John McCain, professional weasel

John McCain recently spoke out on evolution and ID. He just managed to demonstrate that he’s a dissembling fool.

Responding to a question about a report that he thinks “intelligent design” should be taught in schools, the senator mocked the idea that American young people were so delicate and impressionable that they needed to be sheltered from the concept, which says God had a hand in creation and which has been challenged by Darwinists as unscientific.

“Shhh, you shouldn’t tell them,” he said, mimicking those who would shield children from the fact that some people believe in intelligent design. The former prisoner of war said he also disagreed with Cold War-era efforts to prevent Marxist-Leninism from being taught in schools, saying it was better for Americans to understand their enemy. He noted that he didn’t say that intelligent design needed to be taught in “science class,” leaving unclear exactly what class he thought it should be taught in. He said he believed local school boards, not the federal government, should determine curricula.

“From a personal standpoint, I believe in evolution,” Mr. McCain said. At the same time, he said, “When I stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon and I see the sun going down, I believe the hand of God was there.”

First of all, no one is afraid of Intelligent Design, or thinks kids need to be sheltered from the concept. American kids as it stands now get more exposure to creationism than to science—in the home and church. The fight isn’t about hiding silly ideas from schoolkids. It’s about not allowing crackpots to waste our children’s time, and about promoting good, substantive science teaching. Do you want school to be a place where kids learn, Mr McCain? Or do you see it as a propaganda arm of the ideological apparatus of the state?

The comment about local school boards is what they all say. Local control has always been a disaster: school boards consist of elected officials who rarely have any competence in education, and who get into office on promises of keeping costs under control, for instance. They should not be in the business of regulating and defining educational content, but they all too often are. Who in their right mind would think the local hardware store owner, the retired bank clerk, and the part-time realtor are automatically competent to tell the high school biology teacher what she ought to teach in her classes?

As for that last paragraph…he’s a typical politician, trying to have it both ways and avoid antagonizing anyone. It didn’t work: I see a credulous twit who also lacks the courage of any convictions.


  1. says

    Yep, this pandering to the Republican Party’s right wing base tells me that McCain’s definitely running in 2008.

  2. Caledonian says

    Teaching our children about the people who believe the world was created by a divine entity would violate the church-state separation: we would have to explicitly state that their religious beliefs were factually incorrect.

    It’s the system that produces politicians who pander to the vagaries of public opinion. If you don’t want the state to bow down to whatever golden calf is popular at the time, then don’t support a system that gives the idolators power to decide who rules.

  3. says

    Here here. If the kiddies want to learn about communism and creationism, they can do so on their own time with the vast resources (i.e. the internet) available to them.

  4. goddogtired says

    McCain has proven time and time and time again that whatever bravery he once possessed has been surgically removed in order to pursue power and prestige, without the least notion of employing it for the good of the nation (or perhaps in employing it at all.)

    Fuck ANY politician who equivocates on this issue: it shows a determined love of the worst of human cowardice and ignorance (whether their own and/or the voters).

  5. says

    Caledonia said:

    Teaching our children about the people who believe the world was created by a divine entity would violate the church-state separation: we would have to explicitly state that their religious beliefs were factually incorrect.

    I don’t think this is quite correct–teaching that there are such people as Creationists is not the same as teaching Creationism. It deserves a brief mention in biology class (with not as much detail as a discussion of Lamark’s work), but any detailed discussion is best left for a class dealing with comparative religions or philosophy, leaving biology to concentrate on science.

  6. says

    The Dover trial was an absolute massacre, yet politicians like McCain just blithely carry on as if it had never happened, giving faeries and goblins the same weight in their speeches as genuine elements of the natural world. It’s plain as day that these self-serving shitsticks are far more interested in telling Average Joe Moron what he wants to hear than striving to guarantee our children a solid or even fair education. I hate this place sometimes.

  7. naturalist says

    It is the same cowardice, ignorance and pandering to the extreme right wing political base that Bush demonstrated yesterday in vetoing the stem cell bill. He stands there and crows about not crossing moral boundaries and upholding decency in this society when most of his tenure has been predicated on fabrications, disingenuous motives and duplicity.

