US Presidential Candidates Weigh in On Origins Education

on September 27, 2008

Nature News: “US Election: Questioning the Candidates” The U.S. presidential election pits two evolutionists against one another, it seems, as Nature News reports candidate Barack Obama’s comments on origins education.

A series of questions was presented to the campaign of Senator Obama (Senator McCain’s campaign declined to participate). Of interest to those following the creation/evolution controversy was this question:

"I do not believe it is helpful to our students to cloud discussions of science with non-scientific theories like intelligent design that are not subject to experimental scrutiny.”

Do you believe that evolution by means of natural selection is a sufficient explanation for the variety and complexity of life on Earth? Should intelligent design, or some derivative thereof, be taught in science class in public schools?

Sen. Obama (or, perhaps, campaign staff on his behalf) responded, “I believe in evolution, and I support the strong consensus of the scientific community that evolution is scientifically validated. I do not believe it is helpful to our students to cloud discussions of science with non-scientific theories like intelligent design that are not subject to experimental scrutiny.”

The reference to “clouding” discussions of science seems inappropriate, since, in fact, keeping criticism of evolution (let alone alternatives to evolution) out of curricula actually deprives students of critical thinking opportunities, indoctrinating them one-sidedly rather than allowing fair discussion and debate.

On the other side of the political fence, Sen. McCain has expressed his personal belief in evolution, noting in a debate last year, “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 there also.” (We’ve noted that the hand of God seen at the Grand Canyon is mostly God’s hand of judgment during the Flood.)

Even so, Nature News reports that McCain told the Arizona Daily Star in 2005 that he believes students should have access to “all points of view” when studying human origins. However, Nature News also references an Aspen Times article from 2006 in which McCain said of the controversy in the classroom:

I think Americans should be exposed to every point of view. I happen to believe in evolution. . . . I respect those who think the world was created in seven days. Should it be taught as a science class? Probably not.

Since educational standards are, by and large, a local and state issue in the U.S., it’s not clear how much influence the next president will have on what students are taught. Nonetheless, it is disappointing to see politicos decry open discussion and critical thinking as “clouding” young minds or to imply that intelligent design (but not evolution) is not subject to experimental scrutiny, ignoring the difference between origins and operational science.

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