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Posted by on Dec 3, 2007 in Politics | 28 comments

Are Huckabee’s Views On Evolution Irrelevant?

Does it matter, or doesn’t it?

Fast-rising GOP Presidential hopeful Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee doesn’t believe in evolution, just intelligent design. You now have Huckabee picking up steam in the GOP and Senator Barack Obama seemingly ready to upset some of the conventional wisdom that New York Senator Hillary Clinton is “inevitable”. TMV favorite Andrew Sullivan thinks that’d be a great race with two good options, but Comment Central’s Daniel Finklestein thinks Huckabeee’s stand on evolution matters:

The reason that his support for intelligent design matters is that it is ridiculous. Who wants a President of the United States who doesn’t accept the basic principles of science, taking refuge instead in a load of mumbo jumbo?

The religious beliefs of a President are a matter of conscience, but intelligent design is not a religious idea. It is, deliberately, put as an alternative scientific theory. But it is, sadly, nonsense.

It is clearly vital that he or she be someone who accepts and understands scientific methods. By rejecting evolution in favour of intelligent design Huckabee illustrates that he does not reach scientific conclusions based on evidence.

From a purely political standpoint alone, he is correct. If the Republicans nominate someone who says he doesn’t believe in evolution there is a huge chunk of American voters who simply will not vote for him or her. His vote would be limited largely the Republican base. And BOTH parties will need independent voters to win in 2008.

But this is the continuing problem with early primaries. Each party’s base increasingly dictates the stands of the candidates but in a general election that could spell trouble.

On the other hand, Huckabee is a master at dealing with issues using humor — so perhaps in the end his skillful use of humor will neutralize any voters’ misgivings, if he gets the nomination.

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Copyright 2007 The Moderate Voice
  • domajot

    I’ve given up on trying to understand what’s relevant for the ‘American people’. There is too much relevance given to all sorts of mythis: that a president can prevent a terrorist attack. that torure can prevent terrorism, etc.

    To me, Huckabee’s denial of evolution is profoundly significant. I shudder at the thought of a president making critical decisions on the basis of a belief contradicted by evidence.
    By all appearances, Huckabee is a nice man. Nice men can make dangerously bad decisions, however.
    When those decisions can affect me and mine, I take this issue very seriously.

  • Lynx

    I’m not sure how much it worries me. On the one hand, I’m 90% sure that Huckabee is lying. No well educated person really believes that ID is relevant, scientifically.

    On the other hand there is the 10% chance that his knowledge of science is so dim that he really means what he says. Even if he is lying (which is what I think) there is the possibility that he will implement policy in line with the thinking he claims to have. If he’s simply pandering to the far reaches of the less educated of the religious, only to throw off such silly notions once in the White House, I guess I don’t have a problem with it, too much. After all, it would just be one in a long list of things pols pretend to care about to keep the base happy and then proceed to utterly ignore. Then again, if he pursued an actively anti-science agenda in office, if he decided to keep acting out the charade or reality of his belief in flat earth theory, Intelligent Design, then it could be very relevant.

  • Davebo

    If he’d come out and said he believes in Creationism over Evolution at least he’d be intellectually honest.

    But to support Intelligent Design?

  • jeff

    I believe that the evolution-intelligent design – biblical creation spectrum is a little iffy to try to pin a candidate down. For one thing, they’re all theories – models, if you will.
    I am more interested in how the candidates would respond to the question “Is the earth over 10,000 years old?”. According to a Gallup poll taken since the 80’s, somewhere between 52 – 56% of Americans believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old, as the bible pins the age at somewhere between 5 and 8,000.
    There are many scientists who believe in Intelligent Design and the debate on that side will continue to rage for decades and many Christians can allow for Intelligent Design within their biblical beliefs.
    The 10,000-year-old question, however, cuts to the point of how literally one interprets the bible. I believe that this is a question that I would want answered by our political leaders.

  • domajot

    If he’s lying to rev up the base, then what would he do as president to keep the base happy? If he denies enovlution, then it matters not to me if he is lying or not. He’s opened a dorr, and what the door leads to is equally troubling, lies or truth.

  • Idiosyncrat

    Lying? I wouldn’t hold your breath…

    According to this Gallup poll taken in August 2005, there’s a whole lot of Americans who think Intelligent design is probably or definitely true — 31%, to be exact. And before you go thinking that 69% think it’s false, know that 37% of that remaining number is not familiar with the concept or has no opinion — which means they can technically go either way.