  8. Caledonian says

    I don’t think this is quite correct–teaching that there are such people as Creationists is not the same as teaching Creationism.

    Mentioning that a group of people defined by a common belief is pretty pointless unless the belief is also mentioned. Mentioning the belief without mentioning its scientific status, in a class meant to educate about science, is ridiculous. The scientific status of the belief cannot be mentioned without pointing out that it is contradicted by all evidence and by any reasonable standard is objectively incorrect.

    If you’re simply going to mention that there are other beliefs, that’s fairly obvious, commonly done, and pointless. Would you demand that mathematics classes mention that some people believe pi is equal to values other than the one referenced?

  9. BlueIndependent says

    I’m sorry to say that McCain is the second time I’ve been screwed by voting for a Rep. First it was Bush, then it was McC in 04. I believed he’d continue to be even-handed, but lately he has shown he could care less, and that his seat is for granted. Which it probably is, since he’s not exactly young anymore, so I am guessing he can easily squeeze 3 more terms out of Arizona.

    I still to this day wish McCain had been the Rep candidate in 2000. I don’t think we’d be seeing this same McCain if that had happened. Unfortunately, Bushiness has very much rubbed off on someone who has historically been more brave than he has been of late.

    It doesn’t surprise me McCain said this, especially considering his Liberty U escapade several weeks ago.

  10. Caledonian says

    Unfortunately, Bushiness has very much rubbed off on someone who has historically been more brave than he has been of late.

    But… the man is a war hero. A war hero. He obviously possesses courage and leadership. Leadership! Who are you to speak poorly of him?

  11. says

    Also, while it ended up being wrong, Lamarck’s explanation of evolutionary change was based upon certain scientific principles, pangenesis in particular, that held sway at the time. Those principles ended up also being shown wrong, but Lamarck had done his job… at least in this case he practiced good science. He attempted to make scientific sense of the growing mass of data that showed change over time, in light of the prevailing, pre-Darwinian “understanding” of inheritance mechanisms. For that reason, I find Lamarck a good, albeit short object lesson for my genetics students.

    ID’s argument from incredulity shares nothing with such honesty. If a student brings it up, which has only happened once, I basically explain that and move on. It certainly hasn’t earned a spot on the syllabus otherwise.
    Uncle Don

  12. Steve_C says

    Just remember. The republican’s always run to the right-wing fundies even if they have to hold their nose to do it.

    McCain is NOT a moderate. He just plays one on TV.

  13. wamba says

    Who are you to speak poorly of him?

    As an American, he is constitutionally entitled to speak poorly of anyone.

  14. Alexander Vargas says

    I really don’t mind ID or any religous belief being taught at school as long as its not in an inappropiate instance like science class…I mean I agree that the kids are not that brainwashable at all, that there is paranoia on the subject, yes. But McCain should say WHERE in school should such things be taught. Is he talking we make a RELIGION class? Otherwise he is not saying how he would AVOID it been taught in science class, and that is useless, he seems just to be reaching out for some votes…He is definitely not being substantial.
    I understand that he may also be reaching for the votes of everyone with those comments on evolution and then that sunset thing…but then, at least by fortunate coincidence, its not in truth an incoherent view. You can believe that gos is somewhow “underlying everything” as long as you understand this is not part of scientific explantions… so its not impossible that the man is being sincere, and hey, I am not going to shriek hypocrisy on that one,good grief. Let people be.
    Now again when people snort at the fact this guy is a war hero does not seem a very smart thing to do…I understand this man was also against Bushian torture?
    And suddenly becuase you don’t agree with him he is a fool and a twit that ‘wants the school to be the propaganda arm of the ideological apparatus of the state”??????
    Jeez PZ. It just renders all your criticism a discardable piece by some paranoid extremist.

    Ok if someone is going to answer me, you can use violent language and labels if you want, I know you believe in this “active marginalization” ideology (hahaha, very convincing dudes) truth is you’ll just manage to make yourselves look totally unreasonable and biased

  15. says

    Yep, this pandering to the Republican Party’s right wing base tells me that McCain’s definitely running in 2008.

    The right wing will never forgive McCain. He’s wasting his time.

