Bush, Frist…McCain

By Carl Zimmer | August 24, 2005 4:50 pm

From an article on how John McCain may be positioning himself for a presidential run in The Arizona Star:

McCain told the Star that, like Bush, he believes “all points of view” should be available to students studying the origins of mankind.

“Available” is a wonderfully vague word.

Senator, Senator, a follow-up question please? Just a clarification? Do you mean that teachers just drop some pamphlets by the door that explain how we were designed by aliens? Or should that be on the final exam?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Evolution, Our Dear Leaders Speak

Comments (16)

  1. darwinfinch

    No DECENT person, not even any decent politician, would ever want to be the current “Republican” party candidate for anything.

  2. Harlan

    Well, I’m all for teaching about the debate… in a social studies class. Just keep it out of biology classes, and teach biology. If that’s what McCain means, then that’s good. I suspect he’s trying to thread a needle… I agree with darwinfinch’s comment!

  3. Jeremy

    What really gets me is when people try to subtly equate the theory of evolution with creationism. They do it so much, and in so many different ways, I’m afraid it will sink in.

    - Let’s teach the other theories.
    - “all points of view”

    This attempt of teaching religion in science class will probably fail, but not before the general public is convenced that scientific theory is nothing more than a hunch.

  4. Jeremy Wilkins

    This attempt of teaching religion in science class will probably fail

    Don’t be so sure. According to recent polls, over 45% of Americans believe that we were created, much as we are now, 6,000-10,000 years ago by divine act. If recent elections are any indication, and if the Republican party’s groupthink in Congress doesn’t waver, our public educational institutions could be in serious trouble.

    This is just a VRWC (vast right-wing conspiracy) to get us all in favor of vouchers—I just know it!

  5. Greg Peterson

    I saw this earlier and it disappointed me. I expected it from Bush and Frist, but always gave McCain a little credit. He is one of few–perhaps the only–Republican who I sometimes admire. It is distressing to see science, our best tool for objective reality, become a soccer ball in the culture contest.

  6. Let’s make an offer. A compromise. Agree that “intelligent design” should be taught in science class … political science class.

    The lesson would use ID as an example of how factions promote their agendas with think tanks and spin. And how they make professional politicians fidget.

  7. Mike Hopkins

    Why is this a surprise? Is there anything in McCain’s background that suggests he knows more about science than the average Joe? Does he know anything in biology beyond a freshman introductory course taken in the 1960s? The vast majority of people (including non-fundamentalists) without a very strong knowledge about science in general and biology in particular are sympathetic to IDist claims.

  8. I haven’t been in a high school biology class in about 37 years, but I do believe that Aristotle’s Ladder Of Life and Lamarckian evolution are brought up. Of course, students are shown how these theories just don’t hold up to scientific testing. I could imagine that bringing up Intelligent Design in this same context would be fine.

  9. Honestly, this being “Merica” and all, people will probably change their tune when China starts out-performing the US in space technology and Mexico comes out with the first HIV cure.

    I just can’t imagine:

    “Ok class, this semester, we will discuss evolution and Intelligent Design. We will start with Intellegent Design, ID is basically the notion that the things that are too complicated for the average person to understand were actually designed…any questions? No…we don’t know who designed them…Ok…Now for evolution. First, let’s talk about variation under domestication…

  10. Maybe President McCain will finally mandate the teaching of the one true origin of life on earth, the Flying Spaghetti Monster: http://www.venganza.org/

    We can only hope.

  11. cats

    Maybe Senator McCain would propose a “No Point of View Left Behind” act. So guys, let’s make some “points of view” and get them into biology book. The number of points of view must be really large, so that students could have a biology textbook as large as Encyclopædia Britannica.

  12. linguist

    No DECENT person, not even any decent politician, would ever want to be the current “Republican” party candidate for anything.

    Yes, yes, it’s all too easy to bash “Republicans” these days. However, it is possible that a DECENT person would run in either party with an idea to change the current political climate.

    People are so damn cynical these days.

  13. lou

    What is the surprise? McCain got off the straight talk express long ago. Anyone who would cosie up to Bush after the screwing Bush gave McCain in the South Carolina primary in 2000 just shows how far a guy will go to kiss up to power in Washington to further one’s political ambitions. There are very few politicians in Washington who will flat out admit to believing in evolution without mentioning some qualifier like ID. Too many people equate believing in evolution with atheism. How many politicians want that false stigma attached to them? No one with presidential ambitions for sure.

  14. darwinfinch

    In response to “linguist”‘s huff-and-puff: what scenario can be imagined that would allow the many basically decent, and basically reasonable, conservatives in this nation to wrest control of today’s “Republican” party from the – and I do not at all feel extreme in making this description – selfish, bigoted, smugly stupid, falsely pious, blinkered & cowardly, and simply evil cabal that have been, like Frankenstein’s monster itself, assembled?
    Until these conservatives have the gumption to, temporarily at least, work against these people, the worst impulses and desires of the worst portion of our population will continue to chart a course to destruction. But it’s hard to admit you’re wrong, especially when, as most conservatives anywhere always are, well-fed, relatively wealthy, and selectively sensitive.

  15. Elliot Kennel

    To me the issue is not whether evolution is or isn’t “correct” (I’m not sure that the scientific method offers correctness anyway, but merely an opportunity to explain experimental data). What bothers me is the idea that we should take a vote to decide whether some idea is reasonable or not, and then require teachers to teach it a certain way. Then I suppose there would be a series of fines or jail sentences for teachers that did not meet the standards of the society.
    This isn’t the way we teach history or quantum physics, so why should it be the way we teach biology?
    Anyway, I don’t think there are any laws on the books that would prevent teachers from incorporating “intelligent design” in their lesson plans should they so choose. If this new theory wins acceptance in the scientific communtiy (which I doubt, but let’s forget about that for a moment), there is nothing to prevent it from entering the educational system, just like quantum theory eventually augmented classical mechanics. We did not have to go pass a law outlawing classical mechanics or mandating the teaching of quantum theory, nor did we need to impose penalties or jail sentences for those who did not accept it.

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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.

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