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.
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.”
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.
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?).