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At least six presidents and other high government officials openly supported the right to “teach the controversy” about the topic of origins and to avoid indoctrination in Darwinism.
A large number of recent American presidents and high government officials have openly supported creationism/Intelligent Design, or at least have expressed the view that students and teachers have the right to question Darwinism. In the last century alone, presidents who spoke openly of their doubts about Darwinism include Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush. A few of the many “on the record” statements of presidential support of their belief in creationism are reviewed below. Other statements by high level government officials were also noted.
President Truman was raised in a devout Baptist family in Independence, Missouri. As a child he attended the Presbyterian Church and Sunday school because it was nearer to his home than the Baptist church. At age 18, Truman formally joined the Baptist church. When President, he worshipped at the First Baptist Church in Washington, DC. An “avid student of the Bible all of his life, he singled out the Sermon on the Mount” as the Bible’s greatest passage. He also firmly “believed in the power of prayer” (DeGregorio, 2005, p. 510). Gustafson wrote that Truman “maintained an almost fundamentalist reverence for the Bible and liked to read and quote it” (1968, p. 380). From his school days until he became President, Truman “regularly recited the following prayer” in which he stressed God as the creator:
Almighty and Everlasting God, Creator of Heaven, Earth and the Universe—Help me to be, think, to act what is right ... Give me the ability to be charitable, forgiving and patient with my fellowmen—help me to understand their motives and their shortcomings—even as Thou understandest mine (quoted in McCullough 1992, p. 55., emphasis mine)!
Truman believed that humans did not evolve, but rather were “the creation of a merciful God” (Spalding 2009, p. 222). He often spoke of God as the “father and creator of mankind” (Spalding 2009, p. 246). He wrote that human beings have not “changed much from the beginning” (quoted in Gustafson 1968, p. 386). Truman once wrote that “Divine Providence has played a great part in our history … God has created us and brought us to our present position of power and strength for some great purpose” (Gustafson 1968, p. 389). Many other examples could be given, but these few examples illustrate his beliefs as represented in his writings.
After being sworn in as President, Truman asked members of the press to pray for him. His devotion was to the degree that he proclaimed July 4, 1952, the first annual day of prayer. Furthermore, many of the most familiar of Truman’s life guidelines and those of his society “came directly from the Bible” (McCullough 1992, p. 54). He often stressed that religion is to live by, and is much more than just talking about one’s beliefs (Spalding 2009, p. 220; McCullough 1992, p. 83).
Truman’s Christian “values influenced his decisions during the years he exercised leadership in the United States [and] in the Western world” (Gustafson 1968, p. 387). He added that foundational to his political philosophy was his religious philosophy (Gustafson 1968, p. 379). Furthermore, his “biblical Christianity was vital to his foreign policy” (Spalding 2009, p. 220). When Truman became aware of the power of the atomic bomb, he wrote that we “have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark” (Spalding 2009, p. 223).
Dwight Eisenhower’s upbringing was “Steeped in Religion” by two devoutly religious parents (Bergman 1998). Eisenhower stated that he was reared with “a deep Bible-centered faith” that has
colored my life since childhood. Devout parents, who loved the Bible as dearly as life itself, made sure of that. Indeed, before I was eighteen, I had read through the entire Bible and discussed it, chapter by chapter, with my mother (quoted in Gammon 1969, pp. 3–4).
Eisenhower’s religious background was River Brethren and a fellowship then called the Bible Students. Both groups were strong creationists. The importance of this doctrine is illustrated by the fact that the acceptance of Darwinism was an excommunication offense in the Bible Students’ successor, the Watchtower Society.
Those who have studied Eisenhower’s life have concluded that he had an unshakable belief in the Bible teaching that God is the creator and sustainer of life (Hutchinson 1954, p. 369; Bergman 2000, 2009).
