One of the more annoying fictions promoted by the media is the one about John McCain being a moderate. A plain-speaking independent who states it plain and calls it the way he sees it. Of course, it’s long been obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention that he’s a staunch right-winger, but don’t tell that to any of the drooling sycophants who host cable news chat shows. The idea that McCain was some sort free-spirit should have been allayed by the sickening spectacle of his embrace of the President in the 2004 campaign. This is the same President who won the 2000 South Carolina primary only by virtue of a disgusting smear campaign against McCain. But on the off chance that you still find anything to admire in the political career of John McCain, have a look at this article from the New York Sun.

Consider the following excerpt, describing the Q&A following McCain’s presentation to the Manhattan Institute:

Mr. McCain, who delivered his prepared remarks in an even, almost perfunctory manner, was at his best in the question and answer session that followed. Responding to a question about a report that he thinks “intelligent design” should be taught in schools, the senator mocked the idea that American young people were so delicate and impressionable that they needed to be sheltered from the concept, which says God had a hand in creation and which has been challenged by Darwinists as unscientific.

“Shhh, you shouldn’t tell them,” he said, mimicking those who would shield children from the fact that some people believe in intelligent design. The former prisoner of war said he also disagreed with Cold War-era efforts to prevent Marxist-Leninism from being taught in schools, saying it was better for Americans to understand their enemy. He noted that he didn’t say that intelligent design needed to be taught in “science class,” leaving unclear exactly what class he thought it should be taught in. He said he believed local school boards, not the federal government, should determine curricula.

“From a personal standpoint, I believe in evolution,” Mr. McCain said. At the same time, he said, “When I stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon and I see the sun going down, I believe the hand of God was there.”

I will revise my opinion of McCain if he seriously meant to imply that the ID folks are the enemies of America in the same way that Soviet style Communism was an enemy during the Cold War. But somehow I don’t think that was his point.

Basically, here we see McCain trying to play all sides of the issue. He begins by aping the creationist talking point that we dogmatic evolutionists are afraid of exposing students to rival ideas. Then he tries to present himself as a courageous, open-minded, present all sides free-thinker. Having thrown a bone to the idiot wing of the party, he then backtracks and says that he never said that ID should be presented in science classes (which, we note, is not the same thing as saying that ID should not be presented in science classes). As the reporter duly notes, he also does not say where he thinks this should be taught. Then he switches gears again, saying the issue is really local control. (That’s a political euphemism for: Please don’t make me take a clear stand on this controversial issue. Discoursing about who ought to decide an issue is a standard way of avoiding having to take a stand.)

And then, just so we don’t think he’s totally in bed with the religious right, he tells us that actually he “believes in” evolution. That’s something, I suppose. But wait! He’s also a deeply spiritual guy. He sees the hand of God in a pretty sunset, after all.

I’ll say it again. “Pro-science Republican&rdquo is an oxymoron. Find me one Republican Presidential hopeful who will defend quality science education and I will revise my view.

Incidentally, in light of my previous post, we shouldn’t let slip the reporter’s statement that Darwinists dismiss ID because it is unscientific. It really drives me wild that this meme is so widespread.

Comments

  1. #1 J. J. Ramsey
    July 19, 2006

    “Incidentally, in light of my previous post, we shouldn’t let slip the reporter’s statement that Darwinists dismiss ID because it is unscientific. It really drives me wild that this meme is so widespread.”

    But isn’t ID unscientific? I mean it is pseudoscience, after all.

  2. #2 SLC
    July 19, 2006

    I would also point out that Senator McCain is one of the staunchest supporters of Israel in the Senate. Contrast his support with the Jewish Israel bashers like Senator Boxer of California.

  3. #3 Randy
    July 19, 2006

    I actually agree that ID should be taught in schools – just NOT in science classes.

    We have the opportunity to vote for School Board members. As a society we need to understand why things like ID should not be taught in science classes and why things like Holocaust denial should not be taught in history classes.

