Via Ross and Franke-Ruta, here is a CBN profile of Mike Huckabee. According to the report, he does support the teaching of creationism (not ID) “alongside evolution,” which came as something of a surprise to me. Intelligent Design is custom-made as the pseudo-scientific alternative that a pol can invoke without bringing down quite the same measure of criticism on himself. Even McCain (whose campaign is apparently now going to have “faith” as its theme!) has hied himself to the Discovery Institute to pay homage to the latest fad. ID is, of course, quite different from “creationism” and “creation science,” in that ID assumes that much of evolutionary theory and cosmology is correct, but holds that modern theory fails to account for the presence of orderliness and intelligence in the universe. (ID does not so much account for these things as it asserts them and waves its hands melodramatically as it asks, “Why, oh, why will the oppressive scientific community not heed our arguments?”)
“Creationism,” on the other hand, holds that more or less literal accounts of Biblical creation are entirely, “factually” true and creation science is founded on the notion that the claims are empirically verifiable. The thinking here seems to be that if archaeology can verify many historical references in the Old Testament, “creation science” should be able to do the same for prehistoric times. If there is geological evidence of the event that the Bible (and the Epic of Gilgamesh, stories about Manu, etc.) records as the Flood (at the end of the last ice age), that is apparently not supposed to be taken as evidence that modern geology and paleontology are reasonably reliable and accurate fields of science, but rather as proof that 95% of what geologists and paleontologists say about the age of the earth and the history of life on earth is wrong or badly distorted. Hence you have such travesties as the Creation Museum.
As you may remember, the governor was one of three candidates who raised his hand in response to the question about who didn’t believe in evolution. In the following debate, given a chance to elaborate on this, Huckabee gave his somewhat famous “I’m not running to write eighth grade science textbooks” line. In the past, however, he has made this sort of statement:
But I think schools also ought to be fair to all views. Because, frankly, Darwinism is not an established scientific fact. It is a theory of evolution, that’s why it’s called the theory of evolution. And I think that what I’d be concerned with is that it should be taught as one of the views that’s held by people. But it’s not the only view that’s held. And any time you teach one thing as that it’s the only thing, then I think that has a real problem to it.
Indeed! The kids have been deprived without having a proper education in the four humours and epicycles in addition to modern biology and heliocentrism. After all, who can really say how, or even whether, the planets orbit the sun? How unfair to privilege one view over another! That is effectively what the governor was saying. This is ridiculous.
You have to enjoy Huckabee’s standard refrain of “it’s a theory, not a fact!” As I have said before regarding ID:
That theories are constantly revised does not make theoretical knowledge less certain or less reliable than the “factual”â€“there is, or should be, the awareness that no theory ever has the final word, but that it is the best word available to us to date. Indeed, without theoretical frameworks to structure it, factual “knowledge” is often just a jumble of unrelated information. What ID proposes to do is to say, “The theory of evolution has not, as of yet, accounted for all of the complexities of biological phenomena, and therefore we declare it simply insufficient and propose to fill in the ‘gaps’ with a non-empirical, non-scientific explanation.”
Our knowledge of the world, like the knowledge of the past or any other subject of study, is always limited and provisional, but clearly some answers and some theories are more valid than others. Huckabee’s view on teaching both creationism and evolution is effectively a rejection of the idea that it is possible for reasoning people to discern between theories that are more consistent with empirical evidence and those that are less so or entirely inconsistent. Instead, Huckabee thinks we should be “fair” to all of the views “held by the people.” This is taking the right’s flirting with an anti-diversity love of “intellectual diversity” a bit far, wouldn’t you say?*
I take Huckabee’s point that such cultural fights over education policy really are not relevant to being President, or at least they shouldn’t be since education ought to remain a strictly local and state matter, but the argument that Huckabee is making in the statement above is actually a very strange one for a conservative to make. What he is saying is that there are many equally valid truths, truth is not one, and to privilege the best or most coherent explanations of phenomena is to stifle or shut out a free and fair exchange of ideas. Presumably Huckabee does not believe this when it comes to moral and spiritual truths about the obligations men owe each other or about the nature of man or the existence of God. Cultural conservatives do not think we should actually be “fair” to all views “held by the people” on matters of abortion and marriage when it comes to setting public policy and passing laws, but rather insist quite strongly (and, to my mind, rightly) that there are right answers that rule out the alternatives as unacceptable and false.
