Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Palin, Creationism and Distraction

I keep getting comments on one of my Palin & Creationism posts. Flowmaster writes:

In a 2006 gubernatorial debate, the soon-to-be governor of Alaska said of evolution and creation education, "Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of education. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

Hmmm...that's pretty clear. She wanted to have it taught...end of story. She might have said something differently recently but that's what she said. IT'S ON RECORD. GET IT!? NO SMEAR...JUST FACT.
Except that the debate quote wasn't even the end of the story in the cited newspaper article.

Let us review the newspaper's account, again:
Palin was answering a question from the moderator near the conclusion of Wednesday night's televised debate on KAKM Channel 7 when she said, "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

[I snipped four paragraphs of background on ID, creationism and the courts - Outis]

In an interview Thursday, Palin said she meant only to say that discussion of alternative views should be allowed to arise in Alaska classrooms:

"I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn't have to be part of the curriculum."

She added that, if elected, she would not push the state Board of Education to add such creation-based alternatives to the state's required curriculum.

Members of the state school board, which sets minimum requirements, are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature.

"I won't have religion as a litmus test, or anybody's personal opinion on evolution or creationism," Palin said.
Palin did clarify her position later - the very next day. That's hardly a retreat issued years later, as Flowmaster implies. Palin made the following points: no religious litmus test for appointees to the education board; clarification that she would not urge the state Board of Education to add Creationism to the state curricula; that discussing alternate theories could have some value in the classroom, if a student mentions one. (That last point ought to be a rule of thumb in any science class - it represents another opportunity to demonstrate what IS and IS NOT science.)

The same article (which is quite good) continues:
Palin has occasionally discussed her lifelong Christian faith during the governor's race but said teaching creationism is nothing she has campaigned about or even given much thought to.

"We're talking about the gas line and PERS/TERS," she said Thursday, referring to the proposed natural gas pipeline and public employee and teacher retirement systems.
Palin hadn't given the matter much thought, as her campaign focused on other issues. That hardly sounds like a raving religious fanatic set on destroying the education system. The issue distracted from the main points of her campaign. (That sounds familiar.)

But if one must bitch about something, bitch about the contents of the very next paragraph:
The Republican Party of Alaska platform says, in its section on education: "We support giving Creation Science equal representation with other theories of the origin of life. If evolution is taught, it should be presented as only a theory."
So the Alaskan Republican Party DOES (or at least DID) endorse this idiocy. Palin didn't give it any thought at all, until others made an issue of it. When asked about it, she gave a simple answer which she clarified the next day. Heep all the scorn on the Alaskan Republican Party you wish - they deserve it.* But quit acting as though teaching Creationism in public schools was a significant campaign issue for Palin.

* They deserve the scorn for several reasons. In no particular order:

  • The United States Supreme Court has ruled that teaching creationism in public schools is unconstitutional. Therefore the platform plank cannot be achieved as a matter of law.

  • Evolution is not a theory, it is an observable fact. Everything from the fossil record (the loooooonnnnnnng time frame), to the breeding of domestic animals (observable over a few generations of human existence), to work in petri dishes (observable in a reasonably short span of time) demonstrates this. The explanations of how evolution occurs are theories.

  • Science does well with recognizing theories as theories. Even the work of an Einstein gets pegged as a theory. Scientists are always looking for better models of reality. Suggesting otherwise looks foolish.

  • On a pedantic note, theories of evolution generally have nothing to say about the origin of life, only how it changes over time.


justkim said...

One thing that I haven't seen mentioned in the little bit I've read on this issue is the fact that her father was a science teacher in the public school system.

I have no idea what his personal beliefs are or how good a teacher he is/was, but I would imagine that if creationism ever came up in his classes as part of the curriculum, we would have heard about it by now. Since it hasn't, I have reason to hope that he instilled in Gov. Palin a decent understanding of science, the scientific method, and the basic ideas behind evolution.

bill said...

It's an odd election year when people with no real connection to the Republican party, probably less with the social conservative wing of the party, and no use whatsoever for creationism end of defending Gov. Palin. And I'm not just talking about our host, here.

Icepick said...

do have something of a connection to the Republicans. They've been my party of choice the last 10-15 years, as generally I have found them to suck slightly less than the Democrats. I don't really believe that any more, which is why I will only vote on ballot initiatives this year.

bill said...

Meaning you're not to be mistaken for a party hack.