    I believe that the best way to teach ID would be to review Judge Jones’ decision in a Political Science or Social Studies class.

  4. #4 Sean Cunniff
    July 19, 2006

    I guess the only real hope for a “pro-science Republican” is Michael Bloomberg. Of course, I imagine that many Republicans don’t truly consider him one of their own.

  5. #5 John Pieret
    July 19, 2006

    Here is another example from a while back where McCain said:

    “I think Americans should be exposed to every point of view,” he said. “I happen to believe in evolution. … I respect those who think the world was created in seven days. Should it be taught as a science class? Probably not.”

    If he keeps going off in so many directions at once he won’t just lose his reputation (desrved or not) for being a “straight-talker,” he’ll do himself a physical injury.

  6. #6 Dom
    July 20, 2006

    What exactly is wrong with McCain’s statement? He believes decisions should be in the hands of the school board. If they decide to teach ID, then he says it should not be a part of science. And he finds nature awe-inspiring.

    Maybe we should take a survey on what is already taught in colleges. We will find astrology, alchemy, feminist-everything (-sociology, -biology, even -mathematics at some colleges). ID is a piker compared to some of these.

    And, like J.J. Ramsey I’m a little confused about the “meme” that ID is unscientific.

  7. #7 Dom
    July 20, 2006

    Okay, I just read the previous post (should have done that before), and I guess I understand why you think ID should not be attacked as unscientific. It’s a point that went over my head. I’m not sure why you think it’s an important point, though. Frankly, I would take the opposite approach. If you say it is wrong, you just send them out looking for other “facts”. Better to just tell them the entire approach is misguided, and then be done with it.

    Just my $.02

  8. #8 ckerst
    July 22, 2006

    If we need to expose children to every point of view let’s have a class on satanism. The reason not every topic is taught is because some, like ID are a waste of time. Parents have plenty of time after school and weekends to fill their kids heads full of nonsense.

  9. #9 m
    July 22, 2006

    I don’t care for McCain, nor can I find any respect for the reasoning powers of a creationist, nor do I think that ID should be taught with taxpayer dollars. That said, I agree with McCain that it is better to have the locals, rather than the Feds decide what is taught in classrooms. Bush43 has proved this with his abstinence programs, idiocy about condoms not protecting from disease, and so on. It is better to have a small number of schools teaching the inane, than to risk the Feds deciding that all schools must teach “that which can not be so.”

  10. #10 JohnE
    July 22, 2006

    In theory I guess I agree with McCain. Why not teach kids about the social conflict between the creationists and science?

    But – you know where the creationist crazies would steer and critique such a class to. Implementing his idea would be a real mess. His open solution to this seems politically naieve. I don’t think it helps him either. When they see “I happen to believe in evolution” they will not pay attention to another word.

  11. #11 Atheista
    July 22, 2006

    The dilemma here is that, if you allow Washington to dictate wht gets taught in public schools, the Republicans would have inserted ID to science class by now. On the other hand, if local school boards decide, you will have ID taught in the south but not up north. There must be independant standards which can be enforced through the courts.
    ID was presented as an alternative theory to evolution. It fails in that regard. Therefore there is no reason to teach it in ANY public school classroom. It has no merit under any subject. If you believe it should be taught in history or social studies class, you could make the same argument for Bigfoot. Schools don’t have time for that kind of nonsense.

  12. #12 Nate
    July 22, 2006

    I don’t think that ID should be taught in public school in any subject/class.

    What should it displace? With the school day so packed, with education that is so challenging, in what class or subject should ID be scheduled and what makes way for it?

    How much time for it, how is understanding of ID assessed? If students come out of class “believing” in ID and discounting creation does that earn them an A or would you have ID taught so students understand it as fallacy? If fallacy, then why waste the time of such a packed education system that needs to focus on the realities of language, math, science, social studies, arts, and physical fitness?

