Sarah Palin On The Origin of Species

By Carl Zimmer | November 15, 2009 10:12 pm

Palin “didn’t believe in the theory that human beings — thinking, loving beings — originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea” or from “monkeys who eventually swung down from the trees.”

Quoted in Michiko Katutani’s review of Sarah Palin’s new memoir.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Our Dear Leaders Speak

Comments (59)

  1. Bryan Barnard

    Sharah Palin is a bible thumping idiot. she is brainwashed and needs to look at reality

  2. My country is very good at giving people a national soapbox and even electing them to office when we really ought to be forcing them to repeat junior high.

  3. Onychomys

    Oh, so she’s a Republican.

  4. Aaron

    Nonsense. http://www.gallup.com/poll/114544/darwin-birthday-believe-evolution.aspx According to gallup only 39% of Americans believe in Evolution. To be fair 25% don’t believe in it, but also 36% don’t have an opinion. So if we are electing representatives of the people we should see similar numbers in congress. Which is probably around that number.

  5. That’s very interesting. Prior to this there had been conflicting reports about whether she is a creationist. It is nice for her to clarify this.

  6. Whitey McWhitington

    Since we’re tossing around the “brainwashed” bit….exactly how well do you understand the university system in Amerika? Who are all these “foundations” who give so generously and always seem to “steer” education in new and “interesting” directions? How well do you understand propaganda and its use in modern times?

  7. amphiox

    And naturally, like all the rest of the creos, the focus of her objection is human evolution, and she pretty much doesn’t know a thing about any other part of the science.

    Arrogance, pride, hubris, self-worship.

    Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.

  8. Joe Bogus

    I don’t know how you can have “conflicting reports” — the woman was asked in an interview (may have been Katie Couric) about just that. Palin said there was “fossil evidence” that showed a man’s footprint with a dinosaur bone. She actually believes that man and dinosaur coexisted! The woman thinks The Flintstones is a documentary!

    Palin is a total nut-job. Had McBush been elected, I figure he had two, maybe three years max, and he’d die of a heart attack. And then we’d have President Caribou Barbie. Scary stuff indeed.

    A Collection of Palin “Wisdom”

  9. db

    What the heck is the matter with you guys? While evidence strongly suggests evolution of man from lower species, it is not 100% proven. Give me one example of a new species in our lifetime? I prefer to keep my option open until I see proof. The only proof I have seen thus far is that a lot of species have gone extinct. I have not seen any proof that species x led to species y.

  10. DB, assuming you’re serious, here’s a suggestion. Read Carl’s new book then get back to us with any questions.

  11. Ibis

    @Aaron I think you’re taking the notion of ‘representative democracy’ a bit too far. Isn’t the idea to elect the most knowledgeable, best educated, most far-thinking people to represent us, rather than electing a reflection of the demographics? If the latter, why not x number of criminals or psychopaths or heroin addicts? People who don’t accept evolution are just as unqualified.

    @db If the only proof you’ll accept is seeing a new species evolve (and you don’t really mean ‘new species’ because you would then say ‘but that whatever is still a whatever’), you’d have to live for a few million years. That’s like being on a jury and saying that you’ll never convict the accused until someone builds a time machine to take you back so you can witness him commit the crime. All we have to do is look at the DNA to see the evidence of ancestry. You do believe 100% in “DNA paternity tests” don’t you?

  12. M Burke

    Recent reports published in Scientific American express the fact that scientists can’t settle on a clear definition of “species”, yet they insist dogmatically that speciation exists. Now, Palin might not have a great deal of scientific training, but perhaps she has a philosophical point. On what basis can any strict evolutionist claim as a basis and objective standard for morality?

  13. db

    Margaret,
    assuming you are serious, what make Carl the expert? Because he wrote a book? I am all about science and facts. I just need to see some facts, not opinions whether yours, Carl, or Sarah. I enjoy reading theories as much as the next guy, but bottom line, I need the proof. And neither side has shown definitive prove.

  14. ClockworkSoul

    Hi, db. Here you may find a couple dozen examples, thoroughly referenced and exhaustively sourced: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html. See section 5.

  15. Palin destroyed any serious political future she had by resigning her post as governor. She will always be remembered as a quitter, and now, an ignorant quitter.

    db- the evidence for evolution is all around you if you will look.

  16. db,

    “Give me one example of a new species in our lifetime? I prefer to keep my option open until I see proof.”