Eisenhower’s worldview may have influenced certain statements that he made. An example is his conclusion, based on his reading of the our nation’s founders’ writings, that America is a religious nation today because the country’s fathers expressed their complete
reliance on ‘the laws of nature and nature’s God’ and because they published before the world these self-evident truths: ‘that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights . . . .’ In contrast with this concept of the sacredness of life, modern atheistic dictatorships treat men as nothing more than animals or educated mules. How many materialistic psychologists and smart-alec professors sneer that men invented God in a childish search for security; yet, I have noticed that men in the foxholes or at the moment of death turn to some higher Power for comfort and courage . . . . a deep Bible-centered faith has colored my life since childhood (Quoted in Gammon 1969, pp. 3–4, emphasis mine).
Another example is Eisenhower’s statement that at the
core of our nation is belief in a Creator who has endowed all men with inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In that belief is our country’s true hallmark, a faith that permeates every aspect of our political, social and family life (Speech over radio and television, Washington, DC, December 3, 1959. From Eisenhower 1967b, pp. 85–86, emphasis mine).
In a letter to his lifelong friend, Swede Hazlett, Eisenhower wrote “I believe fanatically in ... the rights of the individual ... because of his being created in the image of a supreme being ...” (Quoted in Chernus 2002, p. 91, emphasis mine). In a speech given to Congress in Washington, DC on January 5, 1957, President Eisenhower said that the Middle East was
the birthplace of three great religions—Moslem, Christian and Hebrew. Mecca and Jerusalem are more than places on the map. They symbolize religions which teach that the spirit has supremacy over matter and that the individual has a dignity and rights of which no despotic government can rightfully deprive him. It would be intolerable if the holy places of the Middle East should be subjected to a rule that glorifies atheistic materialism (Eisenhower 1967, p. 128).
In yet another example, in a commencement speech Dwight gave at Messiah College on May 29, 1965, he said that the president of Messiah College said in the opening passages of the Declaration of Independence, when
trying to explain the kind of government that they envisioned … that, first of all, we are created by some Supreme Being—a Creator—and we are endowed with certain unalienable rights and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (Eisenhower 1965, p. 3, emphasis mine).
Morin concluded that Dwight’s belief about “religious faith and man’s instinct to be free,” were not only directly related, but that “faith in God is the necessary base for a free nation” (1969, p. 133). Morin gave as an example that Dwight “often mused over the phrase in the Declaration of Independence that says all men ‘are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights . . .’” The President stressed the word Creator, which signified to him that America was “founded on a basis of religious faith” (1969, pp. 133–134). Dwight concluded that a “free government without a foundation of deep religious faith makes no sense,” and that this fact was a major strength of democracies in their conflicts with communists (1969, p. 134).
Eisenhower believed that clear evidence existed to support his conclusion that God had intervened in response to his prayers. For example, he believed the numerous contingencies that all worked together in his life to allow him to destroy fascism and nazism were not a result of chance, but rather God’s will (Bergman 2009). Eisenhower strongly believed that God was with him in his battle against “Hitler and all that he stood for” (Eisenhower 1967, p. 52). Toward the end of his presidency, Eisenhower was still active in religious work. For example, at the Christmas Pageant of Peace Ceremonies on December 23, 1960, delivered over national radio and television, he said we are
a nation of people who devoutly believe that they were created in the image of their Maker. . . . When, through bitter prejudice and because of differences in skin pigmentation, individuals cannot enjoy equality of political and economic opportunity, we see another of these imperfections . . . this failure, too, is a blot on the brightness of America's image (emphasis mine).
Religion for Jimmy Carter was at the forefront of his presidency. Always more in agreement with Intelligent Design than creationism, he wrote that the evidence of the design argument was so persuasive that even for persons “without specific religious convictions . . . the awe-inspiring beauty of starlit sky or sunset, the emergence of a butterfly from a chrysalis, the industry of an ant, or the sprouting of a seed were adequate proofs of God’s hand in our lives and in creation” (2005, p. 48).
He added that he believed an “omnipotent Creator” created the “entire universe” (2005, p. 49). An example where he stressed the clear evidence for design in nature was in a 1989 letter to one of his “favorite writers on scientific subjects,” Harvard Professor Stephen Jay Gould. The letter was in response to a statement Gould wrote in what Carter considered “the most enjoyable of his books, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History.” After noting that some of Gould’s theses “were later disputed by other paleontologists” (2005, p. 49) Carter added that he disagreed with Gould’s conclusion that evolution was
like a tape going through a machine, with the results being attributable to a completely haphazard recording. I wrote him a private letter, expressing my belief that there had obviously been some logic or order in the process. He didn’t respond directly, but subsequently quoted and slyly ridiculed my opinion in one of his monthly magazine articles (2005, pp. 49–50).
