the Catholic magazine Commonweal, explains again why the evolution question matters in presidential politics — and why it should matter to Christians as well.

Maybe there are sophisticated conservatives who can disregard Perry’s blithe denials of evolution, on the grounds that his views on the matter can have no conceivable effect on a Perry presidency, but Christians of all political stripes ought to be concerned that Perry and Bachmann are at their most brazenly anti-intellectual when appealing to religious voters. To those who ask, “Who cares what Perry thinks about Intelligent Design — who cares what any politician thinks about it?” the obvious answer is: What’s important is that Perry show some sign of having thought about claims he pretends to take so seriously. A candidate who appears thoughtlessly sure that most scientists are wrong about evolution is unlikely to be sufficiently thoughtful about other things a president needs to think about (for example, the science of climate change, which Perry has dismissed with an infantile conspiracy theory). A habit of thoughtlessness is not so easy to segregate.


He also quotes Leon Wieseltier on Rick Perry’s transparently political use of religion:

The most repellent aspect of The Response is its hypocritical notion of repentance. What, precisely, is Perry sorry for? He and his lot hardly believe that they are the cause of the moral decline that they deplore. They wish to rid the country of the sins of other people, of the sins of people unlike themselves. The Response is not an exercise in self-examination. It is an exercise in self-congratulation. If it were anything else, then Perry might have pondered, say, the reverence for the rich and the indifference to the poor, the contemporary Republican project of pushing a camel through the eye of a needle, and been rattled in the manner of the penitent.

These are all dog whistles, of course. They function like one of those Jesus fish on the back of one’s car, as a tribal symbol that says “I’m one of you.” And in Republican politics, there is no risk in such gestures at all.