Governor Palin’s Creationist Credentials

In the interest of full disclosure, my readers should know that I support the McCain/Palin ticket for President and Vice-President of the United States. (Please don’t hold it against me!) And as readers of this blog well know, I’m also strongly opposed to the teaching of Creationism and Intelligent Design in our public high schools, colleges, and universities. (Of course, I’m all for discussing Creationism and Intelligent Design in the science classroom . . . as long as it’s for the purposes of highlighting the necessity for the scientific method, contrasting the testable theories of evolutionary mechanisms and the untestable theories of Creationism/ID, and exposing Creationism/ID as the pseudo-science it is.)

So, how is it that I would support a VP nominee who believes in Creationism and/or Intelligent Design? Easy. Elections are about more than one issue and, in the case of Gov. Palin—and Sen. McCain, for that matter—I’m not too worried that either one is going to pursue a policy of granting Creationism/ID “equal time” in the classroom.

Over the past two presidential election cycles, I’ve greatly appreciated the folk at FactCheck.org and their dedication to separating the “wheat” from the “chaff” in the world of politics. I also appreciate their recent investigation into Gov. Palin’s “Creationist credentials,” which should put my fellow Creationism detractors at ease (bold italics mine):

No Creationism in Schools


On Aug. 29, the Boston Globe reported that Palin was open to teaching creationism in public schools. That’s true. She supports teaching creationism alongside evolution, though she has not actively pursued such a policy as governor.

In an Oct. 25, 2006, debate, when asked about teaching alternatives to evolution, Palin replied:

Palin, Oct. 25, 2006: Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both. And you know, I say this too as the daughter of a science teacher. Growing up with being so privileged and blessed to be given a lot of information on, on both sides of the subject – creationism and evolution. It’s been a healthy foundation for me. But don’t be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides.

A couple of days later, Palin amended that statement in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News, saying:

Palin, Oct. 2006: I don’t think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum.

After her election, Palin let the matter drop. The Associated Press reported Sept 3: “Palin’s children attend public schools and Palin has made no push to have creationism taught in them. … It reflects a hands-off attitude toward mixing government and religion by most Alaskans.” The article was headlined, “Palin has not pushed creation science as governor.” It was written by Dan Joling, who reports from Anchorage and has covered Alaska for 30 years.

It should also be pointed out that both Sens. McCain and Obama believe that the process of biological evolution resulted in the creation of mankind and don’t believe Creationism/ID should be taught in the classroom as part of any school’s science curriculum:

Sen. Obama: I’m a Christian, and I believe in parents being able to provide children with religious instruction without interference from the state. But I also believe our schools are there to teach worldly knowledge and science. I believe in evolution, and I believe there’s a difference between science and faith. That doesn’t make faith any less important than science. It just means they’re two different things. And I think it’s a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don’t hold up to scientific inquiry. (“Obama on ID”)

Sen. McCain: I happen to believe in evolution. . . . I respect those who think the world was created in seven days. Should it be taught as a science class? Probably not. (“McCain talks war, religion, immigration: Music Festival crowd peppers former presidential candidate with questions,” Aspen Times, 2 July 2006)

Sen. McCain: Darwin helped explain nature’s laws. He did not speculate, in his published theories at least, on the origin of life. He did not exclude God, for Whom the immensity of time is but a moment, from our presence. The only undeniable challenge the theory of evolution poses to Christian beliefs is its obvious contradiction of the idea that God created the world as it is in less than a week. But our faith is certainly not so weak that it can be shaken to learn that a biblical metaphor is not literal history. Nature doesn’t threaten our faith. On the contrary, when we contemplate its beauty and mysteries we cannot quiet in our heart an insistent impulse of belief that for all its variations and inevitable change, before its creation, in a time before time, God let it be so, and, thus, its many splendors and purposes abide in His purpose. (Character Is Destiny by John McCain, 2005)

9 Comments

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9 Responses to Governor Palin’s Creationist Credentials

  1. Dan

    Although I am an undecided voter, you make some good points regarding Palin. As long as she and McCain don’t commit to trying to have ID taught it is a non-issue for me.

  2. AMW

    Darwin helped explain nature’s laws. He did not speculate, in his published theories at least, on the origin of life.