    Ok. While in our lifetimes we won’t see new species of elephants or apes arise, we have observed it happening in other taxa. For numerous examples see

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html

    If you consider the other evidence that should show signs of – or refute – the existence historical speciation events, there’s an overwhelming body of facts from various fields all supporting the notion that there have been many, many instances of “species x [leading] to species y.”

    You have no proof that the moon isn’t just a flat image inside some large spherical shell around the Earth, or that the sun isn’t the center of the our planet’s orbit, but there’s a lot of evidence that scientists – for centuries – have amassed that support the assertions I presume you hold about the sun and the moon.

    Same thing with speciation. To deny it – after having seen some of the evidence, heard from the experts, etc. – is simply unreasonable.

  17. Heath

    db, evidence abounds; perhaps you aren’t looking in the right places? If Carl’s creds don’t work for you, check out Dawkins new book.

  18. Heath

    I should add, also: even if you have a hard time accepting evolution, that certainly doesn’t mean that creationism is a viable alternative… it’s simply bad science.

  19. Sigmund

    So Palin doesn’t believe “the theory that human beings — thinking, loving beings — originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea” or from “monkeys who eventually swung down from the trees”?
    Technically speaking she does have a point. I don’t believe the Ray Comfort version of evolution either. Wait a second…… Perhaps she only read the introduction to Rays edition of THe Origin of Species and not the whole book (I can’t believe I’m even suggesting that she might have read the entire Origin of Species!).

  20. db,

    You strike me as an honest and well meaning person but ultimately misguided person. See this article for a primer on the massive piles of evidence in favor of evolution.

  21. Evidence of speciation: ring species. Easy to look up. Google it. Other examples of evolution in the present: methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus, fish getting smaller since we fishnet them, elephant ivory getting smaller too…and those are only the first examples to come to mind for a half-decently educated non-specialist.

  22. Carey Carpenter

    db says “what make (sic) Carl the expert? Because he wrote a book? I am all about science and facts. I just need to see some facts,” OK, db, then read the scientific papers referenced in Carl’s book and get back to us. Since you are “all about science”, no doubt you’ll have some cogent comments to offer based on the evidence presented in those papers. Can’t wait to see what you’ll have to say.

  23. db, why don’t you read Carl’s book and see if what he says convinces you?

    Joe, that’s a good point. I seem to remember something where she said something that didn’t go in that direction. That’s likely just my failing memory.

  24. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    neither side has shown definitive prove.

    Read amphiox comment: there isn’t any sides since biology is an age old science. And of course science is based on facts.

    One of those fundamental facts is the process of evolution. We have known this for over 100 years – how could you not? Are you also unfamiliar with other fundamental facts like this, say gravitation and electromagnetism?

    Now, if you want to make the extraordinary claim that humans are exempt from evolution, or marble from gravitation, or iron from magnetism, you need extraordinary evidence before making peer review. Since we share our genes with other extant apes like us and when we can compare with extant ones like Neanderthals we do too, marble share the same massive atoms as other rocks, and iron share the same electrons and nucleons as other charged carrying atoms, good luck with all of that.

  25. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    “isn’t any sides” – aren’t any sides
    “charged carrying” – charge carrying

    I plead innocence due to involuntary lack of early morning coffee. :-o

  26. Ian

    Once again I read comments from people who find it easier to ridicule an individual for their belief. Bravo Discover!

  27. TomS

    Creation Ministries International has a list of arguments which they suggest should not be used:

    http://creation.com/arguments-we-think-creationists-should-not-use

    Among those arguments that they recommend against is “No new species have been produced.”

    Many creationists insist that they accept the appearance of new species by natural means. I suggest searching the web for the word “baramin”, or for “created kind”.

  28. Sabotage

    @Ian: I believe people who make subjectivist comments on science blogs are fat and covered in warts. Don’t knock it, it’s my belief.

  29. Clark

    I fail to understand how someone can not believe in facts. I find it dishearten that people seem to think this is a viable point of view. I could understand if someone were to go “I don’t think Darwin properly described the Theory of Evolution.” But to say you don’t believe in it, that is just the same as me saying “I don’t believe the Earth is round and rotates around the sun.” I am completely ignoring reality in my statement, much like those that don’t believe in Evolution do.

  30. Reed

    . . . You can bet that somewhere there’s a fish and monkey, and both are writing a couple of snarky Op-Ed rejoinders for the NYTimes.

  31. Ian I respect people’s rights to hold whatever beliefs they choose. When they act out on those beliefs, I have a right to object. When they speak in ignorance, I have a right to object.