    If someone knows of more recent reputable polling on this issue that sheds more light on the subject, please share. This is the best I could find in a hurry…

  • Joe,

    More Americans believe in a literal hell and the devil than Darwin’s theory of evolution, according to a new Harris poll released on Thursday.

    …Only 42 percent of those surveyed said they believed in Darwin’s theory which largely informs how biology and related sciences are approached.

    …”Born-again Christians are more likely to believe in the traditional elements of Christianity than are Catholics or Protestants. For example, 95 percent believe in miracles, compared to 87 percent and 89 percent among Catholics and Protestants,” according to the poll.

    “On the other hand only 16 percent of born-again Christians, compared to 43 percent of Catholics and 30 percent of Protestants, believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution.”

    Regards, C

  • hthalljr

    Compare Romney’s response to Bob Schieffer on “Face the Nation” last October:
    http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2007/12/03/493849.aspx
    – – –
    SCHIEFFER: Well, I remember during one of the Republican debates people were asked — various candidate, did they believe in evolution. And I believe you said that you did.

    ROMNEY: Yes, I do. Yes, it`s very consistent with me to believe that there is a God and a creator, but that he might use the tools of science as we`re learning them to help create the human body.

    Now, I don`t think he created the human spirit or soul that way, but I think that`s something that comes from God. But how he created our body is something which I think science will help to find.

    And I don`t argue with science. I believe there`s no conflict between true religion and true science. And we have got a lot to learn. There`s so much we don`t know, probably both on the scientific front as well as on the front of theology.
    – – –
    As a scientist, I happen to agree with Romney, and I believe that as president he would seek input from scientists.

    But Romney is speaking his own mind: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has no official position on evolution. You will find Mormons, even high officials, who believe in evolution, and Mormons, even high officials, who don’t, and nobody gets in trouble for his opinion.

    Tracy Hall Jr
    hthalljr’gmail’com

  • kritt

    One hundred million people in this country are evangelicals-maybe that accounts for the 31% that believe in ID. These folks have had it drummed into their heads by religious leaders, who put faith ahead of science. Huckabee, a former Baptist minister might be of the same ilk.

    Honestly, I find the anti-science bias very frightening-because surely Huckabee would be pressured in office to do more than state his opinion.

  • Rudi

    Is W’s beliefs and practice any different. Look at the controversy at US Fish and Wildlife.
    http://www.balloon-juice.com/?p=9228
    If he(Huckabee0 puts his beliefs into play against the scientists at NASA and US F&W, then he’s another Bush. If he allows experts to make decisions, not so bad. Some reportes or YouTuber needs to ask that question.

  • Anyone interested in what Huckabee is really like face to face should try this funny (but it actually happened) column:
    http://goupstate.us/index.php/lanefiller/2007/11/02/title_14

  • Plear

    Personally, this concerns me.

    No well educated person really believes that ID is relevant, scientifically.

    I really don’t see how people can just lump Christians into a group to be dismissed as uneducated

    These folks have had it drummed into their heads by religious leaders, who put faith ahead of science.

    and indoctrinated.

    So, you’ve just said that

    One hundred million people in this country are

    either too ‘biased against science’, ‘stupid’ or just ‘gullible’ to be on the same level as you. Sounds kind of biased to me.

  • kritt

    Plear- You are combining comments. I never said that none of the 100 million evangelicals are intelligent or educated. There are many very religious people who are very intelligent. But their faith often takes precedence over available scientific knowledge, because they trust what their reverend or pastor has been telling them since birth. Faith and reason are not the same.

  • Most Christians I know accept evolution and reject belief in the Devil or a literal Hell. Most don’t take the Bible literally (Thank God!).

  • Lynx

    Plear I did not in fact lump all Christians together as uneducated. Notice that I did not say that someone who is a Christian is uneducated, but that someone who believes in ID is uneducated. I stand by that statement, if you believe that ID is real you are uneducated in the biological sciences, and very likely in the scientific method. If that leaves a significant portion of Americans on the uneducated side, so be it. ID is not legitimate, and is not “just another side” it’s a fraud. Astrology is not in the same league as Astronomy and ID is not in the same league as evolutionary theory.

    believe that the evolution-intelligent design – biblical creation spectrum is a little iffy to try to pin a candidate down. For one thing, they’re all theories – models, if you will.
    I am more interested in how the candidates would respond to the question “Is the earth over 10,000 years old?”. According to a Gallup poll taken since the 80’s, somewhere between 52 – 56% of Americans believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old, as the bible pins the age at somewhere between 5 and 8,000.
    There are many scientists who believe in Intelligent Design and the debate on that side will continue to rage for decades and many Christians can allow for Intelligent Design within their biblical beliefs.

