A month ago, ten Republican presidential hopefuls gathered at the Ronald Reagan library in Southern California for what undoubtedly will be the first of several "debates." To my way of thinking the high [or low] point of the less than edifying evening came when Jim Vandehei, executive editor of Politics.com asked "Is there anybody on the stage who does not agree with evolution?" Amazingly, three of the ten -- Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, raised their hands. And while we're at it, there was also Arizona Senator John McCain, who despite not raising his hand, did offer that "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 also there." McCain's fence-straddling reply has got to be good for at least half a raised hand.
"How's that?" you ask. "Three-and a half out of ten Republican hopefuls don't believe in evolution? Are they for real?"
If I were a dyed-in-the-wool cynic, I might say, "Well, they probably do believe in evolution; nobody running for president can be that obtuse. It's probably that they just don't want to irritate the voter-rich Christian Right." And while there may be a grain of truth lurking in the cynical shadows, it is more likely the case that these men really, truly don't cotton to more than 150 years of accepted science. That is chilling. What is even more frightening is the simple fact that they are far from alone. Indeed, a 2004 CBS poll found that only 13% of the American public believes that humans evolved without Divine guidance. In other words, nearly nine out of ten people surveyed believe that God created the world.
Now mind you, I have no problem believing in both God and science. To my way of thinking, the Master of the Universe is, was, and always shall be, the ultimate Darwinian. I believe that the process of evolution -- as exhaustively noted by Darwin -- is the excrescence of Divine will; a rational unfolding of miraculous events. Simply stated, faith and science are synthetic, not antithetic.
What is even more troubling than the three-and-a-half raised hands at last month's Republican debate, is the ever-widening gap between people of faith and people of reason. On one side of that gap are all those scientists who have paleo- attached to their academic titles. They are working overtime to discover and disclose the secrets of the universe -- the how of creation. At the same time, an ever-startling segment is marching in lockstep to the beat of some pre-Newtonian drum, fervently believing that they know the why of life.
How is it possible that in 2007, there are still untold millions who fervently believe that the earth is 6,000 years old, that dinosaurs existed coterminously with Adam and Even, that Joshua made the sun stand still, and that the Almighty created the universe in precisely six twenty-four hour days? These are the same arguments William Jennings Bryan posited at the infamous Scopes "Monkey Trial" 82 years ago this month.
And now comes the "Creation Museum."
Built for $27 million, the just-opened "Creation Museum" is located in Petersburg, Kentucky, just a stone's throw from Cincinnati. A project of a group called "Answers in Genesis" -- www.answersingenesis.org -- the museum mocks evolutionary science and invites visitors [$19.95 for adults, $9.95 for children] to find faith and truth in God. According to the museum's founder, Ken Ham, he and his brethren at "Answers in Genesis" can "prove through science that the book of Genesis is true. All of it."
Of course, for the Biblical account of creation to be correct and the world to be no more than 6,000 years old, several hundred years of research in geology, physics, biology, astronomy, paleontology and paleobotany, [among other disciplines] would need to be very, very wrong. While all this may be fascinating to some -- and the God's honest truth to others -- it nonetheless highlights a stupefying fracture in modern society: between those who trust that the future is before them, and those who believe that it is behind.
To understand just how wide that gap has become, consider a few statements that are being given prominence on the Internet:
- [About the existence of feathered dinosaurs]: "They're all fake. They're all coming from China . . . . They spend years forging these things."
- "Teaching the pagan religion of evolution is a waste of valuable classroom time and textbook space. It is also one of the reasons Americans kids don't test so well in science as kids in other parts of the world."
- "If evolution is true, abortion euthanasia, pornography, genocide, homosexuality, adultery, incest, etc., are also possible."
- "Could it be that people accept evolution because they know that evolution is the only philosophy that can be used to justify their political agenda of Communism, Racism, Abortion, Nazism, Socialism, Gay Rights, Women's Liberation . . . and Extreme Environmentalism?"
And by far, the most frightening:
- "If evolution is true, there is no Creator, so laws come from man's opinion. That is called Democracy, which is a terrible form of government. Democracies always degenerate into dictatorships. America, it is sad to say, has become a democracy."
[Note: Anyone interested in the sources of these quotes, drop me an email and I shall provide . . .]
It is as if America is going through some modern version of feudalism; a well delineated disconnect between segments of society. Except in this case, the disconnect [or gap] is not between the landed gentry who have everything and the serfs who have nothing. Rather, the current chasm is between those who look to a hopefully endless future in order to understand the past, and those who cling to the past in order to justify a gloriously future end.
It is indeed both sad and frightening that we have come to a point where candidates for this nation's highest office must be asked about whether or not they believe in evolution. What's next? Will candidates at some future debate be asked whether or not they believe in gravity, Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy?
Let's all stay tuned. . .