    There are a couple kinds of ignorance which, etymologically speaking, just means “no knowledge”. Some ignorance is unintentional by people who have simply not ever encountered the facts. Some ignorance is deliberate by people whose ideological blinders serve to protect them from the facts.

    I’d never ridicule ignorance that is accidental, but I find willful ignorance contemptible and do not feel any need to spare my thoughts on the matter. Though, I’m pretty sure I’ve still been generally respectful in how I’ve done it here. If you think these blows are too hard, you may need thicker skin to participate here.

    Also bear in mind that nothing posted in the comments here represents positions that Discover Magazine endorses (or repudiates).

  32. She also said “If God didn’t intend us to eat animals, then why did he make them out of meat?”

    srsly.

  33. John Kwok

    @ Onychomys -

    Whether she is a Republican or not should not be cause to condemn her, especially when there are leading Democrats like Arkansas senator Mark Pryor who is a self-proclaimed Young Earth Creationist. Moreover, there are many Republicans and conservatives (present company included) who accept the reality of biological evolution. Had hoped she would think otherwise since she apparently collected fossils with her parents as a youth, but I know of others who had similar interests, starting with Harvard-trained invertebrate paleontologist – and Young Earth Creationist – Kurt Wise.

    @ Joshua -

    I was hoping that she would declare otherwise, but her thinking on evolution is, sadly, one that’s all too familiar with certain Republicans, like, for example, Michelle Bachmann and Bobby Jindal.

  34. Jason

    One day I would love to get your opinion on the film ‘Idiocracy’ and compare it to the Republican party.

  35. Maria

    This quote is so partial that it is impossible to make a judgement on it without context.
    It started with the word “didn’t.” It doesn’t say “don’t”
    Her father was a science teacher so I am sure she was exposed to many theories growing up.
    Many that have tried to paint Palin into an ideological corner..All have been proven wrong.
    I think more context is needed before anyone makes any judgement about it.

    Some on here, without noticing this fact have just exposed themselves as anti-Christian bigots.

    I thought you guys were supposed to be smart.

  36. Jon

    db & others,

    Normal humans use the word “theory” to denote a notion, an impulse, a hunch, a “Just So” story. Scientists are not normal humans. They are a weird subset with perverse language rules.

    The “Law” of Gravity? That’s a theory in science. It is specifically the Theory of General Relativity. The notion that the Earth orbits the Sun? Heliocentricity? That is, in science, a theory. Both are very well supported by a vast body of facts, but arguing that either has more support than evolution would be EXTREMELY difficult.

    Evolution, heliocentricity, gravity, plate tectonics (the very things that cause Earthquakes) are all fundamental theories of science. They aren’t going anywhere. They may be modified, but they are also incontrovertible. The way we explain how gravity works changed after 1905, but gravity did not. The precise way that we explain how the very detailed mechanics of evolution may well change, too. But I promise you that it will never entail an “intelligent designer”. Why? Because science does do one thing very nicely: it disproves. Life evolved by mechanistic means.

    You want to see a new species evolve AND you claim that you like reading? Goodie! Look up “Cline Species”. Or nylon-eating bacteria. Or, ideally, the work of scientists like this: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080417112433.htm

    Studies like that get published constantly. Thousands of thousands of scientists churning out thousands of thousands of data points, all consistent with evolution, and inconsistent with Creationism (when a Creationist/IDist can explain to me how an “intelligent” or “loving” designer could craft the likes of the newt Echinotriton andersoni whose defensive method is impaling itself on its own ribs, I’ll be impressed).

    Evolution is a fact in the vernacular sense. It is a fact in the scientific sense, too (Natural Selection is the theory part, but again, scientific theory DOES NOT equal colloquial).

  37. John Kwok

    @ Jon -

    Scientists are normal people too. You’d be surprised, and I am sure Carl Zimmer would strongly endorse my observation. In science, theories are well-established sets of principles that have been successfully confirmed by scientific data (either observational or experimental or both), and in turn, offer hypotheses – testable ideas (predictions) – that can (if they are tested successfully) confirm all or at least a substantial part, of a theory in question. When observations and hypotheses tend to refute important aspects of scientific theories, then such theories must undergo revsion, and are often replaced as more restrictive elements in better, more general, theories. Hence, this is what happened with Classical Mechanics (derived in the mid to late 17th Century) when it was eventually subsumed within General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics early in the 20th Century.