    I’ve never understood the mainstream media’s love of McCain. He’s been a panderer his entire career. He signed on to campaign finance reform to try to make people forget he was one of the Keating Five. He’s pandered to Indian tribes on the Akaka bill, and by trying to rewrite NAGPRA to hand over any future Palaeoindian discoveries, such as Kennewick man, to the tribes. He is utterly unprincipled and shameless, to an extent remarkable even for a modern politician.

  16. Keith Wolter says

    To my surprise, I agree w/ Vargas here (well, at least in part). Politicians are politicians. They have to get the votes to get elected. Bloggers, of course, are beholden to no such masters, and are free to rant and rave and pontificate (as are us forum posters). I think McCain is being too political here, but I also have a deep respect for him that I’ll never have for Bush. I too am dissapointed by some of his recent moves, but I think he would have been a vast improvement over the current jack-ass, and I voted for him in 2000 primary (x’d party lines here in Michigan). It is easy to sneer at heroism, POW status, etc. from the comfort of our armchairs, but the Republican love that shit – it feeds into their ability to paint liberals as defense softies, even when a Vietnam vet is running against an AWOL moron. As for ’08, if it comes down to Hillary vs. McCain, forget it, it done. At least McCain believes in global warming and not torturing prisoners.

  17. Steve_C says

    Vargas is a paranoid extremist appeaser.

    And we’re not snorting at him because he’s a war hero… ummm… DUMBASS…
    we’re snorting because he acts like he’s a saint because of it. And he didn’t stand up
    for Kerry (a fellow war veteran when he had the chance) when the right was attacking his service record.

    McCain pretends to be a straight talker but then panders to the kooks.

  18. Randy says

    I believe that the ID debate SHOULD be taught somewhere in school – just not in a science class.

    Since the debate is political rather than scientific, possibly an appropriate place would be a Political Science class. I think that the best way to teach it would be to review Judge Jones’ legal opinion.

    If we never discuss it at all in our schools, people will continue to believe that this is a form of censorship which, in fact, is not the case at all.

  19. Steve_C says

    If discussed in a science class it should go something like this…

    “Thousands of scientists are conducting research everyday using Evolution as the foundation. No one is doing any science based on ID. Not even scientists who support the idea. There is no science in ID. Let’s return to science now.”

  20. quork says

    It is easy to sneer at heroism, POW status, etc. from the comfort of our armchairs, but the Republican love that shit – it feeds into their ability to paint liberals as defense softies, even when a Vietnam vet is running against an AWOL moron.

    In point of fact, “swiftboating” tactics have in recent years been a tool of the extreme right, not the left. In addition to McCain, it’s been used against Kerry, Murtha and Cleland.

  21. says

    I say lets teach ID and Evolution in schools as long as the lesson goes like this.
    Ok class let us list the evidence for ID and the evidence for Evolution side by side.
    Evidence for ID: Well ummm err it looks like someone thunk it up!
    Evidence for Evolution: All the facts that have been collected for the last two hundred some odd years.
    Now just like in physics class where we studied the luminiferous aether theory of light and the wave-particle theory, and you answered on the text luminiferous as your response you received a F if you answer ID you will receive a F

  22. Steve_C says

    How wuuud. I’ve been emasculated. I’m going to cry.
    And John Kerry is 10 times the man you’ll be. SO there!

    Did whatever just rpove my point or was he being funny. I can’t tell?

  23. PaulC says

    Interesting view McCain has: Evolution explains the wondrous diversity of life on earth. However, God had a personal hand in the erosion catastrophe known as the Grand Canyon. Well, whatever works for you, I guess.

    The idea that anyone is going to be “protected” from creationist stories is equally ridiculous. We can probably count on most parents to spread more disinformation about why things are a certain way before their kids get out of preschool than 12 additional years of education will ever correct. However, unless science class is also going to teach you not to swallow watermelon seeds because they’ll grow in your stomach or that bread crusts give you curly hair, then I think it’s safe to say we should keep creationist myths out of science class as well.

  24. PaulC says


    McCain is 10 times the man any of you will EVER be.