Carter added that “my own personal belief [was] that God created the universe” and not a blind watchmaker as taught by orthodox Darwinism or Richard Dawkins.
During Reagan’s 1967-1975 California governorship, Reagan’s “state board of education had pushed to weaken the teaching of evolution and endorsed creationism” (Mooney 2005, p. 36). A Science magazine editorial opined that
Reagan’s sympathy with the creationists was common knowledge when he was governor. Reagan supported an unsuccessful 1972 suit brought by the state school board—whose superintendent was a friend of the governor—to bring the teaching of creationism to public schools (Science 1980, p. 1214).
During a 1980 press conference, presidential candidate Ronald Reagan was asked if he thought the theory of evolution should be taught in public schools. He answered that evolution is a
theory only, and it has in recent years been challenged in the world of science and is not yet believed in the scientific community to be as infallible as it once was believed. But if it was going to be taught in the schools, then I think that also the biblical theory of creation, which is not a theory but the biblical story of creation, should also be taught (Science 1980, p. 1214).
Asked if he personally accepted the theory of evolution, Reagan replied: “I have a great many questions about it. I think that recent discoveries down through the years have pointed [out] ... great flaws in it” (Science 1980, p. 1214).
After Reagan’s election, several key members of his administration also supported teaching creationism. Due to the at times rabid opposition of mainline science to anything less than dogmatic teaching of Darwinism, though, Reagan’s administration had to be circumspect. For example, Reagan’s science adviser, George Keyworth, “refused to repudiate the teaching of creationism in public schools during his 1981 confirmation hearing.” Reagan’s secretary of education William Bennett also supported teaching of creationism. For example, in 1986 Bennett “declared that in his view, the selection of public school textbooks should involve the ‘judgment of the community,’ a tacit nod to creationist forces at the local level” (Mooney 2005, p. 36).
Mooney concludes that “The Reagan administration’s sympathies with creationism signaled a new development for the Republican Party and conservatism more generally” (2005, p. 36). Reagan also wrote in a letter to a correspondent that certain quotes, evidently made in response to statements made by Paul Kurtz in The Humanist, that
Humanism can not in any fair sense of the word apply to one who still believes in God as the source and creator of the universe. Christian Humanism would be possible only for those who are willing to admit that they are atheistic Humanists. It surely does not apply to God intoxicated believers (Skinner, et al. 2003, p. 644).
Reagan then expressed his concern about teaching Humanism in public schools by paraphrasing John J. Dunphy from the Humanist magazine who wrote that “the battle for humankind’s future will be waged and won in the public school classroom and the new faith of Humanism will replace the ‘rotting corpse of Christianity’” (Skinner, et al. 2003, p. 644). Some of Reagan’s cabinet members also supported Reagan’s view. For example, Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, said that the issue in the Scopes trial
was not whether the doctrine of evolution should take the place of the Biblical account of Creation. The question was whether the theory of evolution could be discussed ... Scopes lost the trial ... Censorship was as wrong then as it is now. We believers in the Old Testament want the theories of both evolution and Creation taught. ... Unfortunately, in many school systems, the liberals have now censored the teaching of Creation. Yet is censorship by liberals right and by conservatives wrong? (1985, pp. 109–110).
C. Everett Koop graduated from Cornell Medical School at an age when many people are just finishing their bachelor's degree. He was one of the nation’s first pediatric surgeons, and pioneered many surgical operations. Indeed he “wrote the textbook” in his field and, thanks mostly to his work, some procedures that carried a 95 percent mortality rate when Dr. Koop began his work have improved to a 95 percent survival rate (Koop 1991).
His research abilities also are legion. Some of his books were written in a single night (Koop 1991). He has succeeded in nearly everything he has ever attempted. At an age when most men retire, he began a new career as the U.S. Surgeon General (Chief of the U.S. Public Health Service), articulating the nation’s health care goals and programs. After noting this, a Life magazine (April of 1982) author grudgingly admitted, “No man who ever held the office brought to it the conscientiousness, or the background, of Everett Koop.”
