Thursday, May 31, 2007

Brownback Reads Blackwell

Really, hard to interpret this any other way. Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback raised his hand along with two other candidates when asked in the first primary debate who does not believe in evolution. Last week Blackwell's Townhall column purported to offer an escape for conservatives from the "evolution trap." Here's his advice on how a candidate should answer the question, "Do you believe in evolution?"

    “Well, if you mean microevolution, where an organism adapts to its environment with the flexibility inherent in its DNA, then yes I believe in that; we see it every day in nature. But if you mean macroevolution, where mutations stack on one another to create entirely new organ systems and transform one species into a totally different species, then I, along with many scientists, have serious issues with that theory.”
Today's New York Times runs an op-ed from Brownback in which he clarifies his position. Here's his main point:
    The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it. [h/t Faith in Public Life which reproduces the piece getting you around TimesSelect issues]
This is a better refinement in that it doesn't even reject macroevolution, avoids a lot of jargon and invokes mushy intelligent design style language that happens to be the majority position of American voters.

Nothing yet on RAB, but Matthew should be proud of his boy. Don't say I never did anything for ya, Matt.

By the way, Brownback does not invoke the eye lie. Is he reading Pho as well?


Paul said...

By the way, "conservative" is not the same thing as "creationist" any more than "liberal" is equivalent to "evolutionist." I've gotten where I don't even try to use such labels -- they've lost any precision. I certainly can't put myself in any of those buckets.

I recently listened to an interview of Professor James Peebles on Berkeley's "Conversations with History," in which he talked about the structure of the universe. We know there are a subatomic particles, which cluster into atomic particles, which form atoms, which form molecules, ... solar systems, galaxies, but the structure apparently ends at "universe" even though the universe appears to be finite.

Mankind has, for eons, struggled to figure out what lies beyond the highest level of structure they understand. I think it would be a shame to say that because we don't understand what might exist at a higher layer of structure than "universe" that there is no possibility that one or more intelligent entities are there.

Just because we grow up to find that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy don't really exist doesn't mean there isn't a possibility of a higher order of beings.

Unfortunately, we have created this 'wise old man' image of God, and the 'good shepherd' version of Christ which tends to cause them to get thrown out in the same bathwater as Santa and the others. The Muslim tradition of prohibiting such images is very wise in this regard.

So I won't try to convince anyone to change their mind on evolution vs creation. However, I would suggest that creationists try to imagine Genesis as a poetic rendition of the Big Bang and what follows. And I would encourage evolutionists to ask the question "what was there before the Big Bang and what caused the Big Bang to happen?"

Neither camp is being asked to retract their own positions, only to expand their range of possibilities to give due consideration to the other camp.

Pho said...

I understand that "Conservative" is not the same as "Creationist," but creationists are overwhelmingly conservative which is why the issue has such resonance in the party.

You have a nice framework for talking about the issue, but too many creationists see their struggle as a a battle for the nation's soul for me to think that sort of reconciliation is possible.

Paul said...

Reminds me of a conversation I occasionally have with my biker friends in which one of them will quote: "50% of all bikers who died in accidents were wearing helmets" as a defense for their decision to not wear one. But there's another statistic: "80% of those who survive motorcycle accidents were wearing helmets."

Saying most creationists are conservatives is not the same thing as saying most conservatives are creationists.

I am a conservative to the extent that I think less government is better than more, and that free markets generally serve an economy better than one managed by politicians. However, I am liberal to the extent that I believe social injustice is a serious issue in our country, leading to increasing bifurcation of our population into haves and haves-not.

I reconcile that with support of things like school vouchers, which give every kid a shot a decent education and breaks down the "po folks keep out" mentality of our suburbs. But it means schools have to perform and compete or watch their currently captive money walk away with their students. Today's funding systems keep those barriers up but throw money over the wall. That will never lead to a good outcome.