    As I understand it, McCain shown remarkable fortitude in surviving 5 1/2 years of imprisonment by the Viet Cong. That wouldn’t qualify him to rebuild the engine in my car or to give me useful advice on avoiding alternative minimum tax. Why the hell should it give him any special qualification to talk about evolution?

  25. says

    I’m wondering, does McCain think that Marxism-Leninism ought to be taught as science (or as science if local school boards wish it to be taught as such)? After all, for a long time Marxism-Leninism was claimed to be “scientific”, that dialectical materialism would inevitably produce a triumph of the working classes etc., etc.

    And yes, I do think that not teaching about Marxism-Leninism at all is a bad idea, even today in some cases. Its history, its Hegelian philosophy, and above all its criticisms of the bourgeois economy are all valuable.

    But the controversy over ID is not about informing students of the vacuity of ID and its religio-political bases, as McCain well knows. PZ has said that he teaches ID in that vein, and why not?

    By the way, what kind of reporting was this, anyhow?

    the senator mocked the idea that American young people were so delicate and impressionable that they needed to be sheltered from the concept, which says God had a hand in creation and which has been challenged by Darwinists as unscientific.

    “Shhh, you shouldn’t tell them,” he said, mimicking those who would shield children from the fact that some people believe in intelligent design.

    There’s a huge difference between children being “sheltered from the concept” and shielding them from “the fact that some people believe in intelligent design”. McCain is supporting the teaching of ID in schools, not supporting the teaching that IDiots exist. This is clear from the teaching of “Marxism-Leninism” analogy that McCain brought up, as no one had proposed shielding children from the knowledge that Marxists and Leninists existed.

    Vargas can spin it how he wishes, as long as McCain doesn’t state that ID should be left out of the science classroom he’s giving comfort and aid to those who want it exactly there (leaving it up to the local school boards would mean that ID would be forced into science classes, barring court intervention). What is more, I can’t think of any other course that has any business teaching it at the lower levels–it isn’t even particularly good religion, and it’s clearly poor philosophy. Tearing it apart in a philosophy class is the only reason to introduce it into the schools (generally at the college level), from what I can see. Essentially, it shows up in some philosophy classes anyhow, via Paley. IDists haven’t exactly progressed since Paley, and in fact they seem less inclined to deal with the actual problems (such as poor designs) than Paley was.

    I would disagree with PZ and the school boards, at least somewhat. Locals ought to be able to address local educational issues that the feds cannot, and I believe that the locals ought to set curricula to a considerable extent. Of course they need guidance, and federal standards may be quite appropriate, but mostly I favor local democracy fr the schools as much as possible.

    ID is, of course, ruled out because it is religious propaganda, thus contrary to the first amendment as interpreted through the incorporation doctrine and case law. This is necessary, because locals might wish to teach religion rather than knowledge. Yet if they are restricted to secular educational issues, surely the locals are the closest to, and often the most knowledgeable about, their own schools.

    Glen D

  26. Mena says

    I do respect McCain for what he endured, I really don’t know if I could have done that. This being said, he has always struck me as being a bit of a whore, pandering to anyone who could get him something. Look, for example, at the way he was treated by the Bush campaign in 2000 and now there are pictures out there where’s he’s practically humping his leg! Clinton would have been accused of waffling for the same stuff.
    As for teaching ID in schools, when I was in the 7th grade our teacher had a black box with a hole where he dropped a ball and it came out another hole. We were taught the steps of the scientific method and had to use them in an essay to explain what might have happened inside the box. We were also tested on it quite heavily. Eventually he opened the box to show us what happened so that we could see how close we were. This sort of thing is what should be required in every school everywhere. That way it would help students know BS when they see it in science class but it would also help them not to be gullible in other areas of their lives. Maybe start earlier, in the 5th grade or something though. Kids are getting exposed to stuff a lot earlier these days.

  27. Doug says

    McCain realizes that he had better make with the god talk if he wants to get invited back to Jerry Falwell’s place. The real mystery is why he would want to be invited back to Jerry Falwell’s place.

  28. Steve_C says

    Runnin’ to the base.

    Loved that when he spoke at the New School commencement that he got upstaged by the Student before him.

