The Republicans on Evolution

There were a number of interesting tidbits in the Republican candidates debate tonight. There was the spectacle of Mitt Romney desperately trying to explain away his flip-flop on abortion. There was the stampede to declare embryonic stem-cell research immoral and unnecessary, culminating with Colorado representative Tom Tancredo’s declaration that such research is “reprehensible.” But the one that really caught my ear was the brief discussion of evolution.

John McCain was asked directly, “Do you believe in evolution?”

The answer, after a brief pause, was a simple, if somewhat uncomfortable, Yes.


At this point Chris Matthews asked the ten candidates as a group to raise their hand if they did not believe in evolution. Kansas senator Sam Brownback raised his hand very quickly, closely followed by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. A moment later, after hesitating to see how many other people would raise their hands, came Tom Tancredo. No one else raised his hand.

At this point, McCain decided that he’d better embellish his answer a bit. So he said, “I believe in evolution, but I also believe that when I hike the Grand Canyon and see a sunset that the hand of God is there also.”

Translation: Whoops! I might have offended religious voters. Better throw in some canned, cliched, insincere remark about God.

I was a bit surprised that former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore and California representative Duncan Hunter didn’t raise their hands. They’re pretty right-wing. But I’m sure people like Rudy Giuliani and former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson have no problem with evolution, and were probably just happy the question went away as quickly as it did.

When a transcript of the debate appears online, we’ll have a look at some of the other interesting bits.

Comments

  1. #1 mark
    May 4, 2007

    I’m glad you included McCain’s qualifier–in the clip I saw (from Crooks and Liars) I could just hear McCain begin, which left me wonder how he was going to waffle. If the question had been, “Do you support teaching of intelligent design/alternatives to evolution/strengths & weaknesses/&c. in public schools, I’d guess all hands would have gone up.

  2. #2 James McGrath
    May 4, 2007

    I wonder if we do more harm than good as far as science education is concerned in politicizing evolution along the right vs. left lines. I think there are far more supporters of evolution both among Republicans (many of whom are on that side of the spectrum for economic reasons rather than because of their adherence to conservative Christian values) and clergy (many of whom, like the Republicans, would likewise answer ‘yes’ to the evolution question but be concerned about their place in their denomination, the support of their congregation, etc. Lots of educated people (including, not least, science teachers) are being bullied by a poorly-informed public on whom they depend for their salaries into keeping quiet about evolution. What can we do to help change this situation?

    http://blue.butler.edu/~jfmcgrat/blog/

  3. #3 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    May 4, 2007

    I wonder if we do more harm than good as far as science education is concerned in politicizing evolution along the right vs. left lines.

    What you mean “we”, Kimosabe?

  4. #4 Dan
    May 4, 2007

    At least we have a majority of GOPers that understand logic and science to a degree. The guys who raised their hands should be embarrassed.

    Thanks for the breakdown.

  5. #5 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    May 4, 2007

    Huckabee explains his views on evolution

    LITTLE ROCK – Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on Friday sought to explain why he doesn’t believe in evolution, saying he is not opposed to teaching Darwin’s theory.

    Huckabee, in a conference call with reporters, complained that the debate format didn’t give him a chance to elaborate on his views about evolution.

    “And the main thing … I’m not sure what in the world that has to do with being president of the United States,” said the former Arkansas governor.

  6. #6 PC
    May 4, 2007

    I’m glad some politicians had the guts to support Intelligent design. The complexity that we find in molecular biology does not support chance being the reason for life

  7. #7 Jonathan Vos Post
    May 4, 2007

    Of all the questions asked at this so-called debate, this is the one that most demanded a follow-up question.

    I hope that in the second GOP Candidates so-called debate, the third question is asked:

    “Of those 3 of you who, in the first debate, raised their hand if they did not believe in evolution, why do you not believe in evolution, and do you believe in gravity? And, of the those 7 of you who, in the first debate, did NOT raise their hand if they did not believe in evolution, how can we save our education system in the face of such abyssal ignorance from party leaders?”

