Will Anyone In Alabama Speak For Evolution?

By Carl Zimmer | May 12, 2010 12:23 pm

Let’s get this straight.

An ad attacks a Republican candidate for governor in Alabama, Bradley Byrne, for the horrible crime of defending the teaching of evolution.

Byrne lashes back, stating

As a member of the Alabama Board of Education, the record clearly shows that I fought to ensure the teaching of creationism in our school textbooks. Those who attack me have distorted, twisted and misrepresented my comments and are spewing utter lies to the people of this state.

The nerve of some people to make such horrible accusations.

But wait! As Talking Points Memo observes, the ad that made that scurrilous charge that Byrne might have a bias towards reality has an important back story:

The group behind the ad and others attacking Byrne’s conservative credentials is called the True Republican PAC. Interestingly, as the Montgomery Advertiser reported last month, the PAC has gotten most of its money from the teachers’ union — or, more accurately, from a collection of other PACs heavily funded by the union.

According to the Advertiser, members of the Alabama Education Association have a beef with Byrne for his past attempts to ban the employees of two-year colleges from serving in the state legislature.

Emphasis mine. So does this mean the teachers of Alabama support an attack on a political candidate for not being a creationist (an attack that sadly is not even true)? Is anybody standing up for science in Alabama?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Our Dear Leaders Speak

Comments (19)

  1. JMW

    Possibly not.

    Or perhaps, more cynically, they want to get him un-elected, and realize that if they (incorrectly) accuse him of supporting evolution, more people will be mad at him than if they (correctly) accuse him of supporting creationism, and there will be a better chance of him being defeated.

    In other words, the ends justifies the means.

  2. Well, Edward O. Wilson has done his part. I’m enjoying his new book “Anthill” right now. There is a lot of Alabama culture in the book too. Maybe we should nominate him for yet another award.

  3. Meghan

    Sad, sad, sad.

    On a positive note, thanks for reminding me of that book, Jon! I’ve been meaning to get it for a while but it completely slipped my mind. Looks like it’s time to go out and support this guy.

  4. Duck!~ the BS is flying everywhere, and no one (least of all the participants) is really sure what the fight is about in the first place. This is why its better to duck for a comfortable spot and laugh at the participants.

  5. Carl – you are on the front of twitter!!! (I thought , mmm I know that pic, that’s Carl!)

  6. Reminds me of the politician in Montana a few years back who was accused of being a vegetarian. (Beef is s large part of the Montana economy.)

  7. Josh

    Wow, this is utterly surreal. It’s like something out of a Kafka story.

  8. Brian Too

    “I’m the biggest knob round these parts!

    “No, I am!”

    “Clearly not. Many well-known knobs have endorsed my knobbiness!”


  9. That depends on what you mean by “evolution”, Carl.
    If you mean ‘living things change over time’, then yes – every teacher in the state stands up for that fact, as do all parents in Alabama and every othert state.
    If you mean do they blindly accept pronouncements claiming Common Descent, then no – few out here believe that, because the evidence is sadly lacking. In the first book you authored on the side bar here, for instance, you have that nice creature on the cover. In the Amazon description, you hail it as a link in the chain from aquatic life to terrestrial life. The truth is, of course, that since that discovery quadraped tracks have been found that pre-date this creature, negating the claim that it was a ‘transitional’ form at all. And so it is – and has been – with all such claims of evidence for common descent.

    The American people have stopped blindly accepting the claims of scientists a long time ago, Carl – somewhere around the time that “safe” X-ray machines were in all the shoe stores and used on everyone that tried on a pair of shoes! People have, sadly for you, become far more sophisticated than they were back then –

    [CZ: Terry, life does not evolve like a chain, and so the chronological order of the oldest *known* tetrapod trackway and the oldest *known* tetrapod fossils does not negate their phylogenetic position. See this blog post for an explanation why.]

  10. 85 years later we’re still trying Scopes, and we’re still convicting him. This is why other countries scoff at the US, for our rampant superstition and blatant dismissal of evidence.

    Glad I live in the northeast.

  11. Jake

    Jon – not so much ‘scoff’ as just shake our heads in bewilderment. Not at the fact that there’s such a wide variety of views, nothing wrong with that, but that so very, very many people a) buy into some of the crankier ones b) are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to defend their position c) feel so threatened by people who don’t share their views they they actually go to those extraordinary lengths d) can get as far as enforcing them with the rule of law.

  12. Because, of course, scientific investigation had nothing whatsoever to do with discovering what a harmful dose of radiation might be. Nope. Nada.

    Man, wasn’t life great back in the day when the American people obeyed scientists without question? Like when the whole state of Tennessee threw a festival in honour of John T. Scopes because the biologists said that evolution had really happened? Oh, for the days of glory past.

  13. Woody Tanaka

    “The American people have stopped blindly accepting the claims of scientists a long time ago,”

    And, instead, blindly accept the words of a bunch of ancient, ignorant, mostly illiterate, barely civilized goat herders and the mad followers of a man too foolish to keep himself off a Roman tree…

  14. Charles J. Slavis,Jr.

    People in Alabama stopped evolving right after they won the national championship over Texas. They need to evolve in order to recognize evolution.


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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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