Mike Pence, creationist

In 2001, a French anthropologist discovered some very interesting specimens in West Central Africa: the skulls of some 6-7 million year old apes that showed some chimpanzee-like features and some human-like features. He called it Sahelanthropus tchadensis.

In 2002, Mike Pence used the bully pulpit of the house of representatives to denounce Sahelanthropus and the entire theory of evolution, in a pointless exercise of flouting his ignorance. Why, I don’t know; perhaps he thought he could use a scientific discovery to somehow legislate against science? The performance has been caught on video.

It’s an extended riff on the “just a theory” argument, revealing that he doesn’t understand what a scientific theory means. He cites the 1925 Scope trial as the moment where this mere “theory” was legislated into the classroom and taught as fact; wrong. The Scopes trial was the result of a law that tried to prohibit teaching evolution, the side of science lost the case, and the theory has been taught in classrooms ever since because it is the best-supported explanation of the history of life. And evolution is a fact — life has not been static, but species change over time.

Then he claims that we all remember our classrooms illustrated with that linear portrayal of humans evolving from little monkeys to Mel Gibson. Well, I’ve been teaching for 30 years that that linear sequence is wrong, and that evolution is all about branching descent, which is also, as it happens, how Darwin thought about it (that popular Time-Life illustration is a true curse on evolution education).


But I also challenge Pence on his claim that this portrayal was ubiquitous in classrooms. I had a public school education, in the liberal stronghold of King County, Washington, and never once heard the word “evolution” pass the lips of my teachers. What I learned about evolution before college I got from sneaking into the “Adult” section of the local public library, because this was a subject they didn’t even allow children to read about.

Pence reads about Sahelanthropus and claims to be surprised, that this represents a new theory that human evolution was taking place all across Africa and on the Earth. Uh, what? He also criticizes it because the textbooks will have to be changed, because the old theory of evolution…is suddenly replaced by a new theory.

I really want to play poker with Mike Pence. The astonishment on his face when the second hand dealt to him is different from the first will be something to behold. He will be aghast that the rules of poker get changed with every deal.

And then he gets to his point. Every theory is equivalent. We ought to also teach the theory that the signers of the declaration of independence believed — that humans were created by a creator. The Bible tells us that God created man in his own image, male and female he created them, and I believe that. He also thinks that scientists will come to see that only the theory of intelligent design provides even a remotely rational explanation for the known universe. Alas, scientists have scrutinized intelligent design explanations for a century or two now, and have generally found them to be useless crap.

It’s clear. Mike Pence is not only a babbling loon, but he’s a generic Biblical creationist who sees Intelligent Design creationism as a loophole to smuggle his religious ideas into the classroom. He’s wrong about virtually everything in that pompous little speech.

He’s lucky in one thing, though: he’s got Donald Trump boldly distracting most of the media from making any noise about Mike Pence’s incompetence and ignorance. Even without Trump, I don’t want this goober anywhere near high office.


  1. numerobis says

    Mike Pence is life insurance against a leftist radical. On the right, it’s a claim that somebody less obviously incompetent than Trump will be running the show.

  2. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Typical. Doesn’t understand his imaginary deity existing is just a theory.

  3. Ed Seedhouse says

    Um, maybe I’m being picky, but I think you meant “flaunting”, not “flouting”.

  4. Janine the Jackbooted Emotion Queen says

    Mike Pence was not going to get re-elected to be governor of Indiana (Look up the shit storms that happened in the wake of his “religious freedom” law.) Being the VP candidate for the orange ghoul was his only escape from going back to being a local conservative talk show host again. If he does not spend the next for years doing a balancing act of standing for both his fundamentalist beliefs and what ever self serving statement his orange master utters, perhaps he gets to be a national pundit like Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee.

    Sickening, isn’t it?

  5. raven says

    …perhaps he gets to be a national pundit like Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee.

    He would fit in perfectly on Fox NoNews.

  6. robro says

    PZ, I don’t understand why you feel it’s necessary to slander loons and goobers (aka peanuts) by using them as epithets for Pence and his ilk. Loons are a fine bird and peanuts a food crop enjoyed by billions. Have you no decency?

  7. raven says

    Mike Pence is Donald Trump without the wit and charm.

    He is simply a horrible person with no qualifications for any office.

  8. parrothead says

    That false equivalency part always drives me a little batty. There isn’t even a scientific theory of intelligent design or creationism to compare with. It’s comparing horses and unicorns. Most people know unicorns don’t exist but there are a few that can describe their “anatomy” and claim their superiority over actual horses.

