For weeks, George W. Bush was not talking about whether he'd ever used drugs. Now there's a new and rather intriguing situation developing. It appears the drug issue has momentarily subsided, to the point that when Bush is not talking about drugs, he's not "not talking about drugs.` Drugs, in other words, are no longer the extremely embarrassing personal detail about which he is specifically not talking.
This raises, for me, the obvious question: Is there now something else, perhaps equally horrible, that he is specifically not talking about?
Don't the people have a right to know the subject about which he is refusing to speak? Or are we supposed to guess? Are we supposed to speculate irresponsibly about which of the essentially infinite number of terrible things he might have done is the thing he's currently refusing to discuss? Wouldn't it be prudent for him to end the confusion and just let us know, every day, what it is that he is not talking about?
`We're leaving all the analysis to the pundits,` Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said this morning. "He's continuing to run a positive, issue-oriented campaign that outlines his message of prosperity with a purpose.`
Total smoke screen, in other words.
One thing the presidential candidates are talking about is evolution, which, I have to reveal up front, is an issue that absorbs me at a perhaps slightly abnormal level, the way some people get about the Redskins. I'm thrilled that an actual scientific concept has wedged its way into the national conversation. Less thrilling is that this scientific concept is being handled as though it's the Ebola virus.
Al Gore, donning a full Biohazard-4 protection suit, has issued a muddled declaration on the matter, and declined to criticize the Kansas Board of Education decision to remove evolution as a curriculum requirement; Steve Forbes has said textbook depictions of evolution are "a massive fraud`; Bush implies that evolution and creationism should be given equal weight (`He said that he believes the students should be exposed to different theories,` spokesman McClellan said, and then gave precisely the same response when I asked if Bush believes that he, himself, is a product of evolution).
This morning I spoke to Andy Knoll, a Harvard paleobiologist and all-purpose smart person, for a quick reminder about the role of evolution in contemporary biological thought. Knoll said, "It's the fundamental underlying principle of biology. Because it really explains the observed relatedness of all living organisms. It explains the patterns of ecological relatedness and geographical distribution, and it explains the pattern of the fossil record that we see through time.`
Perhaps he says that only because he is keeping one eye on the polls, hoping to win the presidency of some obscure association of paleobiologists.
Science is not a body of fact, a big pile of statistics and insects-on-pins, but rather a process of inquiry, and a very useful and efficient process. But even so, science hasn't eradicated many of the essential questions of our existence, as I was reminded this morning by Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archeology Review, contacted as part of our rigorous daily monitoring of any potential breaking developments in the analysis of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Shanks said that, as he flies the shuttle between New York and Washington, he often wonders what Abraham would think of the modern world. But he also tells himself, "We always end up with the same mystery that Abraham ended up with. Why are we here? How did we come about? We have a lot of explanations Abraham didn't have, but at the end of the day, we still have that final question: How did THAT get here? And where did THAT come from?`
Finally, a quick news update: Hurricane Dennis is expected to turn north, toward the Carolinas. We are determined to find out from the National Hurricane Center why the government hasn't sold corporate sponsorship to hurricanes. Why is it still "Cindy` and "Dennis` and not, for example, "Hurricane Office Depot`?
Meanwhile, silver-tongued Fed chief Alan Greenspan sent the stock market tumbling this morning when he emitted a signal, deeply encoded among the following words: "Central bankers, in particular, are going to have to be able to ascertain how changes in the balance sheets of economic actors influence real economic activity and, hence, affect appropriate economic policies.` (It is believed he is the direct genetic descendant of a spreadsheet.)
E-mail comments, suggestions, and personally amassed evidence of the great evolution hoax, to firstname.lastname@example.org .