  38. Flying sardines

    @ 11. Ibis Says:

    @Aaron I think you’re taking the notion of ‘representative democracy’ a bit too far. Isn’t the idea to elect the most knowledgeable, best educated, most far-thinking people to represent us, rather than electing a reflection of the demographics? If the latter, why not x number of criminals

    Don’t you mean why not *only* X number of criminals instead of them being quite *over* represented in Congress? ;-)

    @ 5. Joshua Zelinsky Says:

    That’s very interesting. Prior to this there had been conflicting reports about whether she is a creationist. It is nice for her to clarify this.

    Hardly. She’s thinking it will win her extra votes for her 2012 presidential campaign. The really sad part is she’s probably right. :-(

  39. Flying sardines

    @35 maria Some on here, without noticing this fact have just exposed themselves as anti-Christian bigots.

    Okay then tell us who in particular has done so here and explain why please?

    I disagree.

  40. db @ 13.

    Firstly, there is no such thing as “proof” in science. There is only evidence supporting or not supporting theories. The evidence supporting the evolution of species by natural selection is simply overwhelming.

    I am not expecting you to accept everything that Carl says at face value without questioning it, but if you are going to deny the evidence, you need to start studying it, and I suspect, alas, you haven’t.

    Speciation isn’t rare over time. Of course, given the tiny time frame in which we’ve been observing species, it’s not surprising that there aren’t too many obvious examples, but take a look at this as a potential case, hot off the presses: http://www.nature.com/news/2009/091116/full/news.2009.1089.html

  41. so she’d rather believe that all of us are off springs of adam and eve.

  42. Troy

    Palin is on the record as being for teaching evolution in schools. I think this was mainly as V.P. she had to go along with McCain who is pro-evolution. (The majority of the 2008 Republicans were as well.) This insight or confirmation of what most suspected all along that she is a creationist is important. She should be laughed off the national stage for future national office. I suspect Palin’s m.o. at this point is to make as much money from selling books, speeches, and appearances as possible. Quitting the governorship actually is very sound fiscal sense–they aren’t rich. I give her credit for this. She wants to cash in on her V.P. candidacy fame and get what she can while she is still a hot commodity, doing this would have interfered with her duties as governor. Her future is pretty limited, right wing talk television/radio but it will pay the bills.

  43. Don

    re “…loving beings…,”How does Sarah explain Mitch McConnell?

  44. vel

    db, as well as so very many creationists, is one more hypocrite who is quite happy to enjoy science when it makes them comfortable. However, when that same science supports evolutionary theory, the BBT, etc, and dares to make them question their delusion of “special snowflakeness”, they claim science is oh-so conveniently wrong. Christianity can coexist with evolutionary theory, and oh the whines of “you’re anti-Christian” are just as stupid as the claims that evolution isn’t real. I’m anti-Palin since she is just one more idiot who glorifies willful ignorance and hypocrisy as long as it gives her power.

  45. Greg Peterson

    If db means by “proof” what he seems to be advocating, our system of criminal justice would collapse because no case could ever be “proven beyond a reasonable doubt” unless the crime occurred in the courtroom and while the court was in session.

  46. Species is a meaningless term, so what does that tell you about darwinism?

    Syngameons is the operative biological term concerning breeding groups with gene pool boundaries, so actually, multiple species fall within the respective syngameons, therefore, when you realize the mountains rose at the close of Noah’s Flood, and only about twenty thousand biblical kinds (syngameons)of animals need have been Noah’s Ark, Sarah’s model for earth history makes sense, much to the chagrin of the darwinsts, so be certain to read more about it at http://DancingFromGenesis.com.

  47. Ken Carpenter

    Well thought out reply s to db, but I doubt if db saw them or was vaguely interested in your opinions ( you can’t reason with a fool ).
    Keep in mind that evolution is not a belief system, but rather an acceptance of the scientific evidence for evolution. “Fools are not rushing in”

  48. I know I’m late to the party, but I wanted to briefly respond to M Burke’s comment on species (and Mr. Nienhuis’s related comment).

    The problem of defining species is evidence in favor of evolution. It was even one of the arguments Darwin used in On the Origin of Species. Noone expects new species to come about instantaneously. It’s not as if two offspring are born at the same time that can only breed with each other, but not with their relatives. If a single group gets split into two reproductively isolated groups, it will take time for those two groups to diverge to the point to where their descendants can’t interbreed. In the intervening generations, the groups will have varying abilities to interbreed with each other. Maybe they’ll have offspring with reduced fertility, maybe infertile offspring, or maybe fetuses that never develop to full term.