  8. #8 Sam Lewis
    May 4, 2007

    PC, ID wasn’t brought up, so no one was supporting it. Can you support your assertion that evolutionary theory doesn’t explain biological diversity? Please don’t use examples that have been debunked hundreds of times.

  9. #9 invest07
    May 4, 2007

    There are far too many holes in evolutionary theory. There should be virtually no unresolved issues after 150 years.
    1. There is still an embarassing absence of transitional forms. According to evolutionary theory, almost every fossil should show signs of transition. Instead the number of transitional fossils is way under 2% and the number of undisputed transitional fossils is considerably less than 1%.
    2. Speciation has never been observed in the wild and has never occurred in the lab. Experiments have been done with drysophila for over 100 years and thousands of generations. No benefical mutation has ever been observed and every mutated fruit fly is still clearly a fruit fly.
    3. No plausible scenario has been proposed for first life. If oxygen was present in the prebiotic atmosphere, carbon and hydrogen bond with oxygen and amino acids do not form. If there was no oxygen in the prebiotic atmosphere, then there would be no O2 and levels of UV radiation would be fatal. Either scenario results in no life.
    These are only 3 objections to current evolutionary theory. There are 70 to 80 others that are equally valid.
    Any theory that has been around for 150 years shouldn’t have any legitimate unresolved problems.

  10. #10 tomh
    May 4, 2007

    Sam Lewis wrote:
    Please don’t use examples that have been debunked hundreds of times.

    There are no others, as shown by the post of invest07.

  11. #11 Tyler DiPietro
    May 4, 2007

    Corresponding to invest07′s claims, here are refutations that anyone familiar with TalkOrigins (or Google) can find:

    One
    Two
    Three

    “Any theory that has been around for 150 years shouldn’t have any legitimate unresolved problems.”

    Yeah, like gravity. Biologists should consult physicists on the fact that gravity has no extant unresolved problems, fitting in nicely with the standard model of quantum mechanics and all. Sheesh.

  12. #12 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    May 4, 2007

    There are 70 to 80 others that are equally valid.

    Ha! He let a true statement slip through.

    Any theory that has been around for 150 years shouldn’t have any legitimate unresolved problems.

    How long was Newton’s formulation of gravity around before Einstein introduced relativity?

  13. #13 Gerard Harbison
    May 4, 2007

    It was great that the GOPers were asked if they believe in evolution. I look forward to the Dems being asked the same question.

  14. #14 Tyler DiPietro
    May 4, 2007

    “It was great that the GOPers were asked if they believe in evolution. I look forward to the Dems being asked the same question.”

    Oh, burn!

    But in all seriousness, I hope that that happens. That way we can see just who among them is most likely to pander to the evangelical nutjobs (under the recommendation of evangelical nutjob Jim Wallis, no doubt).

  15. #15 Tyler DiPietro
    May 4, 2007

    By the way Jason, I have a comment in the moderation queue. Just letting you know, as I posted it a while ago and it hasn’t shown up yet.

  16. #16 Jason Rosenhouse
    May 4, 2007

    Tyler-

    Thanks for the heads-up. Comments are supposed to go up automatically, so I often forget to check the moderation queue . It’s possible that you left too many comments in quick succession, which might be why your comment got moved to the queue.

  17. #17 duncan buell
    May 4, 2007

    “Any theory that has been around for 150 years shouldn’t have any legitimate unresolved problems.”

    Phlogiston, anyone?

    Michelson-Morley?

    “Fermat’s last theorem?”

  18. #18 DragonScholar
    May 4, 2007

    There are far too many holes in evolutionary theory. There should be virtually no unresolved issues after 150 years.

    1) Who determined the time limit on a theory explaining everything.
    2) Same old arguments. Heard them before. Do some research.

  19. #19 hardindr
    May 4, 2007

    McCain has written about his beliefs concerning evolution in his book, Character Is Destiny. You can read some excerpts here.

  20. #20 Ed Darrell
    May 4, 2007

    I wonder if we do more harm than good as far as science education is concerned in politicizing evolution along the right vs. left lines.