  9. unclefrogy says

    I don’t know anyone who has a favorable opinion of him nor even a neutral one probably says as much about me as anything I intend to keep it that way.
    He presents an acceptable image and then he says and does what he thinks is right revealing he has no qualifications and is just another ignorant right-wing religious crackpot.
    I wonder how much Agnew is in him. (cronyism)
    uncle frogy

  10. JohnnieCanuck says

    This could be the hand in the orange faced puppet for the next few years. That puppet is going to get bored with all the real work and planning involved and leave it to others while he does the photo-ops, unless Americans wake up and pay attention.

  11. militantagnostic says

    Nerd @4

    Typical. Doesn’t understand his imaginary deity existing is just a theory hypothesis unevidenced conjecture.


  12. happyrabo says

    richardelguru @1:

    Wouldn’t that be devolution?

    No, because there’s no such thing, as evolution does not have a direction.

  13. says

    Mike Pence used his biblical approach to all things to bash marriage equality as well. Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential pick, has been hammering away at Pence.

    Kaine spoke at a rally in Greensboro, North Carolina yesterday. He spoke in support of LBGT issues, and against the discriminatory HB2 law. Here is an excerpt from coverage at that rally:

    “Now, I know in North Carolina, there’s been some pain over this issue. They snuck through in the legislature this HB 2, and they tried to introduce it kind of in the dead of night,” [Kaine] said. “You all have stood up in a major way and you’ve said this is not who we are. This is not who North Carolina is. These are not our values. And that’s one of the reasons why North Carolina is so intensely focused on this race.” […]

    Kaine recalled a 2006 speech that Mike Pence delivered supporting a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman, in which the then-congressman suggested that “societal collapse” would follow the “deterioration of marriage and family.”


  14. mikeym says

    Move over, Newt. You now have competition for the title of “stupid man’s idea of what a smart man sounds like.”

  15. gijoel says

    He wants to consign “Roe vs. Wade to the dustbin of history”. Why are we surprised that he’s a creationist?

  16. sojourner says

    The Bible tells us that God created man in his own image, male and female he created them.

    Well, which one is the copy. Or is god a hermaphrodite. Inquiring min ds want to know..

  17. robro says


    …God created man in his own image, male and female he created them. Well, which one is the copy.

    Easy peasy…that’s Genesis 1:27. Read Genesis 2:4 and following where Adam (man) clearly precedes Eve (woman). According to several writers, there are other creation myths in Genesis. According to one, Genesis 4:1 is one, where Eve is the instrument of creation. Then there’s the flood, which is a sort of re-genesis.

    Of course, a Biblical literalist let these variations slip right past them.

  18. Pierce R. Butler says

    sojourner @ # 18: The Bible tells us that God created man in his own image, male and female he created them.

    Well, which one is the copy.

    Some claim that in the 1500s they worked this out, elaborating on ideas going back to the ancient Greeks, by claiming that each type of genitalia is the other, turned inside out. Historian Thomas Laqueur calls this the “one-sex theory” – NY Magazine published an intro to it by Lili Loofbourow here.

  19. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Doesn’t the babble say something like you shall know them by the company they keep? I can’t be arsed to look it up. But anyway, as far as I know the one group Trump hasn’t bashed is LGBTQ folk*, but the fact that he chose this asshole as his running mate is damning on that score.

    As for Pence, by hitching his wagon to Trump he’s revealed himself as one who will do just about anything to gain power.

    They complete each other.

    *Apologies if I’ve missed something. It’s hard to keep track.

  20. mnb0 says

    “Every theory is equivalent”
    Yay! I want Flat Earth Theory be taught in science class.

  21. Chris Whitehouse says

    Look at Darwin’s sketch. He is saying that we are descended from TV antennas? This is what you get when you are led astray by the Adversary!

  22. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    So anyway, if you’re going to treat all creation “theories” as equivalent, I suppose you’d have to give equal time to all of these.

    I assume that’s just a partial list.

  23. lanir says

    Poor Sahelanthropus tchadensis. They show up in the introduction for Glenn Beck’s new book Liars as well. Sort of. He… gets confused easily and after mentioning the name they magically transform into humans. The book is Beck’s attempt at emulating a poo-flinging monkey. He takes the nastiest elements of himself and projects them onto liberals. So he talks about them being fear-mongering authoritarian liars who live in a fact-free world. Apparently without a shred of self-awareness.

  24. fledanow says

    “in a pointless exercise of flouting his ignorance. ”

    Please, he flaunted it. Openly, vociferously, foolishly flaunted it while flouting the common sense rule that you don’t lecture on things about which you know nothing.