Our guest blogger is Rick Weiss, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Is McCain’s choice for vice president a creationist? The record offers worrisome evidence that the first woman to make it onto a Republican presidential ticket holds to this backward and wholly unscientific view of reality.
As reported in the Anchorage Daily News during her race for the governorship of Alaska, Sarah Palin offered up a classic anti-evolution answer when asked during a televised debate whether creationism should be taught with evolution in the public schools:
“Teach both,” Palin said. “You know, don’t be afraid of information… I am a proponent of teaching both.”
“Teach both” and “teach the debate” have long been the mantras of the religious right and the Intelligent Design crowds, which have struggled over the years as court after court has batted down their efforts to inject unscientific teachings into the nation’s science classes.
The legal record suggests that Palin’s approach is not just ignorant of the facts, but a plain violation of the Constitutional boundary between church and state.
Recall, for example, the December 2005 United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania decision in Kitzmiller vs. the Dover Area School District. At issue was the legality of a 2004 Dover Area School District decision to inform all students that they should “keep an open mind” about evolution and to encourage students to peruse Of Pandas and People, which the school district gamely referred to as “a reference book,” to gain an understanding of a competing view of how life came to be, known as Intelligent Design.
Judge John E. Jones III did not pull his punches. He found that the testimony of school board members who favored the teaching of Intelligent Design in the schools “was marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath.” He labeled intelligent design as “a religious alternative masquerading as a scientific theory.”
Judge Jones also highlighted the discovery of a secret game plan written by leaders of the Intelligent Design movement that made clear the real goal of these various academic and legal battles. The “Five Year Strategic Plan Summary,” known to fundamentalist insiders as the “Wedge Document,” states that the movement’s goal is to replace science as currently taught and practiced with “theistic and Christian science.” The group’s “governing goals,” according to this document, are to “defeat scientific materialism” and to “replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.”
In an interview after the 2006 debate, Palin, whose father was a public school science teacher according to the Daily News, sought to temper her initial response, saying that the classroom discussion about evolution and creationism “doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum.”
Well, that’s for sure. No less an arbiter of reason than the U.S. Supreme Court itself ruled in the 1980s that creationism has no place in the science curriculum. That goes for Intelligent Design as well. In the Kitzmiller decision, Judge Jones found “Intelligent Design” “the progeny of creationism,” which claims that all life was created by a supernatural force in exactly the form that it exists today.
Religion classes? Okay. Philosophy class? Sure. But the teaching of science becomes a farce when supernaturalism is made part of science class and the huge trove of evidence supporting evolution is belittled as “just another theory.”
Or “theories,” as Palin has oddly put it when talking about evolution:
“My dad did talk a lot about his theories of evolution,” she told the Anchorage newspaper, apparently unaware that there is but one theory of evolution, and it is just as well grounded by evidence as is the (“just a”) theory of gravity.
When the newspaper asked Palin for her personal views on evolution, Palin responded: “I believe we have a creator.” Asked, I suppose, and unanswered. But she is clearly a candidate in sync with her running mate.
John McCain, as you may remember, signed on as the keynote speaker at a Feb. 2007 event at the Discovery Institute, the major lobbying group for Intelligent Design.
In addition to her unscientific views on evolution, Palin has said she does not believe that human activities are contributing to global climate change, a fact of planetary life on which the world’s best scientists have reached complete consensus.
Alas, poor science, we knew her well. Eight years in a dungeon. Can she live four more without the light of day?