Obama on ID

The York Daily Record (known for its coverage of the Dover ID trial) interviews Barack Obama:

Q: York County was recently in the news for a lawsuit involving the teaching of intelligent design. What’s your attitude regarding the teaching of evolution in public schools?

A: “I’m a Christian, and I believe in parents being able to provide children with religious instruction without interference from the state. But I also believe our schools are there to teach worldly knowledge and science. I believe in evolution, and I believe there’s a difference between science and faith. That doesn’t make faith any less important than science. It just means they’re two different things. And I think it’s a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don’t hold up to scientific inquiry.”

This fills a hole in our knowledge of Sen. Obama’s views. In January, Ron Bailey summarized the positions of the Presidential candidates for Reason, and found:

An extensive search could find no explicit statement on evolution from Democratic frontrunner Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). In June 2006, Obama gave a keynote talk at a Sojourners conference in which he noted, “Substantially more people in America believe in angels than they do in evolution.” Obama declared in that speech that the single biggest political gap in America was “between those who attend church regularly and those who don’t.” He then excoriated “conservative leaders” for exploiting this gap by suggesting that “religious Americans care only about issues like abortion and gay marriage; school prayer and intelligent design.” At the very least, this implies that Obama believes intelligent design is unnecessarily divisive.

That Obama opposes teaching ID and other nonscience in science classes is hardly surprising, but it is nice to have him clearly on record backing real science.

Comments

  1. #1 Trisha
    March 31, 2008

    In his 2nd book he something like ‘the Bush administration is the most anti-science one we’ve ever had’. That’s not an exact quote though, I don’t have the book in front of me.

    More than once he mentioned that there were people who had no belief in god either, and he didn’t say it in a mean sort of way. So I don’t think we would have to worry about him elevating religion over science.

  2. #2 J-Dog
    March 31, 2008

    This is why I first started backing Obama – I emailed him – I am from IL and he is my Senator – and asked him to bitch-slap Rick Santorem for his ID position. Obama emailed back that while he would not slap Santorem for me, he did believe in the seperation of church and state.

  3. #3 C. David Parsons
    March 31, 2008

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  4. #4 J
    March 31, 2008

    Good for Sen. Obama! This is most refreshing – public endorsement by moderate theists is critical for the success of science.

  5. #5 Louis
    April 1, 2008

    This is good news indeed. However, I do wish ALL the candidates would stop pandering to the religiously inclined. We are electing the Commander-in-
    Chief not the Preacher-in-Chief.

  6. #6 Wes
    April 1, 2008

    I’m with Louis. It’s great to see Obama taking a firm stance against creationism–maybe the sight of a prominent Christian taking a pro-science stance will help convince some wavering Christians that they should not reject science. But at the same time I’m sick and tired of the constant battle between all the candidates to out-Jesus each other. It’s depressing that so many people based their vote on whether a political candidates beliefs in the invisible googly moogly in the sky.

  7. #7 Kevin Lyda
    April 5, 2008

    Regarding comment #2: His name is spelled “Santorum.” If it helps, it’s spelled just like the word for the by-product of anal sex.

  8. #8 Yellow Dog
    April 5, 2008

    But I have to admit, “Santorem” looks even nastier than “Santorum”.

  9. #9 Kelly Smith
    April 5, 2008

    Senator Obama has frequently referred to himself as a Christian and a skeptic. His thoughts on ID and evolution thus are not surprising. The explicitness, though, is welcome and refreshing.

  10. #10 Miles Richard
    April 5, 2008

    The fact that we’re having this debate tells me that we’ve devolved, as a society, to sometime before the John Scopes trial (“Scopes Monkey Trial;” 1920s Tennessee. See the film, Inherit the Wind, with Spencer Tracy and Gene Kelly, for an excellent portrayal). The more time that we spend, publicly, on having to define and articulate our positions around both ID and evolutionary theory; and/or treat both of them as having, for lack of a more precise descriptor, “equal validity,” the more we marginalize intellectual development and serious research. In a word, the debate is appalling, and symbolic of America’s decline as a society with fresh and innovative ideas.

  11. #11 John
    April 5, 2008

    Obama claims in Audacity of Hope to have been an atheist until he was urged to attend an inner city Chicago church. I generally don’t buy that conversion. Sounds kind of opportunistic and really doesn’t make much sense. I think, like many politicians, he’s a closet atheist.

  12. #12 L Kern
    April 5, 2008

    Closet Atheist? Good! Better no NOT believe in myht, but have all your mental faculties right here on earth. And as for the opportunist-thing, he became a Chrsitioan over 20 years ago. Look for something else to try todestroy him… you won’t find it there.

  13. #13 Ron A. Zajac
    April 5, 2008

    I don’t want my leaders to be closet anythings. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I want them as honest as possible.

