Evolution on Hardball

On yesterday’s edition of the MSNBC chat show Hardball, host Chris Matthews had the following surreal discussion with Richard Land, President of the Southern Baptist Convention:

MATTHEWS: Let’s get to it. On Broadway right now, “Inherit the Wind” is playing. I hear Christopher Plummer is fabulous. I’ve always been a Brian Dennehy fan. Brian Dennehy is playing the William Jennings Bryant character. Are you surprised that three of the Republican candidates for president in our debate last week openly expressed opposition to a belief in evolution?

LAND: No. I’m not surprised at all.

MATTHEWS: Huckabee, Brownback and Tancredo, whereas John McCain basically said he is for evolution.

LAND: Of course, when I heard the question, I thought, you can’t answer that question in a brief sentence.

MATTHEWS: Let’s look at how they answered. Then I’ll let you do it sir.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ®, ARIZONA: I believe in evolution, but I also believe when I hike the Grand Canyon and see a sunset, that the hand of god is there also.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: Well, somebody that, if you look at the Grand Canyon, you get one view of theology. You look over Flat Bush Avenue, you might have another one. Mankind hasn’t always improved on nature. I should say any where. What do you think of that answer? Was that a believers answer?

LAND: Yes, it is one that many believers would give. The first reaction I had when I heard the question–I watched the debate. And I thought, well, what do you mean by evolution? Do you mean the Darwinian theory of evolutionary origins? That’s one question. Are you talking about evolution within species? Are you talking about inter-species evolution?

MATTHEWS: I think most people mean that mankind evolved from lower species.

LAND: Yes, well, I don’t believe that.

MATTHEWS: How many people in the evangelical world believe that even though it had the hand of god in our creation, that this was the way god created us, through evolution.

LAND: It would be a small minority among southern Baptists and a slightly larger minority among evangelicals. Sixty percent of American, across the board, say they believe in some form of creation.

MATTHEWS: Do they believe in the seven days? Do they believe in Genesis literally, the way it was written in scripture? Do they believe it that way? Or do they believe there is some license there in the writing and it could well mean–it could well conform even to what some people see as evolution.

LAND: Some do and some don’t. Some would dispute about how literal the Genesis account is, in term of the word day, whether the day was a 24-hour period.

MATTHEWS: We study that in school as kids.

LAND: Francis Collins is a strong believer, and yet he is a theistic evolutionist. The fellow who runs the Human Genome Project would tell you that he sees no problem between his understanding of evolution and his belief in the bible. So there would be, among evangelicals, not to mention Catholics and others, you would have enormous differences and gradations. But you would have a fundamental difference with the idea of the theory of Darwinian evolutionary origins.

MATTHEWS: Yes. If you say it was all an accident, and it was just a big bang a million years ago, and it ended up creating us sitting here now, a lot of people have a hard time with that, because it is unimaginable, that an accident led to somebody as serious as you sitting in front of me, that you could be created by accident is an amazing idea.

LAND: It takes a lot more faith to believe in the Darwinian theory of evolutions origins than it does–

MATTHEWS: I grew up Roman Catholic and we were taught evolution as part of god’s plan, that this was just the way he did it. You know, it wasn’t a challenge to our beliefs.

LAND: Well, I don’t agree with that, but it is an acceptable believe that many Christian have. By the way, I don’t think Catholicism is a cult.

MATTHEWS: We have to get away from that kind of debate. You know, there are some things we can’t debate on this show. Whether some religion is in or out is not our call.

LAND: I think it is preposterous for Americans to say that some religions are kosher and some religions aren’t. American have complete freedom of choice in religion.

MATTHEWS: By the way to believe in any religions a leap of faith. it comes with grace and it come with god’s help. And the idea that you can say one is better than the other is a hard case. Anyway, thank you.

LAND: Thank you.

The ecumenism of Land and Matthews is charming, but the fact remains the sort of Christianity to which both claim to adhere has as one of its main dogmas that non-Christians will spend eternity in Hell. I’d say someone’s passing judgment on which religions are, er, kosher, and which are not.

As for “the Darwinian theory of evolutionary origins,” I’m not really sure what that means.

I’ll leave any further remarks to the comments.

Comments

  1. #1 Tyler DiPietro
    May 11, 2007

    A quotation of note:

    “Francis Collins is a strong believer, and yet he is a theistic evolutionist. The fellow who runs the Human Genome Project would tell you that he sees no problem between his understanding of evolution and his belief in the bible. So there would be, among evangelicals, not to mention Catholics and others, you would have enormous differences and gradations. But you would have a fundamental difference with the idea of the theory of Darwinian evolutionary origins.”