  29. 386sx says

    “From a personal standpoint, I believe in evolution,” Mr. McCain said. At the same time, he said, “When I stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon and I see the sun going down, I believe the hand of God was there.”

    So I guess the Grand Canyon and the sun going down are supposed to be trickier than evolution. Maybe they’re just bigger and shinier than evolution. :-)

    Witness THE HAND OF THE MAGIC “POOF” BUNNY. Oooooooooohhhhh….

  30. Ezery says

    What IS this fascination with religion that americans have ???

    Here in Denmark we usually go to church twice in our lives. When we are christened, (Not really a choice here, as it’s a great excuse for our parents to throw a great party), and when we die.

    Oh, yes. We occationally get an american missionary that is hellbent (maybe not right choice of word) on showing us the right path, but then we usually invite him to the beach in the summer. After about 10 minutes ogling all the pretty topless blondes we have, he behaves like any other young man. Guess god, oops, sorry…God isn’t all that powerful, after all.

    Basically, come to Europe, if you can’t stand that religious crap you have over there. We’re nicer, God is more a joke than anything else, and we do actually have real blondes here.

    Oh yes, almost forgot. Only creationists we have, are the ones doing stand-up at bars.

  31. says

    Oh good grief, please let’s NOT reserve school curriculum for the pleasure of the local education authorities! That’s how we’re in the current mess we’re in here in Kansas — every time we turn around, we’re trying to kick more yahoos off the state school board. (I don’t know that there’s really more creationists in the state population, but they sure as hell vote more consistently than the average citizen.)

    I really gotta move. Abroad sounds better and better …


  32. says

    Palast – Why Democrats
    Don’t Count
    Lessons From The Un-Gore Of Mexico
    By Greg Palast

    The Exit polls said he won, but the “official” tally took his victory away. His supporters found they were scrubbed off voter rolls. Violence and intimidation kept even more of his voters away from the polls. Hundreds of thousands of ballots supposedly showed no choice for president — like ballots with hanging chads.

    And the officials in charge of this suspect election refused to re-count those votes in public. Everyone knew full well a fair count would certainly change the outcome.

    You’ve heard this story before: Gore 2000. Kerry 2004.

    But Lopez Obrador 2006 is made out of very different stuff than the scarecrow candidates who, oddly, call themselves “Democrats.”

    For six years now, I’ve had this crazy fantasy in my head. In it, an election is stolen and the guy who’s declared the loser stands up in front of the White House and says three magic words: “Count the votes.”

    This past Saturday, my dream came true. Unfortunately, it was in Spanish — but I’ll take what I can get. There was Andreas Manuel Lopez Obrador, presidential challenger, standing in the “Zocalo” — the square in front of Mexico’s White House, telling the ruling clique inside, “Count the votes!”

    Most important, his simple demand was echoed by half a million pissed-off, activated voters chanting with him, “Vota por vota!” — vote by vote.

    And you know what? I think they are going to have to listen. I suspect that the rulers of Mexico, a vicious, puffed-up, arrogant elite, may well have to count those votes. But, for that to happen, someone had to ask them to do it — in no uncertain terms.

    Traveling the USA, I’m asked again and again ‘Why don’t Democrats stand up when their elections are stolen?’

    The answer: for the same reason jellyfish don’t stand up… they’re invertebrates.

    I’m beginning to find that answer a bit too glib (though darn funny). Because it’s not about electoral cojones; it’s about a devotion to democracy deep in the bone. Yet weirdly, candidates that call themselves “Democrats” seem kind of, well, indifferent to democracy.

    Why? Elections are the radical tool of the working class — the great leveler of the powerless against the too-powerful. But the candidates themselves, both Republican and Democrat, tend to come from the privileged and pampered class. Votes are just the surfboards on which their ambitions ride.

    Right now in Mexico’s capitol, nearly a million ballots sit in tied bundles uncounted. That’s four times the “official” margin of victory of the ruling party over Lopez Obrador. Supposedly, they’re “votos nulos” — null votes, unreadable. But, not surprisingly, when a few packets were opened, the majority of these supposedly unreadable votes were Lopez Obrador’s.

