Rage against the dying of the light (vyoma) wrote in endcreationism,
Rage against the dying of the light

Spin v. Stupid: Mike Huckabee Demonstrates Basic Ignorance

As mentioned here earlier, three of the Republican candidates in the current pack came out as Creationists. Well, more or less... at least one of them is now attempting to qualify his previous monosyllabic response. In doing so, he's revealed something about himself and about one of the problems we'd have with electing someone like him President in terms of an issue facing America.

First, here's what former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee said by way of clarifying his position as to whether or not he "believes" in evolutionary biology:

Huckabee said if given a chance to elaborate on the question from MSNBC moderator Chris Matthews, he would have responded: "If you want to believe that you and your family came from apes, I'll accept that....I believe there was a creative process."

Huckabee said he has no problem with teaching evolution as a theory in the public schools and he doesn't expect schools to teach creationism.

"We shouldn't indoctrinate kids in school," he said. "I wouldn't want them teaching creationism as if it's the only thing that they should teach."

Also, students should be given credit for having the intelligence to think through various theories for themselves and come to their own conclusions, he said.

He said it was his responsibility to teach his children his beliefs though he could accept that others believe in evolution.

"I believe that there is a God and that he put the process in motion," Huckabee said.

The former Arkansas governor said about the evolution question: "I'm not sure what in the world that has to do with being president of the United States."
Let's unpack that a bit, because there's a lot more here than a few lines of text. Politicians make their living, after all, with language, and rarely do they say anything that's even close to straightforward.

In these statements, Huckabee hasn't backed off from a Creationist-friendly policy in the least. All he's done is stake out a distinctly weak teach-the-controversy-flavored position, using the opportunity to "clarify" his position to send a message to the right-wing religious Republican base.

First, he gives the classic creationist line that is usually phrased by the ignorant as something like "evolution teaches that humans descended from apes." Note that he goes even a step further than this, taking a personal jab at those who support the teaching of evolutionary biology in science classrooms; they believe that their families came from apes. Why, these loathsome evilutionists think their own children are little more than monkeys. They're so corrupt, value their families so little, that their own children are little better than wild animals! Of course, this isn't even close to true. I don't know anything that supports this slanderous assertion. Huckabee is simply restating the extremist position that evolutionary biology is a liberal position and that liberals seek to diminish the value of human life. He then emphasizes his creationist street cred; he believes that goddidit. So all he's done so far is to distinguish himself from we godless, baby-eating evilutionists.

The next two lines are very telling. I believe that the reporter has got the intent wrong, because his statement that he "...wouldn't want them teaching creationism as if it's the only thing that they should teach" doesn't jibe with the reporter's conclusion that he doesn't expect schools to teach creationism. In fact, what a close reading of that statement reveals is precisely the opposite. Evolutionary biology is "only a theory," and what he's asserting here is that it shouldn't be the only thing taught in science classes; that it currently is is tantamount to indoctrination. In other words, by teaching only "one side" of the "controversy," science class serves as a forum for the indoctrination of school children, and that he wants to stop that indoctrination by also teaching "alternative theories." As we all (should) have learned by now, this is just typical parlance indicating a Christian creationism (or nearly-defunct creationism light, such as "intelligent design"). We can be pretty certain, I think, that he's not talking about Norse mythology or panspermia here, and that's because we've heard identical language used over and over again by the anti-science bunch. It's the same old argument, and it's the same one that creates the alleged controversy in the first place. Among scientists, and certainly among biologists, there's no controversy. This is just Huckabee reassuring the base that, if elected, he will elevate an opinion to the status of scientific theory.

He then goes on to state that, "...students should be given credit for having the intelligence to think through various theories for themselves and come to their own conclusions..." Well, that sounds very fair, doesn't it? I mean, we ought to be giving our students the freedom to make up their own minds and think critically about what they're taught at school, shouldn't we?

Let's apply this line of reasoning to things other than evolutionary biology and see how it holds up.
HISTORY TEACHER: The settlers who came to North America killed thousands of native Americans and destroyed their civilization.
LITTLE JOHNNY: But they were right to kill Indians! They didn't believe in private ownership of land, so they were Communists!

MATH TEACHER: 2 times 2 equals four.
LITTLE JOHNNY: Only in your reality! Math is only a theory, and I believe that two times two equals six.

