Three on Rick Perry: Dawkins, Cal Thomas, & Biola

Today, at the website of the Washington Post, there are three separate blog postings about Texas Governor Rick Perry’s creationism. Each one is an answer to this question:

Texas governor and GOP candidate Rick Perry, at a campaign event this week, told a boy that evolution is ”just a theory” with “gaps” and that in Texas they teach “both creationism and evolution.” Perry later added “God is how we got here.” According to a 2009 Gallup study , only 38 percent of Americans say they believe in evolution. If a majority of Americans are skeptical or unsure about evolution, should schools teach it as a mere “theory”? Why is evolution so threatening to religion?

We’ll visit them one at a time, with a few excerpts from each, and with bold font added by us. First we’ll go to the post by Richard Dawkins. That one is Attention Governor Perry: Evolution is a fact. Dawkins says:

There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today’s Republican party … is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today’s Republican Party ‘in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.

Strong words, but the first question one should ask is whether the words are true. After deciding that, one can worry about details such as the tone of delivery. Let’s read on:

[A] politician’s attitude to evolution, however peripheral it might seem, is a surprisingly apposite litmus test of more general inadequacy. This is because unlike, say, string theory where scientific opinion is genuinely divided, there is about the fact of evolution no doubt at all. Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science, and he who denies it betrays woeful ignorance and lack of education, which likely extends to other fields as well.

We know you’ll want to click over there to read it all, so now we’ll jump over to the answer by Cal Thomas. That one is Evolution and its consequences. We once posted about him, approvingly, as a prominent conservative who regards ID as junk science: Conservatives and Intelligent Design. Here’s a sample of his response to the Post‘s question about Perry’s creationism:

It is a useless argument because creationists will never persuade evolutionists they are right and evolutionists will never persuade creationists they are right. No one was there “in the beginning” so I am going to trust what God said. … If [parents] choose to send [their children] to public schools where evolution — and the consequences of that theory — are taught, then they have made a decision that will result in their children learning humans are material and energy shaped by pure chance in a random universe, with no author of life, no purpose for living and no destination after we die. ..a little more complex than a cabbage, but of no greater moral significance.

We’ll have to re-think our opinion of Thomas. Now for the view from Biola University — a California bible college founded in 1908 as the Bible Institute Of Los Angeles. We’ve previously posted about the interlocking relationships between the Discoveroids and Biola. And as we reported earlier, for the celebration of their centennial year, Biola honored Philip E. Johnson: Godfather of Intelligent Design.

This one was written by John Mark Reynolds, a Biola philosophy professor: Governor Perry, like many Christians, wants to leave room for God. He says:

Rick Perry really did it this time. He dared wonder about Darwinism in public. He better realize that hell hath no fury to match that of a Darwinist scorned. Denunciations will follow, because every age produces people who enjoy denouncing anyone daring to wonder about what they know to be true.

Huh? We continue:

Darwin, like most scientists of his day, wanted to limit science to natural causes partly because they thought natural causes could explain everything. When he told how species originated naturally, he thought the story was done.

Darwin was a fool — he tried to do science without Oogity Boogity! Here’s more:

“Darwinism” is certainly incompatible with Christianity and quite possibly wrong. Nature, matter and energy, are not all there is. Mind exists and so things can be caused by intelligence as well as impersonal forces.

[…]

What do I think? I am very skeptical that evolution, as we understand it, is adequate, but cautious knowing I am not a scientist. Separately, I believe science should be more open, at some level, to intelligent causation and believe “creationism” solves some important philosophical problems.

So there you are, dear reader. Three separate opinions on Rick Perry’s flaming creationist outburst and what it all means. Take a good look at each one, because together they give a good summary of the situation. Oh, for a fourth perspective, we posted earlier about the Discovery Institute’s reaction to Perry’s remarks: Discovery Institute: Problems with Perry.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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17 responses to “Three on Rick Perry: Dawkins, Cal Thomas, & Biola

  1. Another item on my checklist of arguments raised by evolution deniers:

    Does this argument apply with at least as much force as an argument against the sciences of reproduction and development?

    To put it in more philosophical language, is this argument against evolution dependent upon the fallacies of composition and division: confusing the individual with the group? Evolution is about changes to populations (or species, or “kinds”); but we, presumably, have worth as individuals, not just as members of a group, and we value our fellow humans, not for their physical properties (sharing the structure of the vertebrate eye with other vertebrates; or whatever else the creationists are so concerned about).

    For example:
    If [parents] choose to send [their children] to public schools where evolution — and the consequences of that theory — are taught, then they have made a decision that will result in their children learning humans are material and energy shaped by pure chance in a random universe, with no author of life, no purpose for living and no destination after we die

    Would the creationists rather have the kids taught that the reason that humans are most similar to chimps and other apes is that the main concern of their Creator was that they would be like apes? (And maybe that kids who are born without certain biological systems were of less concern to their Creator?)

  2. I usually agree with Dawkins, and I’m all for plain speaking – but I still find his arrogance (which he has admittedly earned) and blunt style counterproductive. It’s honey, Dawkins, not vinegar. I’d sure hate to take tea at his house.

    Perry, who is a provincial ignoramus, will likely be our next president, because Obama probably won’t be reelected. Perry’s track record on this issue speaks for itself. He’s already shown he’ll willfully interfere with science education. Even GWB didn’t go that far.

    I don’t know what to say. By 2016 or possibly sooner, we, the US, will be bankrupt, either intellectually or monetarily, depending on who wins. Not very sunny, is it?