    Why shouldn’t we press candidates to tell the truth — and how is it ever harmful to hear guys like McCain acknowledge that evolution is good, solid science?

  21. #21 coachtrenks
    May 4, 2007

    Does anyone else have a problem with how the question was worded? I don’t beleive in the Theory of Evolution. It’s not something one can beleive in. It is simply the best explaination of the data, and it provides the only framework that encompasses all of biology, with correct predictive ability. I don’t have to beleive in it. Logic tells me that it is the right framework.

    Belief and logic generally refer to two different modes of thought.
    If the question arises in the next Dem debate, I would hope that is how such a question would be answered.

  22. #22 realpc
    May 4, 2007

    “Better throw in some canned, cliched, insincere remark about God.”

    Stupid, idiodic, moronic, brainless jerks. Making remarks about God, at a time like this when every smart person should know better.

  23. #23 Gerard Harbison
    May 5, 2007

    We shouldn’t get too finicky on this. I believe the sun will rise tomorrow. I believe John Edwards got rich pushing a scientifically discredited theory of cerebral palsy, driving NC obstetricians out of business. I believe in the theory of evolution.

  24. #24 Raith
    May 5, 2007

    There are far too many holes in evolutionary theory. There should be virtually no unresolved issues after 150 years.
    1. There is still an embarassing absence of transitional forms. According to evolutionary theory, almost every fossil should show signs of transition. Instead the number of transitional fossils is way under 2% and the number of undisputed transitional fossils is considerably less than 1%.
    2. Speciation has never been observed in the wild and has never occurred in the lab. Experiments have been done with drysophila for over 100 years and thousands of generations. No benefical mutation has ever been observed and every mutated fruit fly is still clearly a fruit fly.
    3. No plausible scenario has been proposed for first life. If oxygen was present in the prebiotic atmosphere, carbon and hydrogen bond with oxygen and amino acids do not form. If there was no oxygen in the prebiotic atmosphere, then there would be no O2 and levels of UV radiation would be fatal. Either scenario results in no life.
    These are only 3 objections to current evolutionary theory. There are 70 to 80 others that are equally valid.
    Any theory that has been around for 150 years shouldn’t have any legitimate unresolved problems

    what i find funny about this post is that 2 out of 3 of his arguments are debunked on a CREATIONIST website.. http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/faq/dont_use.asp before spouting off about evolutionary theory, learn a little about it. speciation is a FACT, its been observed and documented. transitional forms are a FACT, hundreds exist.. contesting even a majority of them doesnt dispell the fact that the ones you cant contend with exist.

  25. #25 kevin
    May 5, 2007

    It seems that PC is a troll who posts clips of many-times-debunked attacks on the TOE.

    He really does not care if the claims are true or not. Its just to yank our collective chain.

    Since this a about political chain yanking I don’t have a big issue with it.

  26. #26 QrazyQat
    May 5, 2007

    There are no obstetricians in NC? Okay, I’ll take that bet. And since we know that lawsuits account for less than 1% of medical costs (and was cut in half during the 1990s, to less than 1/2 of 1%) then any obstetricians who did leave, or any insurance companies who upped their price more than 1% as a result of an Edawards case, is a complete idiot wou don’t want anywhere near your healthcare decisions.

    Thank you for your concern (troll).

  27. #27 joebmw
    May 5, 2007

    why do males have nipples on their chest?

  28. #28 Ed Darrell
    May 5, 2007

    I believe John Edwards got rich pushing a scientifically discredited theory of cerebral palsy, driving NC obstetricians out of business.

    I prefer to remember that among John Edwards’ larger awards was the one he won for the little girl who had her bowels sucked out by the swimming pool pump. A fix for the machine cost about $3.00, but the manufacturers and installers had managed to avoid paying for any of the hundreds of people who had their guts literally sucked out, until Edwards was the plaintiff’s attorney. Truth wins, sometimes, in a fair fight.

