Friday, June 01, 2007

Why Brownback's Views On Evolution Matter

Eugene Volokh asks, with reference to Sam Brownback's recent rejection of evolution:

How should this affect a person's judgment about whether he supports Sen. Brownback? I'm not sure I know the answer, but I thought I'd raise the question, and mention a few thoughts of my own. (Note that I am by no means a supporter of Brownback's, though I have no implacable hostility to him, either.)
He then goes on to list some potential complaints with the Senator's position:
1. We might argue that this shows Brownback believes things that are provably false, and that this reflects badly on his judgment.
...
2. We might argue that this shows Brownback believes things about the physical world that are not based chiefly on reason and evidence, and that this reflects badly on his judgment.
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3. We might argue that this shows Brownback, if elected President, will have a lousy science policy.
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4. We might argue that electing Brownback would make America look foolish to world elites that accept the theory of evolution.

If that were the end of it I'd be inclined to agree with Eugene's take on the matter, but I think that Eugene's list of thoughts fails to address one important point. There's one particular portion of Sen. Brownback's statement which is an absolute deal-killer (h/t to PZ Meyers):

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.
Sam Brownback seems to be rejecting macroevolution, not due to any criticism (or misunderstanding) of the science, but because he doesn't like the outcome. He's an ostrich sticking his head in the sand and pretending that it doesn't exist because he's uncomfortable with the logical implications thereof.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is no way to run a country, and its certainly not a trait I want to see in a POTUS. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to come up with recent examples of how ideological blindness can lead to bad results...

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