DeWayne Wickham: Do positions on evolution really matter in 2008 race?

During a televised debate among GOP presidential candidates last month in California, Sen. John McCain of Arizona was asked whether he believes in evolution. McCain first answered with one word: “Yes.” Then he quickly added: “I believe in evolution. But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also.”

That bit of fence walking might remind some people of what comedian W.C. Fields, a life-long atheist, said when he was discovered reading a Bible shortly before his death. When a friend asked incredulously what he was doing, Fields responded: “Looking for loopholes.”

But a recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll suggests McCain’s attempt to have it both ways is not an uncommon view. One-quarter of Americans think evolution, a scientific theory on the origins of life, and creationism, the biblical description of how life began, are both likely explanations. But in the world of politics, reality is too often shaped by what it takes to win over the relatively small number of voters who take part in a political party’s selection process ”” not the thinking of a wider group of people.

Whatever the reason, three of the GOP presidential wannabes standing with McCain that day gave a much different answer. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado answered with a show of hands when a reporter asked, “Is there anybody on the stage that does not agree, believe in evolution?”

This month, during a GOP debate in New Hampshire, Huckabee was asked about his rejection of evolution. “To me, it’s pretty simple,” the Baptist minister answered. “A person either believes that God created this process or believes that it was an accident and that it just happened all on its own.”

In politics, few things are described so simply. But for many members of the religious right ”” an influential bloc in the GOP’s presidential candidate selection process ”” answers to questions of faith have no middle ground. This is especially so in the long-running debate over the beginning of life.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, US Presidential Election 2008

17 comments on “DeWayne Wickham: Do positions on evolution really matter in 2008 race?

  1. dpeirce says:

    Aren’t these questions about belief in Creation/Evolution just a smoke screen by liberals and the media? The important issues are abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, and the right of Christians to practice their religion. So far, abortion, homosexuality and euthanasia are advanced and the right to practice Christianity is snuffed; we in America need to reverse that somehow with God’s help.

    Arguing between Creationism and Evolution just distracts and divides people who should be united on the basics.

    In faith, Dave

  2. libraryjim says:

    A short answer: no, not to me.

  3. Allen Lewis says:

    The MSM likes to ridicule those who choose not to buy into the secular worldview represented by “bielieve in Evolution” – style questions, lumping them in with graduates from Bob Jones Univeristy. It is a way to cast doubt upon the ability of conservatives – especially those who espouse Christian beliefs – to govern effectively.

    McCain would have done better to ask the question “What does my belief in the theory of evolution have to do with anything?” Unfortunately, most candidates do not have the intestinal fortitude to take the agenda back from media hacks who ask such loaded questions.

  4. Irenaeus says:

    “One-quarter of Americans think evolution, a scientific theory on the origins of life, and creationism, the biblical description of how life began, are both likely explanations.”

    The article errs in equating “Creationist” ideology with “the biblical view of how life began.” Creationist ideology (also known as “strict creationism”) dogmatically rejects the notion that God used evolution as a means of his creation. It also rejects scientific research that points toward evolution as the simplest and most cogent explanation of evidence from paleontology and genetics.

    Professor Mark Noll of Wheaton College discusses the pretensions of Creationist ideology in chapter 7 of his book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Eerdmans 1994). He traces its origins to 19th century scientism.
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _

    DPeirce [#1]: Liberals didn’t exactly put this issue in play. Christian conservatives in many states have demanded or secured the enactment of laws requiring public schools to teach Creationist ideology.

    We all wish political debate would center on the issues we consider important. You may consider this issue marginal. Others may, rightly or wrongly, consider candidates’ positions on this issue telling.

  5. Ross says:

    It matters on a practical level because “Do you believe in evolution?” often translates to “Do you believe that evolution should be taught in public schools?”, and that is very much a relevant question for a lot of people.

    It also matters because a negative answer often (not always, but often) indicates certain attitudes towards scientific research that will become relevant whenever that person has to make a decision where scientific data is a factor.

  6. Words Matter says:

    McCain’s attempt to have it both ways is not an uncommon view

    There you have a sick bit of journalism. Of course, to believe that God created all things, visible and invisible, using evolutionary method (at least in part) is simply not a contradiction, nor is it fence-sitting, nor is it having it “both ways”.

    As stated above, journalism does seem committed to distracting and dividing the people and leaves open the question as to whether journalists are 1.) stupid (most surely are not) 2.) think we are stupid (likely, given the arrogance among them), or 3.) propagandists rather than journalists.

    Yes, I am highly irritated. We deserve higher levels of integrity in our news reporting.

