In last night’s Republican candidates debate, the topic of evolution was briefly mentioned. As I discussed here, McCain said plainly that he “believed in” evolution, but then quickly qualified his answer by adding that he also believed in God. Three other candidates (Brownback, Huckabee, and Tancredo) raised their hands when asked to affirm their lack of belief in evolution.

IHere are some responses I’ve found around the web. I’ll present them without comment.

From Jonah Goldberg at National Review:

I know there are Intelligent Design fans among our readers, but I found the string of hands going up from candidates last night admitting they didn’t believe in evolution to be more than a little dismaying. I’m sure they had very intelligent, nuanced, explanations. But that doesn’t help that much as far as I’m concerned.

From BBC News:

Two odd moments – the first on the subject of evolution.

Three of the candidates indicated that they did not believe in it.

None is a front-runner but even so there will be American scientists who will feel deeply depressed that serious politicians in 2007 can be disputing the entire thrust of modern knowledge about how the world was formed and how it, well, evolved.

Here’s Mike Huckabee, as reported by Fox News, clarifying his hand raise:

Huckabee said if given a chance to elaborate on the question from MSNBC moderator Chris Matthews, he would have responded: “If you want to believe that you and your family came from apes, I’ll accept that….I believe there was a creative process.”

Huckabee said he has no problem with teaching evolution as a theory in the public schools and he doesn’t expect schools to teach creationism.

“We shouldn’t indoctrinate kids in school,” he said. “I wouldn’t want them teaching creationism as if it’s the only thing that they should teach.”

Also, students should be given credit for having the intelligence to think through various theories for themselves and come to their own conclusions, he said.

He said it was his responsibility to teach his children his beliefs though he could accept that others believe in evolution.

“I believe that there is a God and that he put the process in motion,” Huckabee said.

The former Arkansas governor said about the evolution question: “I’m not sure what in the world that has to do with being president of the United States.”

From Arianna Huffington:

Last night on Anderson Cooper 360, Anderson Cooper asked David Gergen, the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes, and me to pick our headline for the GOP debate. A Competition to See Who Could Be the Biggest Neanderthal was mine. The Republican Ten seemed to be competing over: Who would stay in Iraq the longest? Who would cut taxes the deepest? Who would be alright with firing gay Americans from their jobs? Who would jump the highest if Roe v. Wade was reversed? Who would build the biggest fence around America? Who would put an end to stem cell research the fastest? Who would reject evolution most passionately? Stephen Hayes countered that it was a good night for Republicans if they were called Neanderthals by Arianna Huffington. But the problem for the Republican Party as it presented itself to the nation last night is not that it was at odds with my views, but that it is at odds with the views of the American people. By significant majorities, the American people believe in the science of evolution, don’t want Roe overturned, don’t want to turn back the clock on job discrimination laws, and do want to bring our troops home from Iraq.

Flashing back to the Reagan era is one thing; flashing back to the Dark Ages is quite another.

From the CNN segment mentioned in the previous quote. Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard is responding to host Anderson Cooper’s question about whether anyone saw who, exactly, raised his hand:

HAYES: No, but you know what Anderson, I would say that I don’t think necessarily that they were saying no, they don’t believe in evolution, rather I think they were raising their hands to say hey, I have something to say about this.

COOPER: Mm Hmm.

HUFFINGTON: No, no, no, I’m sorry, but they were asked categorically whether they believed in evolution so, I think, and they raised their hand, um, so I don’t think you can assume they meant to say something else.

From the blog of The Washington Post:

But one of the strangest moments of the night came when the candidates were asked about evolution. The question was put directly to McCain, who answered with a simple “yes” before adding, “I believe in evolution. But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also.”

Then all of the candidates were asked to indicate which of them DO NOT believe in evolution. Huckabee, Brownback and Tancredo each raised a hand. But that was it — the debate moved on — no follow up question and no chance for the candidates to qualify their answers or not.

In retrospect, it seems astounding that three candidates, 30 percent of the Republican presidential field, said flat out they do not believe in evolution, without any further queries or explanation on the subject.

From Andrew Sullivan:

McCain was easily the strongest on spending (although, of course, my softest spot on that front was for Ron Paul). He also forthrightly supported evolution which puts him in the ranks of sane Republicans, unlike three others (or did I count right? Who were they?).

Comments

  1. #1 infamous
    May 4, 2007

    You wrote:

    “As I discussed here, evolution said plainly that he “believed in” evolution, but then quickly qualified his answer by adding that he also believed in God.”

    “…evolution said plainly…” you should fix that. I think you mean McCain.

  2. #2 infamous
    May 4, 2007

    “The former Arkansas governor said about the evolution question: ‘I’m not sure what in the world that has to do with being president of the United States.’”

    …wow. “I don’t know what my views on science education have to do with being President.” Idiot.

