Romney on Evolution

According to Michael Luo at The New York Times blog, Mitt Romney has clarified his views on evolution. Here’s the set-up:

Mitt Romney expanded on his belief in evolution in an interview earlier this week, staking out a position that could put him at odds with some conservative Christians, a key voting bloc he is courting.

Mr. Romney, a devout Mormon, surprised some observers when he was not among those Republican candidates who raised their hands last week when asked at the Republican presidential debate if they did not believe in evolution. (Senator Sam Brownback, former Gov. Mike Huckabee and Representative Tom Tancredo said they did not.)

Putting him at odds with conservative Christians? I’m starting to like this guy. So what are his views on evolution:

“I believe that God designed the universe and created the universe,” Mr. Romney said in an interview this week. “And I believe evolution is most likely the process he used to create the human body.”

He was asked: Is that intelligent design?

“I’m not exactly sure what is meant by intelligent design,” he said. “But I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation. And I believe he used the process of evolution to create the human body.”

Well, I’m impressed. From a Republican that’s downright intelligent. How about teaching ID in schools?

While governor of Massachusetts, Mr. Romney opposed the teaching of intelligent design in science classes.

“In my opinion, the science class is where to teach evolution, or if there are other scientific thoughts that need to be discussed,” he said. “If we’re going to talk about more philosophical matters, like why it was created, and was there an intelligent designer behind it, that’s for the religion class or philosophy class or social studies class.”

The usual, evasive answer would be for Romney to talk about local control of school curricula and how each school district has to make that decision for itself. That’s a standard tactic. You get asked for your opinion on a controversial topic, and you reply by explaining who ought to make the final decisions regarding that topic.

At any rate, my opinion of Romney has gone up a tad. He’s still an opportunistic flip-flopper, but at least he’s right on this issue. The blog entry goes on to describe Romney’s views on science and religion (short version: they’re not in conflict). I disagree with him there, of course, but he seems to be a considerable improvement over the mainstream of his party.


  1. #1 Roy
    May 11, 2007

    Fess up, do you think there’s a tangle of lies underlying what he said? Or do you think he was tell the truth as he knows it?

  2. #2 cbutterb
    May 11, 2007

    You’re way too easy on the pinhead. His answers to those questions don’t reveal him to be a good person, or a respectable person. They reveal him to be not completely evil or insane.

    It’s really sad how far the bar has been lowered in this country: all you have to do anymore (if you’re a Republican, at least) is not be a fascist or theocrat, and automatically you get free publicity for being a maverick–perhaps even electable, or presidential! Like McCain, for example. What’s that–he’s against torturing people? Put him on the cover of Time; he’s a saint among men!

    The proper response to a powerful public figure eschewing religious indoctrination of the nation’s children, and deigning to put his stamp of approval on a bloody law of nature that will continue being true regardless, is a bemused “Yes, and?” Anything else helps them shift the Overton window sufficiently far that sanity actually looks like something remarkable.

  3. #3 Science Avenger
    May 11, 2007

    Just when I thought my former party couldn’t sink any lower, the fucking Mormon comes out of the first debate looking like the reasonable one. Funny how so many of the religious seem to understand church-state seperation just fine when they need it to fend off another religion, but abandon it when it comes to we atheists needing it to protect us from them.

  4. #4 Sammy Boy
    May 11, 2007

    Could be worse, Sam Brownback’s supporters apparently still believe that the Universe revolves around the Earth.

  5. #5 bigTom
    May 11, 2007

    During my years I’ve worked with several Mormon scientists. They’ve all been good scientists, and reasonable people. I don’t think Romney is making up this stuff for political purposes, its likely what he actually believes. I respect the man -even if I would never vote for him.

  6. #6 Greta Christina
    May 11, 2007

    Except he just blew it by defending his opposition to gay marriage by citing the Bible.

  7. #7 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    May 12, 2007

    Another link to that: Romney cites Scripture on gay marriage

    Does he think its wise to keep reminding people that he has different scriptures than the majority?