  7. Harvey says:

    The Epistle of St.Peter has a bit to say on this matter. Remembering that his trade of fishing did not require the concept of legions, millions, bilions etc., etc. Quoting him his writings ” .. a day with the of the Lord can be a thousand years..” I am not basing my Salvation on evolution or creation taking billions of years, that is for the Lord to know. There are those who postulate the theory that the creation of the universe as we can see it happened in a tiny bit of time. I can barely conceive of how long eternity is but I trust to spend it with Jesus and many others whom I am waiting to see again – including my daughter.

  8. NewTrollObserver says:

    A much more relevant question for the candidates would not be “Do you believe in a six-day, 24-hr-per-day creation?” but “Do you believe public school science classes should teach alternatives to evolution?” Then we’d separate the men from the boys.

  9. dpeirce says:

    Irenaeus, yes, unfortunately. We Christians have a genius for shooting ourselves in the foot by dividing ourselves over thins which are of lessor importance. Not UNimportant, just lessor importance.

    The Creation/Evolution argument has very little to do with how America is governed; abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, and preventing Christians from practicing their religion have everything to do with it. It isn’t that scientific decisions aren’t important, but that the same spirit which governs those deadly things also governs illicit science.

  10. Tikvah says:

    “…evolution, a scientific theory on the origins of life,…” – Herein lies the error. Darwin’s theory of evolution has nothing to do with origins. Evolutionism, on the other hand, having mutated nicely at the hand of atheistic science, claims to have that answer, and has grown it out of Darwin’s original thesis. This “ism”, of course, claims to explain the origins of life on earth, yet cannot explain the origins of the earth itself. So, yes, McCain is quite correct, as he sees evolution as change over time, quite separate from the origins of the planet, solar system et al.

  11. dpeirce says:


    Well, I guess we still can practice our religion freely. Like we can pray freely in schools and present Christian-based moral training there; we can view the 10 commandments in any courthouse; we can relax in front of a manger scene in any town plaza and enjoy the thought that we are celebrating our Savior’s birth; we can enjoy christmas carols in any store in any mall; and we can plainly and publically state our position opposing homosexuality with no fear whatsoever that anyone will label it a hate crime or even take offense and demonstrate.

    Ah, freedom!! Ain’t it wonderful! And it will only get better from here!

    In faith, Dave

  12. dpeirce says:

    Well, Matt, we might be starting from different places here. My starting place is that God made the place so he gets to make the rules. That might be sophistry, but it seems to me to be the only practical response to the Creator. Any other response seems pretty silly, kind of like a mouse cursing an elephant.

    Now, YES, people are preventing me from practicing my faith. I gave several examples in post #4 that involved praying and expressing my faith in public. May I refer you back to that post?

    In faith, Dave
    Viva Texas

  13. dpeirce says:

    Sorry. That was post #12.

  14. Tikvah says:

    There was a time in this nation that no one was uncomfortable with the Big Ten, or having prayers at commencement, etc. Manger scenes on the Commons were expected and they upset no one. Perhaps you are too young to have experienced that freedom. I would ask you to consider who/what is driving the removal of these things, and more, from the public square, and why. Perhaps the “inclusive” button should be pushed in more than one area of life.

  15. Tikvah says:

    My dear Matt, politicians don’t give me my rights, God does. Those which He gives never can be taken away. You have completely missed the point, which had nothing to do with spreading the Gospel message; which leads me to believe that you have a blind spot. I leave you to it.

  16. dpeirce says:

    Matt, I’m sure people can find many justifications for preventing any public display of Christianity. And I’m really sorry that you get upset by those public displays, and that you get upset with someone who would like to see more of those displays. But there isn’t much I can do for you.

    Your blind spot appears to be a hatred of Christian display but no hatred of anti-Christian display. Atheism and secularism are religions just as much as Christianity, and you echo the positions taken by those religions very well. That’s a REALLY BIG blind spot when you figure you’re dissing the One who created you.


    In faith, Dave
    Viva Texas

  17. dpeirce says:

    No, Matt, you are DENYING the point. Yes, my right to practice Cristianity is being daily abused.

    You might need reminding that the 10 Commandments, prayer in schools, and town-square manger scenes were all removed not by VOTE of the people but by order of the court. And you might remember that mall store managers were subjected to a barrage of complaints, boycotts, and threats, before they finally found it more politically correct to dispense with Christian music. Now I read news reports of colleges banning Christian speakers, and employers firing people for putting Christian messages on company bulletin boards, and that people handing out Christian literature to homosexuals and abortionists have been arrested.

    Your head is in the sand.

    In faith, Dave
    Viva Texas