Republican presidential candidates at tonights night’s debate in Ames, Iowa should be asked whether they agree with Newt Gingrich’s 2006 statement, “I believe evolution should be taught as science, and intelligent design should be taught as philosophy.” Most would much rather spend their evening calling President Obama a socialist or demanding Tim Geithner’s resignation rather than being forced to choose sides in a debate which scientists resolved long ago. But answering this question will go a long way in telling us about their backbone, their sanity and their vision for creating jobs in the 21st century.
It would also make interesting theater.
Will Newt Gingrich crawfish away from his earlier statement as he did when he renounced his prior concerns about climate change?
Will Jon Huntsman stand by what he said in 2005, that “intelligent design should not be taught in science classes and that the time to talk about [intelligent design] comes largely at home or in religious settings,” or will he back off to pander to the religious right?
Mitt Romney has been running away from a lot of the best things he’s ever said and done, including providing a blueprint for health care reform with “Obamneycare.” Does Romney still think evolution should be taught in science class like he did in 2007 when he asserted, “science class is where to teach evolution” and “if we’re going to talk about more philosophical matters… that’s for the religion class or philosophy class or social studies?”
Let’s not forget Tim Pawlenty, because he’s easily forgettable. Will he finally realize that pandering to the creationists won’t help him outflank Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin? They’ve already cornered the market on crazy. In 2008 Pawlenty explained that “Governor Palin has said intelligent design is something that she thinks should be taught along with evolution in the schools, and I think that’s appropriate.” He also said, “Intelligent design is something that, in my view, is plausible and credible… from an educational and scientific standpoint, it should be decided by local school boards at the local school district level.” By the way, Governor, no gold star for you with that answer. It’s not a local issue; it’s a constitutional one. Teaching creationism in public schools was found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Edwards vs. Aguillard back in 1987. And intelligent design, which is essentially creationism dressed up in a lab coat to make it appear scientific, was also found unconstitutional in Dover vs. Kitzmiller in 2005 (P. 43, 137).
The ultimate panderer is physician turned congressman Ron Paul. Paul’s libertarian cult followers are largely in support of evolution, but he knows they alone can’t win him the election. That’s why when he’s talking about evolution, he panders by saying things like “it’s a theory… and I don’t accept it.”
If the Republican candidates aren’t pandering, they’re just plain nuts. Paging Michele Bachmann. Bachmann seriously believes that “there is a controversy… over evolution” and there is “reasonable doubt” about it’s validity. Why? Because she believes “there are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design.” So far, these Nobel Prize winning scientists only exist in her head, because she hasn’t come up with a single name.
These men and women are in the running to be leader of the free world and to take on the responsibility to put America back on top. We’re ranked 23rd globally in science according to the Program for International Student Assessment. What’s their plan to close the science deficit? If we’re serious about creating jobs and winning the future, we need to be number one in science education. To get to the top spot, we don’t have time to waste pandering to the religious right and pretending that evolution is not science.
Coming from Louisiana, the one state in the country that actually has a creationism law, I can see its effects firsthand. Too often Louisiana students don’t have the science background they need to compete with kids from around the world for admission into college and to get cutting edge science jobs when they graduate. And this anti-science attitude is driving away scientists and science investment and even tourism revenue from our state. While the rest of the world is competing to see who can teach science best, we are wasting time, energy and resources re-debating settled science.
We should not be putting creationism into public school science classes. Instead we should be teaching science better than every other country.
That’s why this question should be asked at Ames. We need to know which of these candidates is going to pander to the creationists. Politicians used to be able to say one thing and do another once they were elected, but not anymore. With the debt limit brinkmanship, the Tea Party has proven they will hold the Republicans to their pandering promises. America deserves to know who has the “titanium spine” needed to lead our country and who wants us to stay 23rd in science education.