  8. #8 Blake Stacey
    May 12, 2007

    From Mustafa Mond, FCD’s link:

    “This isn’t just some temporary convenience here on Earth, but we’re people that are designed to live together as male and female and we’re gonna have families,” he tells interviewer Mike Wallace, according to an excerpt CBS released Friday. “And that, there’s a great line in the Bible that children are an inheritance of the Lord and happy is he who has or hath his quiver full of them.”

    Traditional marriage: one man. Three hundred concubines. Seven hundred wives.

    Romney, seeking to become the first Mormon president, also tries to allay any concerns about his religion.

    “What’s at the heart of my faith is a belief that there’s a creator, that we’re all children of the same God, and that fundamentally the relationship you have with your spouse is important and eternal,” Romney said over the course of two interviews, one of which was taped at his vacation home in Wolfeboro, N.H.

    Whoa. The “relationship you have with your spouse” is a tenet “at the heart of [his] faith”? Pri-or-i-ties, man.

  9. #9 matt
    May 12, 2007

    While my primary impression of Mitt Romney is that he’s a complete fuckwit, and as a betrothed homo I detest his scrabbling for bigot capital around gay marriage, I find myself unusually in disagreement with Blake here: suggesting the spousal relationship is central to issues of “faith” is a good thing. At least it’s grounded in material reality, rather than being handed down from on high.

  10. #10 chuko
    May 13, 2007

    He may be using it as more of a subtle reminder that Mormons use the same Bible (more or less) that all Christians do. Not that I think the Bible’s any better than the Book of Mormon as far as being an arbiter of Truth.

  11. #11 Blake Stacey
    May 13, 2007


    While I think I can appreciate your sentiment, I’m going to plunge into “No True Scotsman” territory and suggest that grounding things in material reality is not what “faith” is about (at least the way I learned to interpret that word). Faith is a stance one takes in the absence of evidence; that is, faith is what happens when reality does not contact you. Faith comes first, and fact second.

    If the man-and-woman pact is not central to Romney’s beliefs about what should be, then he’s a lying panderer. If it is, then he’s built a belief structure which doesn’t connect with the Biblical text — or rather, it sees that text through a distorting lens which magnifies a few verses and makes whole books invisible. Neither of those alternatives would surprise me very much.

  12. #12 ctw
    May 15, 2007

    “Faith is a stance one takes in the absence of evidence”

    I am well aware that this is the popular take on the concept of “faith”, but I have a problem with it. My contention is that belief is always based on evidence, it’s just that some may consider that evidence unconvincing.

    Why would anyone “believe that X is true” if they literally had no evidence to suggest that X is true? How would they even be aware of X in the absence of some input wihich presumably introduced X as at least a possible “truth”?

    For example, a Christian presumably has been introduced to that religion by parents, friends, or teachers, has read the Bible and possibly some exegesis thereof, has heard sermons, etc, some or all proclaiming the religion to be “true”. But a lay “believer” in evolution has adopted that belief by an analogous process – just make the appropriate substitution of “a biology textbook” and “lectures” or “interviews” in the first sentence in this paragraph.

    Two differences I see are the perceived authority of the information sources and how one deals with inconsistency. In matters of biology, I place more weight on the opinion of a Dawkins than a Brownback; some may do the reverse. When the Bible contradicts scientific concensus, I go with the latter; others may go with the former. Believers may explain their choices by saying thay are based on “faith”, but I contend that they are actually simply accepting questionable authorities and resolving inconsistencies irrationally. Which they are free to do, but they can’t then expect their positions to be respected by those who disagree with those choices just because they label their decision methodology “faith”.

    There are numerous words the meanings of which have been so distorted by opportunistic usage that they are no longer useful by themselves; they almost always require explanation, which makes them rather superfluous – typically, a succinct statement of position is no longer than the explanatory addendum needed in conjunction with the word. Conservative, liberal, moral, evil, atheist are some examples. I consider faith to be another, and in fact have come to consider it a flag that indicates the speaker is just blowing smoke.

    – Charles

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