Dr. Koop has openly supported the creation worldview and eloquently expressed his reservations about Darwinism. In a letter to Paul Humber, Koop wrote that “It has been my conviction for many years that evolution is impossible . . . however, I have never been able to convince anyone who held the opposite point of view.” The reason, Koop wrote, is because “I am of the firm conviction that until the scales are lifted from the eyes of those who oppose creation, no scientific evidence will be of value in proof” (Koop 1986).
George H.W. Bush’s writings also indicate that he accepted the creation worldview, and felt that Darwinism should be taught objectively in public schools. An example of how this view was reflected in Bush’s thinking was in his speech to the National Academy of Science:
20 billion years ago, the theory goes, it all began with a universe of energy and mass unimaginably hot and compressed containing everything that would become what we now see in the heavens. And then, science tells us, in one incomprehensively powerful instant, energy and matter of every kind exploded in every direction—or as a layman might explain it, somebody hit that cosmic baseball right out of the park (1990).
Bush then added that “Science, like any field of endeavor, relies on freedom of inquiry; and one of the hallmarks of that freedom is objectivity.” He concluded by adding “I’m not here as an expert but as a believer. . . . Thank you very much . . . and God bless each and every one of you.” Even more direct is Bush’s statement about creationism made while campaigning, as summarized by the journal Church and State:
Creationism also gets a Bush nod...the candidate says, “I’m not a scientist, but it seems to me that the Bible has an abundance of clues and evidence to help archeologists, astronomers and other scientists in their endless quest for knowledge. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the Biblical account of creation and the scientific evidence of the origins of the universe will yet find common ground (Boston 1988, p. 10).
When campaigning for President in 1999, Bush openly “supported the teaching of creationism alongside evolution in public schools” (Mooney 2005, p. 9). President Bush has also openly given support to creationism while in public office. In a Roundtable interview he gave on August 1, 2005, Bush was asked about his personal views on the “growing debate over evolution versus intelligent design” and if he thought “both should be taught in public schools.” Bush answered that “harking back to my days as governor . . . I said that, first of all, that decision should be . . . [up] to local school districts, but I felt like both sides ought to be properly taught . . . so people can understand what the debate is about” (2005, p. 4). During his 2000 election campaign President Bush was quoted as saying that “on the issue of evolution, the verdict is still out on how God created the earth” (Dowd 2005).
Both Democrats running against Bush, Albert Gore and Joseph Lieberman, supported Bush on this issue. Professor Gregory Paul noted that
Gore supported teaching both creationism and evolution, his running mate Joe Lieberman asserted that belief in a creator is instrumental to “secure the moral future of our nation, and raise the quality of life for all our people,” and presidential candidate John Kerry emphasized his religious values in the latter part of his campaign (2005, p. 4).
Senator Bill Frist, a doctor and graduate of Harvard Medical School, supports teaching ID. One report noted he echoed President Bush when he stated that
“intelligent design” should be taught in public schools alongside evolution. Frist ... told reporters ... that students need to be exposed to different ideas, including intelligent design. “I think today a pluralistic society should have access to a broad range of fact, of science, including faith,” Frist ... said exposing children to both evolution and intelligent design “doesn’t force any particular theory on anyone. I think in a pluralistic society that is the fairest way to go about education and training people for the future” (MSNBC report 2006, p. 1).
Senator Santorum has been one of the most active supporters of Intelligent Design in the government. Berman wrote that
ID advocates now sit on state and local boards, in state houses, and in seats of the U.S. Congress. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) is a strong opponent of evolution. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) is an ID advocate with close ties to CSC fellows. He introduced language in the U.S. Senate’s No Child Left Behind Act language that sanctioned teaching the “controversy” surrounding evolution; it passed the Senate by a preliminary vote of 91 to 8 (2003, p. 648).