    Wow, McCain (or his ghost writer?) is actually capable of distinguishing between evolution and abiogenesis. I’m genuinely impressed.

    I’m still seriously underwhelmed by Palin, though, and creationism’s got nothing to do with it.

  3. I was disappointed to hear of yet another Republican politician espouse creationism. Sometimes I think I’m in the wrong party. Oh well. Like you say, it’s not like creationism is going to be taught if McCain and Palin get elected. HOWEVER… it does speak to the level of the “scientific IQ” of a candidate, and I think the evo/creo question is a good litmus test of a candidate’s commitment to proper science. In that way, Palin disturbs me. Republicans already have a reputation of being apathetic to science, and this certainly doesn’t help.

  4. Tom

    Thanks for the post, Mike. I was wondering about the cognitive dissonance that you theistic evolutionists, especially ones from an evangelical background, would respond to Palin.

    I think you’re right, that McCain/Palin are not going to get ID in the classroom. That is not one stance that scares me, but I can think of several others. 😉

  5. I think the evo/creo question is a good litmus test of a candidate’s commitment to proper science.

    I’ll grant this argument, Gumby. However, as I’ve said elsewhere in the blogosphere, it will be up to us to hold our leaders responsible for a commitment to proper science. Those of us with that level of commitment are a powerful force indeed.

    Tom,

    You know you like McCain. Just admit it and vote Republican. 😉

  6. There are not “2 sides” to evolutionary theory. It simply IS. This false dichotomy is commonly presented to con people into believing that this is “fair”. Now, Creation VS ABIOGENESIS is a better argument. BUT NOT EVOLUTION. Evolution has been tested, observed, and “forced” via natural selection; we KNOW it occurs. This is similar to arguing the “stork” side of sexual reproduction and the SEX side. One is based totally on evidence, the other is a “made-up” fairy tale. Science should be taught in science classrooms. The precedence has been set in Dover. Creationism and/or Intelligent Design ARE NOT science. Most of this debate is fueled by ignorance. People think that they understand evolution; that it “magically” creates new species overnight, this is a common misconception. Speciation events DO OCCUR, mutations can and DO add information to genomes. Thank God that the truth will be taught to children. The truth that Geologists, Paleontologists, Archaeologists, etc. have found and APPLY everyday to help further science. But again, to claim 2 sides is simply incorrect. There are not 2 sides to Evolutionary Theory just like there are not 2 sides to Heliocentric Theory (the “guess” that the earth revolves around the sun). We KNOW these things, and APPLY them everyday.

  7. Scholarly Gentleman,

    Thanks for the comments. I am in wholehearted agreement with you, with one exception:

    Creation vs. abiogenesis is not the “better argument.” It merely pushes back the false dichotomy further back in time. Abiogenesis is not in any way incompatible with the belief that God is the Creator. If God created the universe via the Big Bang and instituted the laws which govern our orderly universe, then He surely is also responsible for the creation of life from non-life, even though it did not require His direct involvement other than being the First Cause and Sustainer.

    Of course, this belief (which I hold) belongs in a philosophy or religion class, not in a science class.

    Thank God that the truth will be taught to children.

    And I will do everything in my power to make sure that evolution continues to be taught in public schools without having mandated discussion of Intelligent Design or Special Creationism.

  8. Michael

    Mike, you fault ID for its lack of testable theories. I'm curious to know why you think evolutionary science succeeds here, while ID does not.

  9. Michael,

    You fault ID for its lack of testable theories. I'm curious to know why you think evolutionary science succeeds here, while ID does not.

    Does ID predict anything? No. In fact, a fellow from the Discovery Institute admitted as much on this very blog that ID hasn't really produced anything of import. The most it's been able to do is pinpoint areas for further study, the results of which tend to eat away at ID's propositions. Just look at Michael Behe and how far he's gone down the rabbit hole in the last 10 years: a full-fledged believer in common descent all the while tenaciously hanging onto his "irreducible complexity" paradigm by the tips of his fingernails. The more we learn, Michael, the closer ID comes to finding a final resting place in the dustbin of failed scientific theories.

    On the other hand, evolutionary science has been shown to predict where certain fossils can be found, e.g., Tiktaalik. We've also been able to verify, through DNA analysis, the concept of common descent, and thoroughly disproven the concept of common design. The list goes on …

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