    This is important for two reasons.

    1.) We have heard over and over that Francis Collins and other TE’s are expounding a purely theological viewpoint that doesn’t alter the science. Regardless of the merit of that viewpoint, it’s apparent that they are not effectively communicating this message to their target audience. Such people as the above seem to think there is something “fundamentally” separating Collins’ view from that of non-theistic scientists.

    2. Even if the above fellow isn’t representative of believers who know of Collins, we have a clear example of how the TE’s and their rhetoric are damaging the cause of public understanding of science. A good counterpoint to those who lay such accusations at the feet of New Atheists either exclusively or almost so.

  2. #2 Roy
    May 11, 2007

    Maybe the scientific community should sue the mass media for their deliberate misrepresentations of science to the public, demanding trillions in damages. They’ve got the deepest pockets, right? Bankrupt the bastards and shut them up.

  3. #3 JohnnieCanuck
    May 11, 2007

    Wishful thinking, Roy. Me too, but it’s a wish that won’t come true.

    It would be a delight to see, but I don’t think our willful suspension of disbelief should extend to the talking to lawyers stage. If only we could scare them into thinking it could happen.

  4. #4 Science Avenger
    May 11, 2007

    As for �the Darwinian theory of evolutionary origins,� I’m not really sure what that means.

    That means Mr. Land is playing the game of shifting the discussion from evolution to abiogenisis.

  5. #5 John Pieret
    May 11, 2007

    Such people as the above seem to think there is something “fundamentally” separating Collins’ view from that of non-theistic scientists.

    Um … how is that not also the fault of non-theistic scientists? Don’t they have as much of a duty to educate the public, including evangelical Christians, as TEers do?

    … we have a clear example of how the TE’s and their rhetoric are damaging the cause of public understanding of science.

    If that is the measure, then how guilty is every scientist and educator, given how few people, Christian and non-Christian alike, have even a basic understanding of evolution in the US? Shouldn’t we just say that the whole scientific community is damaging the cause of public understanding of science?

    Trying to blame Americans’ lack of scientific literacy on TEers is no more fair than blaming it on atheists.

  6. #6 Tyler DiPietro
    May 11, 2007

    “Um … how is that not also the fault of non-theistic scientists? Don’t they have as much of a duty to educate the public, including evangelical Christians, as TEers do?”

    They absolutely do, but that is not the point here. The critics of Dawkins, Stenger, Weinburg and other “New Atheists” accuse them of damaging the cause by re-enforcing the perceived conflict between evolution and religion. Well, here is a case of TE’er rhetoric doing exactly that, albeit by giving the impression that evolution undiluted by any theistic element is equivalent to atheism. That is the exact opposite of what we hear from those who defend Collins, Conway Morris, et al.

    “Trying to blame Americans’ lack of scientific literacy on TEers is no more fair than blaming it on atheists.”

    Bingo, my point is that there is a bias toward reprimanding New Atheist types for their rhetoric because it’s perceived as damaging to the cause. But the passage I quoted gives a very clear example of TE’er rhetoric damaging public understanding of science, which further highlights the inconsistency in criticism from detractors of the “New Atheist” types.

  7. #7 John Pieret
    May 12, 2007

    Bingo, my point is …

    … that TEers and atheists are equally guilty of causing confusion in the public mind between science and philosophy? Okay, I can buy that.

  8. #8 matthew
    May 12, 2007

    that debate made me throw up a little

  9. #9 Tyler DiPietro
    May 12, 2007

    “… that TEers and atheists are equally guilty of causing confusion in the public mind between science and philosophy? Okay, I can buy that.”

    Well, I’d partially agree, even if I’m only working on the assumptions that seem so pervasive in Science Education Advocacy community. People seem to be working under the assumption that New Atheist types argue that evolution alone is a wholesale disproof of god, which is either a misunderstanding or deliberate misrepresentation.

  10. #10 Ginger Yellow
    May 14, 2007

    LAND: Well, I don’t agree with that, but it is an acceptable believe that many Christian have.

    But it just isn’t. How can it be “acceptable”, in an ecumenical sense, for some to believe the earth was created in six days approximately six thousand years ago and that all life including humans was formed in distinct acts of special creation, and for some to believe that all life including humans was created by the same set of naturally occurring and still active processes starting billions of years ago?

    Those differences are just far too fundamental, empirically and metaphysically, for disagreement to be “acceptable” ecumenically. You’re operating from completely different premises, one of which is “I will ignore or distort all the phsyical evidence that points away from the Genesis account”. That’s a pretty heterodox approach, historically.

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