    The difficulty in defining species is a problem of classification, and is exactly what’s to be expected from common descent with gradual change.

  49. Raymond Freeman-Lynde

    James I. Nienhuis

    There is no evidence for a global flood (Noah’s Flood) in the rock record. The early geologists, like the Reverend William Buckland, were creationists who had enough integrity to change their views when the evidence in the rocks showed that there had not been a global flood. On the other hand, Bill Ryan and Walter Pitman have proposed that the flooding of the Black Sea about 7500 years ago is the source of the Noah’s (and Gilgamesh’s) Flood myths.

  50. The term syngameon, such as the syngameon including lions, tigers, and leopards, renders the term species meaningless, so darwinists in their ostensible tradition of good science should admit that the syngameon concept is practical for genetic studies, while species, obviously meaningless, is just a term picked out of thin air, as species usually are just “sub-syngameons,” so get with the program you darwinists.

    When all the “species” of animals are reduced to their respective syngameons, there need have been only about twenty thousand syngameons of animals (biblical kinds) on Noah’s Ark, and remember, the mountains rose at the close of the flood, so enough of that strawman argument that Noah’s Flood could not have covered the Himalayas, because it didn’t, the mountains rose at the close of the flood.

  51. Drosera

    James L. Nienhuis saith:

    When all the “species” of animals are reduced to their respective syngameons, there need have been only about twenty thousand syngameons of animals (biblical kinds) on Noah’s Ark, and remember, the mountains rose at the close of the flood, so enough of that strawman argument that Noah’s Flood could not have covered the Himalayas, because it didn’t, the mountains rose at the close of the flood.

    Absolutely. And did you know, Jack and the Beanstalk is a true story as well!

  52. Jay D. Stephens

    So she doesn’t believe. I haven’t seen anything on the news about the world coming to an end. She isn’t a scientist, so regardless of what she believes, it’s hardly worth considering as consequential. As far as I know, she hasn’t advanced any philosophy one way or the other. We can all take a deeeeeeeeeep breath and relax.

  53. SLC

    The saddest part of the Palin saga is that her father is a high school biology teacher who accepts the theory of evolution. She has been quoted as stating that they have discussed this issue and that she does not agree with him.

  54. And RFL, almost all the geologic record indicates a hydrologic cataclysm (the mountains rose at the close of the flood), not hundreds of trangressions of the ocean on and off the continents. Did you know that at current erosion rates, all the continents would be leveled to sea level within 15 million years, so how can those rocks be hundreds of millions of years old?

  55. Brian Too

    @James Nienhuis,

    You make db sound reasonable.

    That’s not a compliment to either of you.

  56. Is that supposed to be a rebuttal?

  57. John

    >> Other examples of evolution in the present: methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus
    Or possibly survival of the fittest?
    >>fish getting smaller since we fishnet them
    Or the survivors passing on their stunted genetic material
    >>elephant ivory getting smaller to
    Again, surviving organisms would logically pass on that genetic trait
    >>and those are only the first examples to come to mind for a half-decently educated >non-specialist.

    Uh, again the vanity. These examples do NOT support the thesis that a new species can be created from other, less complex creatures. Thermodynamics tells us that all systems are given to entropy, that includes us humans.

  58. gabe

    I read some of James I. Nienhuis’s book Old Earth Why Not, it reminded me of another not very scientific book called Compelling Evidence for Creationism. The thing is neither arguments were very compelling. For one, Nienbuis claims that “evolutionists” believe the mountains were created 65 mya, I have never read or heard that, so I Googled it, while there were various answers only one identified a window of time that included 65 mya, and that was only for the Rocky Mountains. I’m pretty sure that geologists (that’s the scientific term for someone who studies rocks and the age of the planet, not “evolutionist”), haven’t found any evidence suggesting all the mountains of the world erupted at the same time, and definitely not 65 mya.

    In the end, the prose was heavily laced with rhetoric, jumpy conclusions, and unsupported claims that a person would have to be an expert, to verify or disprove.

    The only compelling books I’ve read for creationism were really more about consciousness and quantum physics: Biocentrism by Robert Lanza, and How Consciousness Creates the Material World, by Amit Gosmit. I think the title speak for themselves, and unlike Mr. Nienhuis’s book, the writing is scientific, and the concepts are explained in such a way that you don’t need to be an expert to understand them.

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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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