  3. What scares me about Perry is that he brings supernatural beliefs into everything. Hell, he organizes prayers for rain.

    As far Perry’s main talking point – Texas job growth, a significant percentage has come from other states. Perry has made it his strategy to lure businesses to Texas through tax breaks, grants, and generally lower wages. It makes one wonder what he will do as President to stimulate job growth. His primary strategy of luring business from elsewhere is not an option on the national level.

    As they say in Texas, Perry is all hat and no cattle.

  4. [Quote from Biola] I believe science should be more open, at some level, to intelligent causation and believe “creationism” solves some important philosophical problems.

    So go out into the field and lab and test your hypotheses. Then publish them. Have people use your work to make still more advances. THEN we will teach it in high school science classes.

    Science is wide open for you if you want to dig for billion year old genetics laboratories, look for moon monoliths, or whatever else evidence of a designer you think might be out there. The problem, Biola representative, is that you want us to teach your not-even-a-hypothesis to students before you’ve done the scientific work of showing your idea holds any water at all.

  5. Ed says:

    What scares me about Perry is that he brings supernatural beliefs into everything. Hell, he organizes prayers for rain.

    Every Republican candidate has the same advantage — they’re not Obama. That could be enough to win, even if they’re suffering from obvious insanity. Such is the desperate situation that Obama’s presidency seems to have created.

  6. eric quotes the Biola guy:

    I believe science should be more open, at some level, to intelligent causation and believe “creationism” solves some important philosophical problems.

    The only philosophical problem creationism solves is providing employment for second-rate philosophers.

  7. Every Republican candidate has the same advantage — they’re not Obama. That could be enough to win, even if they’re suffering from obvious insanity.

    I disagree, and I think if the GOP thinks that, they’re making a huge mistake. The figurative crowds of democrats chanting “run, Michelle, run” should be a clue that not-Obama is insufficient to pose a credible threat…at least your opponents think so…

  8. Tomato Addict

    eric wrote: “The only philosophical problem creationism solves is providing employment for second-rate philosophers.”

    I think that might be what Perry means when he talks about “job creation”. 😉

  9. I don’t feel Dawkins was being harsh at all when he says, “Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.”

    While lumping all republican voters together like that may not be accurate or fair, he does have a point that seems (in my limited worldview) to be an American phenomenon. Palin touted how she was a regular hockey mom, and just like everyone else. I’m sure we can all think of other examples from both parties trying to curry favor with the masses.

    As for me, I want a leader who is smarter than me! I want someone who knows what’s going on in the world better than me. I want someone who understands the economy better than me. I want someone who can speak to world leaders with grace and authority. I want someone who is better educated than me. I want someone who has a long history of civil service.

    In short, I want someone better than me to be president. If they’re just like me, I know they’d make a terrible president.

    That’s why the current crop of Republican candidates saddens me. Obama has some of the qualities I listed above, and while some of the Republican candidates may, they certainly aren’t showing it.

  10. I think I agree with eric, especially looking back at the UK 1992 election. Nearly everyone expected Labour to walk into power, so unpopular were the Conservatives, yet the Conservatives held onto power, because a sizeable portion of the public could not stand the idea of Kinnock becoming Prime Minister. If Bachmann gets nominated I can see Obama scraping through the next election.

  11. cnocspeireag

    Am I the only one who can’t read ‘Biola’ without thinking of ‘ebola’? Evangelical Bunch Of Lying Arseholes’ perhaps. Anyway, the acronym suits them better.

  12. Tomato Addict

    Am I the only one who can’t read ‘Biola’ without thinking of ‘ebola’?

    Nope, almost posted that myself. If only I’d thought of a snappy acronym!

  13. @cnocspeireag: No, I was thinking the same thing. You and Mater beat me to it.

  14. Well, we’ve elected intelligent and articulate folks to the presidency (Jimmy Carter, Barack Obama, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover) and folks who were scorned for being ignorant hicks (Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, Calvin Coolidge). Does Professor Dawkins want to restate his premise?

    (To be fair, we’ve had some intelligent and articulate folks who were excellent presidents, like Grover Cleveland, and ignorant hicks that were disasters like GWB- my point remains that there’s no correlation)

  15. @cnocspeiragAm I the only one who can’t read ‘Biola’ without thinking of ‘ebola’?

    I think “Biola” sounds like a margarine, and not a good brand either.

    eryops:As for me, I want a leader who is smarter than me! I want someone who knows what’s going on in the world better than me. I want someone who understands the economy better than me. I want someone who can speak to world leaders with grace and authority. I want someone who is better educated than me. I want someone who has a long history of civil service.

    A practical question: in what real American political figure do these qualities go together? A theoretical question: does “democracy” mean we choose from a professional caste of Top Men to paternalistically rule over us for our own good? I don’t think in that case that “self-government” would be what we were doing.

    I don’t think that knowledge or credentials are the thing to look for in political leaders, not in a republic. I think we should seek character, wisdom, and judgment. Experts should be in an advisory capacity; they should be our servants and not our masters. The point of being a citizen in a republic is that we are qualified to be our own masters.

    (Character, wisdom, and judgement are not perhaps in evidence in the current Republican crop, I concede.)

  16. Gabriel Hanna says:

    I think “Biola” sounds like a margarine, and not a good brand either.

    To me it sounds like an intestinal disorder. The embarrassing noisy kind.

  17. Give me ‘strident’ Dawkins any day – rather him than some of the smooth-talking, oily, syrupy “liars for jesus” that have so successfully insinuated themselves into the political arena (and not just in the US!).
    Next year is going to be very interesting! 🙂