    If you think that’s a Mexican game, think again. Because that’s exactly what happened in Florida and Ohio.

    In Florida, 179,855 ballots supposedly showed no vote for President. A closer look by the US Civil Rights Commission statisticians showed that 54% of those Florida “votos nulos” were cast by African-Americans. Did Black folk forget to vote for President, couldn’t make up their minds or, as one TV network implied, were too dumb to figure out the ballot? Not at all. Machines can’t count some ballots. But people can. For example, several voters wrote in, “Al Gore,” which the machines rejected as his name was already printed on the ballot. The write-in could fool a machine but a human has no problem figuring out that voter’s intent.

    The National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago reviewed all 179,855 “uncountable” votes and found the majority attempted to choose Gore. And they would have been counted — but Florida’s Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, ordered a halt.

    So Bush was elected not by counting the votes but by preventing their count. And he was reelected the same way in 2004 when a quarter million votes were nullified in Ohio.

    But why fixate on Florida and Ohio? Here’s a nasty little fact about voting in the Land of the Free not reported in your newspapers: 3,600,380 ballots were cast in the November 2004 presidential election that were never counted. In 2000, the uncounted ballots totaled just under two million.

    And where were the Democrats? In 2004, behind the huge jump in uncounted votes was a mass challenge campaign aimed at poor, Black and Hispanic voters by the Republican Party — pushing these voters, mostly Democrats, to “provisional ballots.” They could have been counted, if someone had fought for it. Hundreds of lawyers were on stand-by but the head of the biggest legal team told me in confidence — and in frustration — that the Kerry campaign told them to stand down.

    Recently, Al Gore was asked if the election of 2000 was stolen. “There may come a time when I speak on that, but it’s not now,” said the beta dog. (I suspect that if Al Gore were found bleeding in an alley, he’d answer the question, Who shot you? with “There may come a time when I speak on that…”).

    Lopez Obrador is of a different breed. At the rally last Saturday in Mexico City, he played video and audio tapes of the evidence of fraud on a screen eighty feet tall. Imagine if Gore had projected the “scrub sheets” of purged Black voters on a ten-story-high screen in front of the White House.

    Lopez Obrador put political force behind his legal demands by calling on voters from every state in Mexico to march to the capital. Two million are expected to arrive this Sunday. The result: the word among the political classes is that the election may be annulled. Even the conservative Financial Times has warned Mexico’s elite not to “fool itself” by ignoring the demand for a full vote count.

    North-of-the-Border Democrats just don’t get it. The Republican Party is pushing “provisional” ballots, pushing voter ID requirements, compiling secret challenge lists, scrubbing voter registries and selling us vote-nullifying ballot boxes: they get it completely. The GOP knows the key to their electoral domination is not in winning over their opponents’ votes, but in not counting them.

    The un-Gore of Mexico City has a lesson for the Blue-party gringos. Either the Democrats demand that all votes count, or the Democrats will count for nothing.

    Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, “ARMED MADHOUSE: Who’s Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal ’08, No Child’s Behind Left and other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War.” Go to

    Palast’s report, “Florida con Salsa? Vote Fraud in Mexico” was filmed and produced by Rick Rowley and Jacquie Soohen (Big Noise Films). Matt Pascarella, in Mexico, contributed to this investigation.

  33. says

    In his latter years, Goldwater understood the pernicious influence of religion in the political sphere. “Mavrick” McCain of the “Straight Talk” Express is just another politician willing to genuflect to the religious right.

  34. says

    Been at sea without internet access for three weeks. Lordy (or should I say Charlsy – Darwin, not my monarch in waiting) it’s good to get back and find PZ on blistering form and the comments and cephalopods well up to scratch. The Beagle Project has broken media cover in the UK (a bit before we’d hoped – follow links from my blog if you’re intrigued) and is getting interest from science ministers among others. The website is in need of updating but that will have to wait till I get ashore and am no longer blaguarding youth around the decks of this boat. Seen no cephalopods, but have seen a whale, some dolphins, and a rather myopic seagull. It flew into our rigging and both its legs fell off as it flew away. One landed on deck, and no I didn’t try seagull leg wonton.