    If universities can support, through enrollment, the presenation of courses about ID and other such things, let them–universities are applied to, something that people make a choice to attend while public school is something that everyone does and everyone should have a somewhat related experience there.

    There is a place for teaching about such beliefs as ID–the church. Leave it to those institutions (and to private religious schools) to fill in whatever they construe as missing from the regular public school curriculum.

  13. #13 tsynnott
    July 22, 2006

    Request of Dom: Please identify one institution of higher learning that includes alchemy and atrology in its curricula. As for feminist-this and feminist-that reducing ID to pikerdom, please be serious. It’s silly to equate fisticuffs between critical theorists with the very real effort to promote scientific illiteracy and magical thinking in the public elementary and secondary school systems.

  14. #14 wah
    July 22, 2006

    I believe that the best way to teach ID would be to review Judge Jones’ decision in a Political Science or Social Studies class.

    Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winnah. Anyone who reads through his entire opinion will understand what ID is, why the SCOTUS has already ruled against it being taught in school (i.e. the first amendment to the Constitution), and how low “Christians” will go to force it on others (that word in quotes because I don’t think they are very good representatives).

  15. #15 fmrgop
    July 22, 2006

    Can we officially bury the term “Moderate Repubican”? There is no such thing.

  16. #16 deep6
    July 22, 2006

    To steal a phrase from Judith Hayes, the real argument here is not between evolution and creationism. The argument here is between evolution and the “divinely” inspired “knowlege” of how the universe and earth were created… according to the belief system of every other religion out there. If we were to teach intelligent design as a comparable theory to evolution, we would also have to teach the ancient greek “theory” of how the world evolved from chaos, and native american tribal “theories” of how the earth was formed, druid “theory” and so on. Once you give face time to a christian doctrine you have to give equal time to all the others, or else that would be an unconstitutional promotion of religion by government.

    I heard somewhere that the high school dropout rate is alarmingly high. I think it’s much more important that students have the basic science, reading and math skills to get through life, along with some critical thinking ability and knowledge of US history. I would love it if every student were highly motivated to excel, there were unlimited funds for school districts, and the school day were easily arranged to support multiple subjects with lots of in-class time for getting work done (avoiding homework) but that just isn’t the case. There are priorities here. In my ideal world we’d have time for a comparative world religions class, where all sorts of different ideologies would be discussed without teacher bias, so that students could put regionally dominant religions like protestantism (and their sects) on equal footing with, say, shintoism. I would be interested to see how that would affect their religious beliefs.

    As for McCain’s statements… He’s right about the federal vs local school district thing, but only to a point. The degree of control over education is typically a matter of state law, with rights guaranteed by state constitutions. Because many states still have systems funded by property taxes there’s lots of local control over funding and how that affects school quality. And yeah, the school boards obviously differ on matters of curricula focus. I think he’s a bad actor. He’s clearly a conservative on fiscal policy but he’s probably a somewhat intelligent guy who realizes he has to cater to his crazy fundie base to win elections so he has to come out with ridiculous statements like this….

  17. #17 El Payo
    July 22, 2006

    I believe in evolution,” Mr. McCain said. At the same time, he said, “When I stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon and I see the sun going down, I believe the hand of God was there.”

    Um, John? Sounds like you believe in erosion.

  18. #18 Mark Borok
    July 22, 2006

    1) Just the fact that he stated his belief in evolution should make him persona-non-grata with the fundamentalists.

    2) Even the people at the Discovery Institute (those creationists who actually know something about science) have stated that ID should not be taught in schools because, basically, there is nothing there to base a curriculum on.

    As for John McCain; yeah, he’s a politician. I’m sure he enjoys being a maverick, but he would enjoy being elected president a lot more.