  3. #3 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 4, 2007

    infamous-

    Thanks for the heads-up. The error has been corrected.

  4. #4 Wes
    May 4, 2007

    “The former Arkansas governor said about the evolution question: ‘I’m not sure what in the world that has to do with being president of the United States.’”

    …wow. “I don’t know what my views on science education have to do with being President.” Idiot.

    Yup.

    If someone running for president said that the Sun revolves around the Earth and diseases are caused by demonic possession, I’m sure he’d see why that might be just a bit of a problem, and make people wonder if he’s qualified.

    If Huckabee can’t understand why people might be concerned about an evolution-denier being president, then that’s just one more reason why he shouldn’t be president.

  5. #5 Robert O'Brien
    May 4, 2007

    By significant majorities, the American people believe in the science of evolution…

    That’s news to me.

  6. #6 Ick of the East
    May 4, 2007

    Funny, but I see the hand of God not at sunset at the Grand Canyon, but at noon over Darfur.

    Maybe that’s why I don’t believe.

    If the Big Guy is everywhere, why is it believers can only see him in the nice spots?
    .

  7. #7 PC
    May 4, 2007

    To bad its a popularity contest. I think if they were not concerned with what people were thinking there would of been a few more hands raised when asked who does not believe in evolution.

  8. #8 Crudely Wrott
    May 4, 2007

    Seems the question concerning “belief” in evolution got about as much meaningful follow-up as any other question in this quiz show masquerading as a debate. Piffle and Ptui! In name only, I say. But not a total waste in that this misbegotten photo-op merely proves that there is little knowledge, little relevancy and nearly no originality to be found in modern TeeVee politics. And that is such a damned shame.

    Instant communication devolved to mass marketing. Oh, my people.

  9. #9 Vyoma
    May 5, 2007

    Unpacking Mike Huckabee’s “clarification” of his position here, too.

  10. #10 harold
    May 5, 2007

    A significant majority of Americans accept evolution – Huffington is correct.

    It is true that if Americans are asked whether they believe in HUMAN evolution, it’s usually approximately a tie with “God created humans in their present form”. And the proportion who say “evolution and God had nothing to do with it” is very low.

    But presenting the “God created humans…” choice grossly biases the poll (intentionally so, in most cases, in my view). Americans have a very strong social desirability bias, in polls, to claim religious observation, and avoid denying religious statements.

    When Americans are asked whether plants or bacteria have evolved their present forms, or were created directly by God, a large majority chooses evolution. (Interestingly, about 70% – the same as the proportion of Republican candidates who either answered the question honestly or sat there quietly.)

    All school boards that have tried to strip evolution from curricula have been voted out at the first opportunity – and such boards have only been elected in rural, “conservative” areas in the first place. They have been voted out after court defeats (Dover 2006) but also without court defeats (Kansas 2000).

    American popular culture is full of references to evolution, extinction, dinosaurs, prehistoric humans, hominids, etc.

    There is no reason to think that evolution denial is the majority posistion in the US.

  11. #11 Robert O'Brien
    May 5, 2007

    harold:

    You are correct in that how evolution is defined influences the response. If one were to conduct a survey asking if allele frequencies change over time, then I suspect a high percentage would answer in the affirmative.

  12. #12 Jkrehbielp
    May 6, 2007

    This morning on Meet the Press (I think) one of the comments was to the effect that this embarrasses us to the rest of the world. One of the panel members immediately asked “How does believing in God embarrass us?”

    Not to directly answer the question :-) , but the point I want to make is that believing that the world is flat is not the same as believing in God. A limited and narrow-minded view of what it means to be religious does everyone a disservice. My biology students frequently say that all science teachers must be atheists, becuase that is the crap they are told in church.

  13. #13 Scholar
    May 6, 2007

    That Huckabee sounds like a snuggly hugable teddy bear. I wonder what he is REALLY like.

  14. #14 Lauren the Fish
    May 7, 2007

    Jkrehbielp -

    “…believing that the world is flat is not the same as believing in God.”

    Actually, for our purposes here, yes it is.

    Not only are both beliefs in things for which there is zero factual, objective evidence – in point of fact, both beliefs stand in direct contradiction to all known evidence.

    Which makes them, in this context, very much the same.

  15. #15 KeithB
    May 7, 2007

    Here is the straight dope about public attitudes towards evolution:
    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/061110.html

  16. #16 Fastlane
    May 7, 2007

    A minor nitpick, but the DOver school board was actually voted out before Judge Jones issued his decision. The election was after the trial, but before the ruling.

    Cheers.

  17. #17 matt
    May 7, 2007

    If one were to conduct a survey asking if allele frequencies change over time, then I suspect a high percentage would answer “Huh?”

  18. #18 Paul Sunstone
    May 8, 2007

    I suspect anyone who can deny the fact of evolution can deny any other aspect of reality on the basis of whatever whim he feels, and thus should not be president.

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