Other government officials who do not prohibit the teaching of ID or creationism include: Rep. Steve Chabot (Ohio), Sen. Judd Gregg (New Hampshire), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (Maryland), Rep. Charles Canady (Florida), Sen. Mike Fair (South Carolina), Rep. Bruce Borders (Pennsylvania), Jim Hoops (Ohio), Sen. Karen Johnson (Arizona), Rep. Thomas Petri (Wisconsin), Rep. Joseph Pitts (Pennsylvania), Rep. Mark Souder (Indiana), Rep. Charles Stenholm (Texas), Rep. George Allen (Virginia), Rep. John Boehner (Ohio), Sen. James Inhofe (Oklahoma), Tony Snow (White House Press Secretary under President George W. Bush), former House Speaker Rep. Tom DeLay (Texas), Sen. Sam Brownback (Kansas), and former Florida Gov. Bob Graham.
Of the 2009 presidential candidates, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, and John McCain all rejected Darwinism. Furthermore, Mike Huckabee said in July 2004 on Arkansans Ask, on the Arkansas Educational Television Network that “I think that [students] also should be given exposure to the theories not only of evolution but to the basis of those who believe in creationism” (Overview 2010).
John McCain, responding to a question about a report that noted he believes that “intelligent design” should be taught in schools,
mocked the idea that American young people were so delicate and impressionable that they needed to be sheltered from the concept, which says that God had a hand in creation and which has been challenged by Darwinists as unscientific. “Shhh, you shouldn’t tell them,” he said, mimicking those who would shield their children from the fact that some people believe in intelligent design (Stoll 2006, p. 1).
Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin also made her feelings on Darwinism very clear. One example is a conversation she described that she had with her campaign advisors on
the topic of theories of origins. And that, it seemed, was when the big guy hit the pause button. He knew my position: I believed in the evidence for microevolution—that geologic and species change occurs incrementally over time. But I didn’t believe in the theory that human beings—thinking, loving beings—originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea. Or that human beings began as single-celled organisms that developed into monkeys who eventually swung down from the trees; I believed we came about through a random process, but were created by God.
“But your dad’s a science teacher,” Schmidt objected.
“Then you know that science proves evolution.”
“Parts of evolution,” I said. “But I believe that God created us . . . I had just dared to mention the C-word: creationism. But I felt I was on solid factual ground. My dad, who is not particularly religious . . . sees God’s hand everywhere he looks (2009, p. 217).
She added that
in eighteen years of impromptu supper-table lessons and expert-guided field trips to America’s national parks, never had Dad or anyone else convinced me that the earth had sprung forth conveniently stocked with the ingredients necessary to spontaneously generate life and its beauty and diversity; in fact, I thought that idea flew in the face of the evidence I saw all around. … I know the word “creationism” evokes images of wild-eyed fundamentalists burying evidence for any kind of evolution under an avalanche of Bible verses (2009, pp. 218–219).
Palin also stressed that she
needed the campaign to know they weren’t going to put words in my mouth on the issue. I would go with them reasonably to a nuanced position, based on facts. But I wouldn’t parrot a politically correct line just because some voting bloc might get upset. And, by the way, I saw nothing wrong with students debating the merits of evolution in the classroom. If William F. Buckley—a devout Catholic and a world-class intellectual—could believe in the divine origin of man, why couldn’t I? (2009, pp. 218–219).
Other world leaders have also expressed support for creationism including Tony Blair, prime minister of Great Britain (Smith 2003, p. 4). Blair openly stated he is “very happy” that “the teaching of creationism alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution” occurs in state schools (Tonge 2002).
It is clear from this review that at least six presidents and other high government officials openly supported the right to “teach the controversy” about the topic of origins and to avoid indoctrination in Darwinism. Several other presidents accepted the idea called intelligent design, the conclusion that evolution cannot explain the living world that displays clear evidence of intelligence.
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Smith, Chrandra. 2003. “The Recent Controversy Regarding the Teaching of Creationism in English Public Schools.” Rutgers Education Publications.
Spalding, Elizabeth. 2009. “Religion and the Presidency of Harry S. Truman.” Chapter 6.
Stoll, Ira. 2006. “McCain Does Manhattan, By the Issues.” New York Sun, July 18, 2006.
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Updated and expanded from ICR’s Impact #400, October 2006.