  19. #19 ent lord
    July 22, 2006

    I can remember when local school boards reigned supreme and their decisions were as momentous as if Moses had hand delivered them personally. These same school boards also established a dual school system, based upon race and Separate but (never really) Equal doctrine. If not for the fed’s intervention, that system would still be in effect today. (as a matter of de jure, not the present day de facto system of segregation)
    Some decisions are too important to be left to the locals of Dogpatch, USA

  20. #20 DWS
    July 22, 2006

    Barbara Boxer is no Jewish/Israel basher, as SLC posts. As a Jewish Californian, I can personally attest to the fact that Boxer is very supportive of the Jewish community, and of the right of Israel to exist in peace.

    Just because somebody disagrees with your position on an issue, SLC, does NOT make them a “basher”.

    I can also tell you that there is a divide in opinion even WITHIN THE JEWISH COMMUNITY as to the moral justification of the current military action. Does that make these Jewish skeptics “anti-Jewish” as well?

    PLEASE keep your ad hominem attacks OFF this blog, and stick to facts.

  21. #21 DWS
    July 22, 2006

    fmrgop: There IS such a thing as a moderate Republican (think Lincoln Chaffey, Olympia Snow, Michael Bloomberg). It’s just that John McCain is not one of them!

  22. #22 Zifnab
    July 22, 2006

    “The dilemma here is that, if you allow Washington to dictate wht gets taught in public schools, the Republicans would have inserted ID to science class by now. On the other hand, if local school boards decide, you will have ID taught in the south but not up north.”

    Then so be it. If school A, full of two-thousand screaming religious nuts, is hell-bent on teaching ID then you’re wasting your time fighting them. In that sense, I think McCain is thinking with a clear {politician’s) head.

    But, whatever else may be said about the validity or pseudoness of ID, it’s fairly concentual that this is a very new field of study. And like many new and unproven fields of study, one questions the wisdom of teaching it at the elementry and middle school level.

    You wouldn’t teach a comprehensive course String Theory to an 8-year-old, or try to explain somatic cell nuclear transfers involved in the cloning process. Or if you did, you certainly wouldn’t mandate said teachings at the national level. You wouldn’t require a student in middle school to work on Knot Theory or Ramsey Theory or risk losing federal funding. Why would you mandate that he study such a new and untested field as ID?

  23. #23 Padraig
    July 22, 2006

    Well, I won’t vote for him anyway, but I am glad to see a politician bring up marxism as a legitimate branch of social science. Nonetheless, the wires are showing in McCain’s attempt to be a man for all seasons.

  24. #24 Paul in LA
    July 22, 2006

    ” “When I stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon and I see the sun going down,”

    ‘I take a second and realize that we now know that the earth is turning — the sun is not ‘going down.’

    “Um, John? Sounds like you believe in erosion.”

    And UPLIFT. Don’t forget uplift.

    Honorable McCain: ‘Ah believe that all strata of our society deserve uplift to counter the erosion of American principles intrinsic to the policies of the neocons. For that reason, I would like to announce that I no longer believe in the God that told GFH Bush, the Liar-in-Chief, to attack a disarmed country, build four massive permanent airbases in total disregard of the UN charter, and a Citadel that would make Alexander proud.

    “If God told Bush to do those things, he ain’t my God. The God that advises genocide is no God of mine, nor the Grand Canyon.’

  25. #25 bartcopfan
    July 24, 2006

    fmrgop: There IS such a thing as a moderate Republican (think Lincoln Chaffey, Olympia Snow, Michael Bloomberg). It’s just that John McCain is not one of them!

    How many of W’s 99+ percent of approved judicial appointments did the so-called moderates stop, or even attempt to? I can’t think of one….

    Years ago I suggested changing the term Moderate Republican to Doormat Republican. They aren’t red-meaters–I’ll give them that–but they enable the ones that are. True Moderate Repubs are extinct.

  26. #26 Peter
    August 29, 2006

    he then backtracks and says that he never said that ID should be presented in science classes (which, we note, is not the same thing as saying that ID should not be presented in science classes).

    That’s got to be a typo, shouldn’t it be:

    he then backtracks and says that he never said that ID should be taught in science classes (which, we note, is not the same thing as saying that ID should not be presented in science classes).

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