I suppose the complaint Huckabee is making here is that science, or any kind of scholarly research, is not democratic. By democratic here, I mean not only that anyone can have his own ideas about science, which is less worrisome, but that everyone’s views are entitled to equal respect and public affirmation. Obviously, everyone’s views are not so entitled, and certainly not when it comes to specialised fields of study.
Having said all that, I think the Genesis account of creation ought to be taught in those schools where the parents want it taught, along with an education in the cultural inheritance of the Christian civilisation to whose last remnants they belong, but not in science class. The establishment clause has nothing to do with this, and this is not a First Amendment issue. It is a matter of good education and common sense. The fundamental objection that so many Christians have to the teaching of evolution is the significance that is attached to the theory in the name of evolutionism, which secularists push to deny the existence of God and reject the authority of the Bible. If there were not the notion that their religion and everything they are teaching their children to believe were being openly derided and denied through the teaching of evolution, there would be a great deal less resistance. Encouraging that resistance to the teaching of evolution, rather than mobilising the same people against the courts’ hostility to religion in the public square and public schools, is self-defeating.
The secular West has already done away with any hierarchy of religious truth some time ago. More’s the pity. Indeed, religious truth as something real and binding is not taken very seriously in our culture, though there are many individuals who accept that it is. Christians have to plead for some minimal acknowledgement of their own beliefs in schools that they fund with their taxes, and even here they are usually unsuccessful. In effect, religious claims have been reduced to the level of “private” opinion, and every effort to drag them out of this prison is met with powerful hostility.
We allow for pluralism regarding ideas and things that our culture already acknowledges to be irrelevant to the organisation and running of social and political life. You can always tell what a culture values most highly by how much control those in authority attempt to exercise over its particular sphere. People generally permit the widest scope of “freedom” in those things that do not concern them and do not really matter to them.
Now Huckabee would ironically have us abandon standards of truth in at least one area of secular study in the name of religion, or rather in the name of “representing” the views of religious citizens in the classroom. “Let’s be fair!” the man says. As I thought conservatives used to argue whenever the latest multiculti fad was sweeping through the schools, schools do not exist for the purpose of “representing” the diversity of society (and attempts to make them do this are generally a waste of time, when they are not efforts at ideological indoctrination). Schools exist for educating children in those fundamental subjects and abilities of analysis and reasoning that will make them more humane and more capable to take up their duties as citizens. (Yes, I know how old-fashioned that sounds given the state of things, but there it is.) It seems blindingly obvious to me that instructing children in the religious heritage of their own country and civilisation is an essential part of a proper education, if only to make them culturally literate human beings who are not cut off from the riches of Western art and literature. Both are incomprehensible without a grounding in the history and teachings of Christianity, and it is no coincidence that I learned virtually nothing of those things in my formative education, receiving cant about diversity instead. A proper education in Western culture and religion, however, has nothing to do with talking about Genesis in biology class. Without the former, creationist school boards might triumph everywhere and achieve nothing of lasting significance.
*Having been subjected to idiotic propagandising in middle and high school about the glories of Diversity and multiculturalism, I recognised the shallowness and vapidity of both a long, long time ago. I also noticed early on that a diversity of ideas and particularly political ideas was not welcomed. I am very familiar with and in favour of this kind of criticism of the diversity cult. However, an enthusiasm for intellectual diversity (which, I would add, many on the right do not have when it comes to certain intramural policy debates) is not a license for dressing up willful ignorance or anti-intellectualism as a legitimate alternative to a prevailing view.