CHEMISTRY TEACHER: Matter is composed of atoms, and atoms are made of protons, electrons and neutrons.
LITTLE JOHNNY: My daddy says that's atheism. There's no such thing as electrons!
As silly as this sounds, none of these three arguments are unprecedented. I've heard #1 and #3 myself, at least. The point here is that primary and secondary education aren't supposed to be primarily forums for open debate; their function is to develop critical thinking skills (at least, it should be) coupled with giving students factual information to serve as a basis for those skills. Sixth and seventh graders are in no position to "think through" something as complex as evolutionary theory because there's no way they can have a full picture of the evidence involved, the very data which modern theory addresses. At best, they can look at this data and question the specifics, and they should be doing that. In the limited time available, they can ask questions about data from the fossil record of a given taxon's genesis, for instance, or push their teacher to the limits in explaining the fundamentals of genetics. It is just as ridiculous, however, to think that some middle school student is capable of coming to an informed personal conclusion about evolutionary biology as a theory as it is to expect him to be able to cogently analyze astrophysics or quantum mechanics before he's graduated from high school. Evolutionary theory is no less complex than these other scientific theories, after all. What Huckabee is doing is either revealing his own ignorance of it's content or, again, playing to his base's fundamental(ist) misrepresentation of it. I suspect that it's some combination of the two, really, but I can't be sure from his statements how much of one versus the other is present here.

Huckabee concludes with a rather dismissive statement that is itself a product of some combination of hypocrisy and ignorance when he says, "I'm not sure what in the world that has to do with being president of the United States."

This statement is hypocritical for two reasons. First, Huckabee has already framed the issue in terms of what some people believe about their own families, their own children, essentially assigning to it a moral essence. The hardcore evangelist base certainly sees evolutionary biology in terms of a moral position as well. As much as evolutionary biologists point out that there is no more moral content to evolutionary theory than there is to auto repair, music or cooking, a certain segment of the population insists, and is likely to continue insisting, that this very amorality is the problem. Their whole basis for wanting to shovel religious content into science classes is that they believe that anything which touches upon an issue that is also addressed in their religious texts (in this case, the origin of biological diversity) contains a moral stake. Since these same people (and others as well; I don't mean to be exclusive on this point) believe that the US president should be the nation's moral example and leader, attempting to divorce the issue from the presidency is disingenuous at best.

Second, Huckabee doesn't raise this question about other issues raised in the debate that don't directly involve the functions of the office of president. For instance, another hot button issue that was raised during the forum was the question of reproductive rights. In fact, that question was asked in a more appropriate context than the evolution question. That is, it was asked as "Would it be desirable for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade?" This question recognizes that it isn't within the president's purview to make such a decision, and this is true of "teaching the controversy" as well, since the courts — including the Supreme Court — have ruled repeatedly that religious "alternative theories" do not belong in public school classrooms and violates religious freedom. It makes no more sense, then, for Huckabee to dismiss this issue than it would have been for him to dismiss the issue of reproductive choice, and I don't see any indication of him doing so.

The ignorance, the sheer stupidity betraying a profound lack of understanding of the issues facing this country, comes in when one realizes that our lagging behind in terms of science education in comparison to the rest of the world is of no small importance for America's future standing. We are already falling behind as a leader in technology, and that segment of science education pertaining to biology figures into this in a major way. It impacts directly such areas as biotechnology and medicine, and by extension even agriculture and energy independence. These things are not small issues for us at this point in history, and Huckabee sees no causal chain that extends from classroom to laboratory to the outside world. This cavalier attitude and/or profound underestimation of the role that science education plays in the global competitive landscape should itself be enough to disqualify Huckabee in the eyes of all but the most fundamentalist among our population. That it doesn't, that we don't have prospective Republican voters raising objections to this position in large numbers, speaks sad volumes about where American society is headed and demonstrates more practically what has already been revealed in recent polls. The majority of Americans have come to be ignorant of the importance of science, not to mention of science itself, and so agree with Huckabee's attitude here, even as they wonder why we're losing our competitive edge. Instead of looking to education, for as much lip service as the issue has been paid by recent administrations, they instead focus outward to place the blame and wind up creating scapegoats out of immigrants (illegal and otherwise) and unfair practices...creating enemies in the world when, really, the enemy is right there in front of the TV set, nodding its agreement with Jerry Falwell and Bill O'Reilly.... and Mike Huckabee, for that matter.

So, Huckabee has indeed clarified his position. The thing is, it's no different than what he said during the Republican debate in a single syllable. Huckabee is, as his raising his hand was meant to indicate, a Creationist. Nothing he's said by way of clarification demonstrates anything else, but only reinforces his reliance on the same old arguments that creationists have been using all along.

Perhaps if he doesn't win the Republican primary himself, he can serve as vice president under John McCain, the man who "believes" in evolution but sees "the hand of God" in sunsets.
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded 

  • 1 comment