Uh-oh. I’m being chastised by Jason, and by more than a few commenters in the thread about Mitt Romney’s views on evolution. You’re all going to have to crack the whip harder, though, because I am still unpersuaded, and I’m still mildly disgusted with all the people praising Romney for his anti-science statements.
First, let me deal with a misconception: I am not proposing to run Romney out of the country on a rail. I mentioned that I expected the candidates in the Democratic field would probably say exactly the same mystical line of crap … and come the election, I’m going to hold my nose and actually vote for one of those clowns who consistently pander to the religious. It’s a fact of life in this country, and I’m well aware that no politician with any hope of a career here is going to alienate the god-soaked electorate.
Importantly, however, I am not one of those politicians. Neither are most of the critics. Neither are the people who happily posted articles suggesting that Romney’s stance was pro-science. Here’s some good news, people: you don’t have to pander to Sour Old Ms. Haggarty, the wife of the deacon who lives down the street, to get her vote. Romney and Clinton and Obama do, but you aren’t running for office—so please do speak your mind, and do demand that your representatives should meet your standards, even if it pisses off the deacon’s wife.
In fact, it’s your responsibility. This is supposed to be a representative republic, where you elect leaders who will try to follow the consensus of your region. Every interest group is tugging on these people. If a candidate takes one feeble step in your direction, and you announce, “Hey, that’s good enough! You’re on my side!”, that means he can then ignore you. He knows you’re content with an occasional token nod, so he can follow the wishes of the more demanding interest groups. While Ms. Haggarty is demanding the candidate’s obedience on gay marriage, abortion, taxes, and keeping all that wicked ‘controversial’ science-based immorality out of the schools, tugging on him with a length of steel cable, your line on him is a limp loop of rubber band, and you’re getting all happy and excited because he used the word “evolution” once without promising to outlaw it. Woo freakin’ hoo.
I’m not holding my breath waiting for politicians to announce their complete rejection of god-belief. I don’t expect it to happen in my lifetime, although I do have some hope that it will happen in my children’s lifetime. What would content me is for the godless voters in this country to get some fire in the belly and unambiguously stake out their rejection of god-belief, rather than constantly running to follow in the shadow of the religious.
The second big issue is the complaint that I can’t tell the difference between a theistic evolutionist and an intelligent design creationist.
That’s a fair complaint, actually. I can’t.
Pretend I’m a Martian (not hard to do, I suppose; to a lot of people, my complete rejection of “faith” as a reason for believing in something seems to make me alien, anyway). Explain it to me. I even explicitly laid that out as a question at the end of my post; no one seems to have tried. At best, what Jason and poke do is point out that there is a difference in tactics—the theistic evolutionists are willing to move their god out of gaps in our knowledge as they are closed and place them in other gaps; the IDists want to fight to keep the gaps open, usually by misrepresenting the science that threatens them. That’s a fine distinction by me; I propose then that we just keep kicking the theistic evolutionists away, since they’re so meek. Will they turn into IDists when we threaten some particularly juicy and cherished gap?
Finally, I have to address one particular comment by Chris Ho-Stuart.
What do you imagine this next court case will be about?
If the text book explicitly advocates a religious perspective, like a creator God, then the case will be easy. It will be out on the basis of the first ammendment.
If they avoid mentioning God, and describe the scientific models — and if they use the same scientific models as we do — then why will there be a case?
Are we going to bring a court case because the author of a book describing conventional evolutionary biology is known to believe that God creates by the agency of those natural processes?
You’ve already got in the schools a textbook by one of these theistic evolutionists. It’s Biology, by Ken Miller and Joe Levine.
Do you want to raise a court case about that one? If not; then what do you expect to be different with books by other Christians who think that natural processes are the means of God’s creative activity?
That’s completely backwards from my thinking; he couldn’t have reversed my position more if it had been done intentionally.
I don’t want to raise a court case about Miller and Levine. It’s an excellent book, and I wish more high schools would use it seriously and teach their kids evolutionary biology from it. I have no idea what the religious beliefs of Campbell and Purves and Johnson and Raven and Brooker (to name a few on the shelf in front of me) and so forth were, and they don’t matter as long as the science within their books is competently done.
Remember, though, I’m a Martian. I don’t have your preconception that Miller is one of the good guys (I’m not arguing that he isn’t, either). What I’m saying is that in the last trial, one of the killer arguments was that Of Pandas and People was the product of authors who were trying to push religion, but that they had sneakily excised all mention of the word “Creator” from the book. Apparently, authorial motives are relevant; what’s to stop the next trial from pitting one proudly Christian author of a book that doesn’t mention god or religion against another proudly Christian author of a book that doesn’t mention god or religion? If it came down to that, we couldn’t reject either.
I’ve seen the new book that the DI is going to be pushing. It doesn’t mention God, and you’ll be shocked to learn that it doesn’t even mention Design or a Designer. It does describe some of the scientific models, very poorly. It describes at length objections to those models, again badly and with a consistently misleading slant; it might be described as a glossy version of Icons of Evolution. It’s “Teach the (contrived) Controversy” with a vengeance. It’s also an incredibly bad textbook.
I predict the next trial will be completely different from the last one, unless it’s another loose-cannon old school creationist trying to sneak Answers in Genesis tracts into biology class. It’s not going to be tried on the basis of separation of church and state unless we want to be doomed: as I pointed out before, there’s more overt religiosity in the theistic evolutionist camp everybody loves so much than there is in this new book, so taking the tack of trying to tar it with that tenuous association with Howard Ahmanson and the same people who published Pandas is going to be futile. The DI’s careful avoidance of words that tripped the trigger of Judge Jones, and our own side’s sloppy endorsement of superstitious rationalizing for godly intervention in evolution, have closed the door on finding relief in the First Amendment.
The IDists are science-ignorant frauds, but they aren’t stupid, usually. The next fight is going to be harder.