    Three things here. There is a fundamental difference between a theory in regular language and a scientific theory. ID is not a theory in the way evolution is a theory. Evolution is a theory the way GRAVITATION is a theory. ID has zero scientific credentials. I see you are more concerned about young earth creationism. The fact is that the “young earth theory” is as credible as ID theory, that is, not at all. As for scientists that believe in intelligent design…I’d love to see the data on that nugget, most especially how many of them are biologists or biochemists. There is NO ID vs. evolution debate within the scientific realm. Insofar as there is debate about evolution, it is about it’s mechanisms and history, not about it’s existence, and ID only ever comes up at coffee breaks as an opportunity for some jokes.

  • jonst

    I think if Huckabee could harvest, and spread, Lynx’s comment regards education and ID he could up his vote total by 10%. Don’t get me wrong Lynx…its not that I disagree, or agree, with your assertion. I simply think that that kind of statement is the type of thing Republicans have been exaggerating, and playing on, since Reagan. People would vote for him just to show you, and, so they think, in their ‘victim of elites martyrdom syndrome’, that you are wrong. i.e. they think themselves educated…and therefore they want to prove you wrong. This dynamic is, I would argue, the essence of Bushism…and for his support even when people know he is full of shit.

  • Mark M

    I don’t care if he believes in the tooth fairy as long as he believes in the FairTax! I shouldn’t say “believe” because its benefits are purely mathematically and require NO faith. I’d like to get a quick correlation between those of you who hate Huck and the fairtax, or just Huck. Please state AND reference your thoughts, if you can…

  • Sam

    Well not everyone that says they will get on board with ID thinks the world was made 6000 years ago. I’m ok with someone simply willing to say hey, I don’t know for sure either way, but maybe there is a god who had a direct hand in our creation. Some supporters of ID are that way and I’m sure many of that 31% are.

    But I do have a problem with someone who thinks that the world is 6000 years old and our ancestors used to play tag with T-Rex before the flood came along and killed the dinosaurs that wouldn’t fit into Noah’s Ark. That person has a serious disconnect with reality and should not be running a country. I don’t know which camp Huck falls into but I doubt its the latter.

  • jeff

    sam – agreed – that’s part of what I’m trying to say

    Lynx,

    My point was to say that ID is not a good measure of what a candidate believes about the nature of our universe. ID can be totally in keeping with a strict interpretation of the bibilical creation story, or it can be as nuanced as to how the scientists referenced below think. To my mind, saying “I believe in ID” provides nothing of value to the voter.

    To your points:
    1) there are different meanings to the word “theory” – exactly correct. This is a problem when you try to tell someone that ID is not a theory. It IS a theory, just not a scientific theory. So the question must be posed as “do you believe ID is a viable scientific theory” to be of any value.
    2) young earth theory: I believe this is a better indicator of how one will allow a strict reading of the bible to guide their decisions. The Genesis story and the rest of the bible provide a solid number for the “beginning of time”. Someone who believes that the Bible is the exact verbatim “Word of God” worries me more than one who believes that the bible is a good book providing solid moral character. I disagree with that as well, but I would not change my vote solely on their belief in the latter.
    3) There is ID vs evolution debate (as listed briefly below). It is not extreme, but it’s there.

    per here
    http://www.discovery.org/csc/topQuestions.php
    “These scholars include biochemist Michael Behe at Lehigh University, microbiologist Scott Minnich at the University of Idaho, biologist Paul Chien at the University of San Francisco, emeritus biologist Dean Kenyon at San Francisco State University, mathematician William Dembski at Baylor University, and quantum chemist Henry Schaefer at the University of Georgia.”
    which references here
    http://www.lehigh.edu/~inbios/faculty/behe.html
    , for example

    In short, ID provides good political cover. It allows a politician to duck the question of their level of belief and satisfy both sides of the argument so that it becomes a non-issue. The 10,000-year-old question separates the wheat from the chaff, regardless of which you believe is the wheat and which is the chaff.