    Given that, let’s just hope that Obama is honest, and that he’s just honestly, naturally embracing the “non-overlapping magisteria” model kicked off by Galileo, more recently dusted off by Stephen J. Gould.

    It’s OK that Obama believes in God and truly understands what science is.

    And–heck!–I’m quite sure he even understands that atheists have a special and important place at the American table, too.

    Whew! A candidate even a skeptic can believe in!

  14. #14 Terry
    April 5, 2008

    I’m a lover of science, especially evolution, geology, and astronomy. I’m also a retired Baptist minister. I have problems with both theists and atheists, because both claim to know something absolutely that they cannot know. I don’t know if there is a God, but I choose to live with faith. For me, all faith is based in agnosticism. I don’t know Obama’s faith, but I have no difficulty taking him at his word that he chooses to live with faith, and that he likes science. My tendency is to take people at their word until their words become deceptive. One of the things that has most impressed me about Obama is his transparency and honesty. He does not pander religion nor impossible solutions to our problems.

  15. #15 Jeremy
    April 5, 2008

    ” I have a problem with both theists and atheists , because they both claim to know something absolutely they cannot know”

    Atheists know that religion is a creation of man. This is not a problem it is an incontrovertible fact.

  16. #16 Mark D
    April 5, 2008

    Terry, I’m an atheist, and I don’t claim to know something absolutely that I cannot know. I think you’re ascribing a narrow definition to atheism that isn’t accurate for most of us. My lack of belief in gods is based on the same reason I (surmise) you don’t believe in unicorns or fairies: the lack of evidence. I can’t say for certain those two things don’t exist, but it’s entirely reasonable to suppose that they don’t since there’s no evidence they do. Likewise, until there is some real evidence for the existence of a god, I think its reasonable to suppose none exist. I fail to see why it’s somehow illogical to assume that something for which there is no evidence is not real–don’t we do that all the time in our day-to-day lives? Deities shouldn’t get a special pass.

  17. #17 flander annapolis
    April 5, 2008

    While I too am a Christian, this does not diminish the fact that some things evolved. To say one must be either or is incorrect. I belive in the creation (from God) and that over years matter has evolved. Just curious what Hillary (sniper dodger) thinks.

  18. #18 AaronInSanDiego
    April 5, 2008

    I saw a recent interview (can’t remember where) where Obama was asked if he was “certain” that there is a God, and he answered, “yes.”

  19. #19 waldo
    April 5, 2008

    Obama’s God is in his heart, and that’s the right place for It. It’s hard not to be impressed with him, isn’t it?

    Oh, and most Americans wouldn’t know God if She bit them on the ass.

  20. #20 JD
    April 5, 2008

    The ID/evolution debate is going to come back and haunt the Christian right. They’ve put so much into it that when the time comes, and it’s just around the corner, that there is scientific proof of evolution that even the most pea brained can understand, they’re going to look awfully silly with their biblical arguments. In everyone’s DNA are locked the blueprints of our previous evolutionary forms, going eons back in the past. When scientists can turn on these genes and then clone our ancestors, all debate over evolution will end. They are starting to experiment with this on birds to bring out their dinosaur traits that have been genetically switched off and if it wasn’t for the ethical questions involved, they would start doing it with humans.

  21. #21 Kantian Pragmatist
    April 5, 2008

    Umm, there is scientific proof of evolution. It’s called breeding. With selective breeding, you can actually see speciation occurring within a human lifespan. Modern corn would (rightfully) be classified as a different species than its wild ancestor, and dogs and wolves have also been classed as different species. If a future archaeologist were to uncover the skeletons of a chihuahua and a Great Dane, they would almost certainly class them as different species. How arrogant would it be to suppose that such radical differences in phenotype from a common ancestor could only be achieved by human (or divine) intervention, but not through the real environmental pressures caused by geologic and climate change? Evolution is probably the most well established theory of any in biology including the cellular hypothesis.

  22. #22 Doug
    April 5, 2008

    Oh, how cool. We are all agreeing on evolution! Now maybe we can get around to agreeing that the earth is a globe and the sun is at the center of the solar system! This conversation is happening in 2008! It’s like we all fell down the rabbit hole and we’re desperately trying to keep sane by talking to each other. What fools these mortals be.

  23. #23 gumbythecat
    April 6, 2008

    Not much I can add except I’m glad he got it right. I’m a Christian theistic evolutionist who firmly believes in separation of church and state, and accepts fully the validity of evolutionary theory. It is refreshing to hear a candidate whose take on this matter is the same as mine. Mitt Romney is an old-earth creationist; Ron Paul dismisses evolution as ‘just a theory’ (excuse me while I bloody my forehead on my desk for hearing that phrase again!) so kudos to Obama for getting it right.

  24. #24 Kanser
    April 8, 2008

    This is most refreshing – public endorsement by moderate theists is critical for the success of science.

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