    This site, by the way, suggests there are a fair number of obstetricians practicing in North Carolina today:
    http://www.ucomparehealthcare.com/drs/north_carolina/obstetrics_and_gynecology/

    And one wonders if the post means to imply that John Edwards was so supernaturally effective in his law practice that his suing obstetricians in North Carolina rippled out to reduce the supply of obstetricians nationwide, since every other state suffered from exactly the same types of problems at exactly the same time. If so, he is certainly the man to vote as president. His legal fu could probably, all by itself, hunt down Osama bin Laden and deliver him to Chuck Norris, guaranteeing we’d be rid of one bother or the other, if not both.

  29. #29 Robert O'Brien
    May 5, 2007

    I believe John Edwards got rich pushing a scientifically discredited theory of cerebral palsy, driving NC obstetricians out of business.

    What, no love for Senator Ambulance-chaser?

  30. #30 Jedidiah Palosaari
    May 6, 2007

    I don’t see how that was a canned, insincere response. Sounds pretty sincere to me.

  31. #31 Ron Okimoto
    May 6, 2007

    Invest07 wrote:
    Quote:
    There are far too many holes in evolutionary theory. There should be virtually no unresolved issues after 150 years.
    End Quote:

    ID has been around as a concept for thousands of years and doesn’t have a single scientific success to its name. Just try and find a single ID scientific success. You can’t go to the Discovery Institute and look up their list because they don’t have one. 100% failure of the concept to date. It can’t even be tested outright, the only means we have of determining failure is when a verifiable alternative is put forward and verified.

    Anyone that doesn’t believe this just has to present a single example of your designer doing something in nature. Who made babies? Who made the seasons change or pulled the sun and moon across the sky? Who was responsible for disease? How do those failed ID assertions differ from who made the flagellum? Anyone that claims that science comes up short shouldn’t throw stones in a glass house with most of the glass missing already.

  32. #32 Kevin
    May 6, 2007

    Posted by: invest07 | May 4, 2007 03:23 PM

    Ron,

    invest is a sock-puppet for PC. or something. Pay him no mind.

  33. #33 the pro from dover
    May 7, 2007

    as a public service announcement to clarify the position of Tom “the bomb” Tancredo for all of you who would have gone to the mattresses to get him elected if it wasn’t for the evolution thing; here is a direct quote “Evolution explains changes in life. Creationism explains its origin.” Now I know that Tom is a few segments short of an arthropod, but his unscientific acumen just boggles the mind. Creationism doesn’t explain life’s origins; it explains them away! With creationism as well as I.D. you dont need science because there’s nothing that they can’t explain in physics, chemistry, biology, geology and astronomy. Since my neighborhood was gerrymandered into his district Tom has been nothing but a source of embarrassment. I’m sure that
    James Dobson; however, is a big fan.

  34. #34 David D.G.
    May 8, 2007

    Does anyone else have a problem with how the question was worded? I don’t beleive in the Theory of Evolution. It’s not something one can beleive in. It is simply the best explaination of the data, and it provides the only framework that encompasses all of biology, with correct predictive ability. I don’t have to beleive in it. Logic tells me that it is the right framework.

    Belief and logic generally refer to two different modes of thought.
    If the question arises in the next Dem debate, I would hope that is how such a question would be answered.

    Coachtrenks is right. The question was extremely flawed in the first place, essentially framing evolution as something that people have the option to believe in or not, rather than as something that needs to be seen as an issue of fact.

    The question should have been: “Do you ACCEPT that evolution happens, or do you DENY it?” Then, of course, there should have been followup questions asking whether the candidates also would accept or deny the germ theory of disease, the heliocentric model of the solar system, and Newton’s laws of motion.

    And, finally, the moderator should have finished with an acerbic comment on the need to ask grown men in the 21st century about matters which they should be educated enough to be assumed to know about if they have finished high school. It is depressing in the extreme, even frightening, that we are reduced to this — and, worse, that so many of them fail even that miserably simple a test.

    ~David D.G.

  35. #35 Great White Wonder
    May 8, 2007

    The only thing worse than Republicans who don’t believe in evolution are Republicans who believe in evolution but can’t bring themselves to admit that the Republican party is a collection of sick psychos and fundie nutjobs.

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