  • JSpencer

    Kritt summed it up best for me: ” I find the anti-science bias very frightening” – to which I would add a few more verys. What an incredible shame, we live in an era when so much empirical, demonstrable, scientific information is available – more than any other time in history, to anyone for the learning, yet despite this, so many choose to turn their backs on it! Oh wait, they don’t turn their backs on science when it provides HD tvs, microwave ovens, modern medicine, and GPS in their SUVs. Could it be god tells them which products of science are correct and which are incorrect? Or maybe it’s a belief system of habit and convenience afterall.

  • CaseyL

    Are Huckabee’s creationist views irrelevant?

    Are you serious??

    Anyone who believes in creationism (and ID *is* creationism) is someone who doesn’t understand, or refuses to understand, the very basis of scientific inquiry. Creationism has offered *no* testable hypotheses, *no* workable models for genetic selection and drfit, nor for mutational genetics. Creationists also think God will prevent anything really bad from happening to humanity, so they refuse to think seriously about issues like epidemiology, climate change, drug-resistant diseases – while at the same time opposing medical advances such as genetic-based therapies, cloning, and stem cell research.

    Those are all important issues now, and will only become more important in the coming years.

    I don’t expect a President to be an expert on evolution. But I damned well expect a President to understand and accept at least the rudiments of science methodology and philosophy, because otherwise s/he won’t be able to understand medicine or climatology, and so won’t be able to make any intelligent decisions on those issues.

  • Idiosyncrat

    Sam wrote:

    Well not everyone that says they will get on board with ID thinks the world was made 6000 years ago. I’m ok with someone simply willing to say hey, I don’t know for sure either way, but maybe there is a god who had a direct hand in our creation. Some supporters of ID are that way and I’m sure many of that 31% are.

    Totally agree. And the polling data seems to indicate exactly that — that many people are uncomfortable discounting some form of ID completely. Which really makes sense given the religiosity of American society and the difficulty in reconciling the Old and New Testament with the scientific record.

  • Lynx

    3) There is ID vs evolution debate (as listed briefly below). It is not extreme, but it’s there.

    per here
    http://www.discovery.org/csc/topQuestions.php
    “These scholars include biochemist Michael Behe at Lehigh University, microbiologist Scott Minnich at the University of Idaho, biologist Paul Chien at the University of San Francisco, emeritus biologist Dean Kenyon at San Francisco State University, mathematician William Dembski at Baylor University, and quantum chemist Henry Schaefer at the University of Georgia.”

    4 people do not in fact constitute a controversy. Of course, being a minority does not make you illegitimate, lacking in any experimental data to back your claims does. Among the thousands upon thousands of scientists in the world, it doesn’t surprise me that at least a few hold ridiculous views. Actually the number seems rather low. Here’s some info on all these scientists:
    Scott Minnich

    Dean Kenyon


    Michael Behe

    William Dembski who I only mention because your quote from the religious advocacy group did, if you look at his bio I think it’s clear he shouldn’t be taken as anything close to objective on this subject, besides not having qualifications in biology.

    Take special note of the fact that all of them avoid peer review when writing about ID. The near universal rejection of ID in the world of biology is not some biased conspiracy, it’s that ID is totally unscientific. It saddens me that real scientists would cling to views that so patently contradict their own training, but then again, they aren’t such isolated cases, when you think about it.

  • jeff

    Lynx,
    I concur with nearly everything you say except calling these views “ridiculous”. The physicists creation story, nicely laid out here:
    It says we may only be able to conjecture what was before the big bang. At Tsub0, a chance fluctuation occurred “owing to quantum uncertainty’. There was a “runaway expansion faster than the speed of light”. Between 10^-32 and 10^-5, there is a surplus of quarks – and there is no reason for it, it just is – which leads to the creation of matter.
    Some time later, self-replicating molecules appear on a planet orbiting an average star in a relatively average location in a relatively average galaxy. Over time, these self-replicating molecules somehow manage to form the rudiments of DNA which, in turn, are changed over time so that the ones that are capable of reproducing more efficiently outnumber the others. We do not yet understand this changing mechanism.
    This process continues until, somehow, beings with the ability to reflect upon themselves appear. Humans.
    This is what I believe happened. But science is not about “belief”. It is about facts to which you can agree or disagree. It provides nothing to “believe” in. As soon as someone “believes” in something in science, they fall into the same trap as those who believe the earth is flat.
    The current “belief” in physics seems to go something like this: it had to happen this way or we wouldn’t be here to observe it. But, really, is it all that random? Look at the holes in the current cosmology. Is it really ridiculous to think that there might be some other mechanism at work? Not an “intelligence” in the sense of a bearded man sitting on some heavenly throne, but some underlying “force” that we have yet to uncover? That may best be described as “intelligent”?
    Given what I believe, I think they’re likely wrong, but I do not think what they are exploring is ridiculous.

