As the United States gears up for the 2012 presidential election, my soul pines once again for the late Molly Ivins. Ever the consummate Texan, she proved to be the master at deconstructing Texas Governor Rick Perry’s attempts at political slight of hand. Take his views on evolution for example. Back in 2006, Ivins reminded us that the politician she dubbed “The Coiffure” and “Governor Goodhair” “is trying to disguise the fact that the schools are in free-fall by proposing that we teach creationism in biology class.”
I agree with evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins that upon initial glance, when compared to Perry and the Tea Party’s views on topics like taxation, economics and sexual politics, one could overlook their ignorance on evolutionary science. However, Dawkins clearly outlines why a politician’s view of evolution is a surprising apposite litmus test of more general inadequacy. As he notes, “Unlike string theory where scientific opinion is genuinely divided, there is about the fact of evolution no doubt at all.” So, if a politician espouses a belief in the unproven theory of creationism, where else will they have gaps in their education?
When confronted by those Christians who insist their literalist interpretation of Genesis proves humans and dinosaurs once roamed the earth simultaneously, I counter with the wisdom of comedian Lewis Black, “When anyone tries to tell me that they believe it took place in seven days, I reach for a fossil and go, ‘fossil.’” At the risk of doing a major disservice to centuries of biblical criticism, in a nutshell, one can say that obtaining empirical evidence from a book including but not limited to narrative, poetry, epistle, apocalyptic literature and legal texts, clearly misses the meaning behind these messages. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institute of Heath and an evangelical Christian, offers this cautionary note, “Despite twenty-five centuries of debate, it is fair to say that no human knows what the meaning of Genesis 1 and 2 was precisely intended to be.”
Such nuanced thinking appears to be lost among those conservative evangelicals who preach the need for Christians to dominate all sectors of public life. Here dismantling evolutionary science represents only one small piece of their overall godly plan to recast the United States into this mythical version of Christian America that only exists in the land of evangelical theme parks.
While I share Washington Post religion columnist Lisa Miller’s concerns for a certain amount of dispassionate care in the coverage of religion, her critique of left leaning journalists who are exposing the underbelly of Dominionism downplays the influence of this particular brand of Christianity on the contemporary U.S. political landscape. (The Revealer summarizes this ongoing debate here, here and here.)
As reported by The Texas Observer, Perry’s pro-creationist comments raise some very telling signs regarding what we can expect from a Perry White House.
Perry doesn’t appear to know Texas’ official policy on the teaching of evolution in public schools. First, it is plainly unconstitutional to teach creationism in public schools. The courts have been consistent on this question. Most recently, in 2005’s Kitzmiller v. Dover, a federal judge ruled that intelligent design can’t be taught in public schools because it’s tantamount to religion, not science, and thus violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
Think about this for a moment. Do we really want to elect any politician, who thinks they can do a reach around of the Constitution because they got the A-OK from their the Almighty? What other laws will this politico deem to be ungodly on the basis of their funding streams and political alliances that inform their interpretation of God?
But perhaps Perry might be on to something here when he advances his theory that evolution is a myth, After all, I can find no logical reason why the GOP, the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, would degenerate into a political morass where Sarah Palin and Rick Perry could be seen as viable presdidential candidates. Along those lines, why would Iowans champion same-sex marriage only to devolve two years later by casting their votes for Michele Bachmann as the winner in the Iowa Republican presidential straw poll? In addition to her husband’s controversial ex-gay therapy, did they not realize that Bachmann’s Iowa campaign was run by Dr. Peter Waldron, a man of mystery who counts among his “friends” Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan preacher connected to his country’s “kill the gays” bill?
Such will be the evolutionist-creationist dance I predict we will see on full display throughout the 2012 presidential election campaign-a waltz into the 21st century guided by new discoveries in science, philosophy, psychology, theology and other disciplines countered by a Contra Dance-a-thon and Prayer-palooza.
Becky Garrison | Aug 26, 2011 2:50 PM