Evolution, Creation and Politics

Perhaps the most popular parlour game in American politics is for media types to generate litmus test questions which they can put to every candidate and elected official to feed the news cycle beast. These range from generic items such as asking where they stand on abortion or second amendment rights to party specific queries which include egging on Republicans as to whether or not Sarah Palin is “qualified to be President.” One of the oldest and saddest ones, though, is dredged back up by Steve Benen this week, highlighting the gaudy spectacle of Bill Maher asking Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) if he “believes” in evolution.

“Real Time” host Bill Maher asked Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) a fairly straightforward question: “Do you believe in evolution?” Kingston not only said rejects the foundation of modern biology, (sic) he explained it this way: “I believe I came from God, not from a monkey.” He added, “If it happened over millions and millions of years, there should be lots of fossil evidence.”

Seriously, that’s what he said.

First, by way of disclosure, I personally am comfortable with the theory of evolution. I am also comfortable with the fact that in most cases, religion and science are not mutually exclusive, primarily because faith and laboratory experiments have very little overlap. I can also relate to the temptation to deride those who disagree about evolution or other scientific principles because I did it myself when I was younger. It’s easy, as a young man, to be not only invincible but convinced that you’re smarter than everyone else on the planet – particularly those stupid old people.

But as we age, hopefully we learn a little more tolerance and realize our own limitations.

Not only are science and religion not mutually exclusive, more and more these days we see them working together. One of many examples was the discovery by archaeologists of a stone pylon with the name of Pontius Pilate inscribed on it, taking one character out of the realm of “Bible stories” and inserting his name into the history books. Additional examples abound.

Do we really need to badger office seekers and holders with this question any more? Even if some of us disagree with them, is a fixed belief in literal creation truly an indicator of some lack of “critical thinking in the Republican Party,” as Benen so smugly puts it? They aren’t arguing with you in favor of some different scientific theory which contradicts yours. They’re promoting an entirely different belief which demands no proof from the laboratory.

If the development of the universe and our planet played out over billions of years and life “evolved” here as current theory suggests, I’m not so vain about my own intellect to claim that God couldn’t have designed the entire shooting match to do just that. Matters of timelines could be nothing more than misinterpretation of scale. And what of all those fossils in the ground? Perhaps, as I suspect, they are the result of various animal and plant species rising, changing and dying off. Or, for all I know, I’m totally wrong, the planet actually is only six or seven thousand years old and God put them there on purpose for us to find. Why? I haven’t a clue. You’d have to ask Him.

The point is, no matter how sound any given scientific theory turns out to be, you’re never going to prove that it wasn’t a flashing, infinitely divine creation. And you’re never going to shake the belief of those who find it a bedrock foundation of their faith. So why should you try? And in a land founded in part on religious freedom, why would you want to try?

Just some food for thought on a chilly Sunday.