  • Sam

    Well I think you guys are conflating those willing to admit that maybe there was a supreme being meddling in the creation of the world, with those fundies that insist not only was he meddling, he did it in 7 days 6000 years ago. Not all ID supporters are that way, it just provides a philosophical space for them to stand on between god had nothing to do with it to god had everything to do with it.

    Funny thing is many who believe in evolution are already there. There is no reason not to believe that there was meddling and that evolution from strings of organic material to what we have today are both part of the same picture. Not what I believe but I’ll never be able to prove that, and as long as people can acknowledge the second part I can live with folks belief in the first part.

    And Jeff, I think you are getting science wrong. Science is simply our way of describing what we’ve seen happen and trying to figure out why it happened. We only have parts of the picture and we try to make educated guesses on it. Religion decides to not even look at the puzzle and tell you exactly what its about. The examples you have above would take a PHD in cosmology to understand and so of course to laymen they are going to sound rediculous. Frankly, the nuts and bolts of the real world are so complicated unless you have dedicated your life to them its kinda pointless to be concerned with it. Just enjoy the GPS, new materials, and pretty pictures from deep space we get as a result.

  • domajot

    My puzzlement centers on the inability of many people to say: I don’t know”.

    If there’s an uncexplained noise, it’t a ghost. or the devil knociking, or an angel calling.
    I say, leave at what it is: an unexplained noise.

    while waiting for a provable explanation, you can believe what you want, as far as I’m concerned.
    Just keep your cndjecture out of science class.

    Maybe I’m the exception, but I have no problem with living with a whole list of unknowables. I’ll move them into the belief column only when I see evidence.

  • Lynx

    My puzzlement centers on the inability of many people to say: I don’t know”.

    My sentiments exactly, doma. I can’t comment solidly on the physics and mathematics of the very early stages in the Universe, since my field is biology, but I am willing to extend a proffesional courtesy to the miriad of physicists and assume that they aren’t just making shit up. I assume that the models they have constructed are the best ones available at the moment to explain the present configuration of the universe and what we know about it’s past. Of course it doesn’t explain everything, and no one really knows where everything came from, but just because we don’t know, doesn’t mean we put a god there. A god simply sets the problem back one more step (where did god come from?) and gives us no additional understanding.

    But at least the origin of the universe IS mysterious, and physics and mathematics are so difficult that even relatively accepted explanations are utterly opaque to the average person. Under those circumstances I guess I can understand using our elevated explanation instincts to put a god figure there. What really GETS me about ID is that it puts a god-figure where none is neccesary. Evolutionary theory gives a good, proven explanation, and it’s general mechanisms are very easy to understand. The tongue in cheek “Intelligent falling” movement could be another example. You take a natural phenomenon, already explained by science, and try to insist that “god did it”. ID is not merely “god guiding evolution” as many educated Catholics say as a compromise, ID is creationism in a cheap suit (how I wish I had thought of that line).

  • domajot

    Sam said:

    “..it just provides a philosophical space for them to stand on between god had nothing to do with it to god had everything to do with it. ”

    The operational term here is PHILOSOPHICAL, and that’s fine.
    The question of god, or the supernatural in general, is by definition out of the realm of science. Science can not prove of disprove the role of god, because science addresses only natural phenomenon..
    Science has proved that the mechnisms of evolution work. It can not even ask what supernatural forces, if any, inspire the mechanisms or whether evolution is a good thing or a bad thing.

    Scinece observes and reports on natural phenomenon. Period.

    Scinece and philosophy can co-esist peacefully in individuals and in society unless philosophy intrudes on science, or when science and philosophy come into conflict.

    When philosophy wants to frame science in philosophical terms (ID in some of its forms) that’s an intrusion, and can be solved by a simple method of separation. Science on one plane, philosophy on anther, in separate classrooms and areas of thought.
    When philosophy disputes science (creationism and the age of earth), that’s an irreconcilable conflict, and there is no middle ground.

    Potential presidents like Huckabee need to be clear how they would resolve issues of the co-existence of philosophy and science. While allowing both into his thinking, does he understand the difference between the two?
    It’s even more important to know how he would resrolve conflicts between philosophy and science.
    Does philosophy trump science in decision making?

    With religion as the centerpiece in so many campaigns, it would be important for all candidates to be as clear as what I require of Huckabee.

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