Thursday, May 31, 2007

It Depends on What You Mean by "Evolution"

Republican Presidential candidate Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) is presumably not a huge fan of the Clintons, but nevertheless he has appropriated a wholly Clintonian political approach on the subject of evolution: pretend to issue a clarification by so carefully choosing your words that people on both sides of the argument think you agree with them.

In a New York Times Op-Ed today, imaginatively titled “What I Think About Evolution,” the senator attempts to defend raising his hand during a recent televised debate to indicate that he did not believe in it.

First, it is important to understand that Sen. Brownback is a Catholic, and not, like many of the louder voices on this issue, a Christian fundamentalist whose theology is anchored in the belief that the Bible can only be understood literally. The official Catholic position is that people “are at liberty to believe…according to how they see the evidence.” Christians, at least as far back as Justin Martyr, writing in 155 CE, have been open to at least the possibility that the timeline of Genesis did not refer to six literal twenty-four hour days. Augustine (early 5th century), one of the most influential figures in Catholic doctrine, specifically argued against a literal understanding of Genesis.

There are two things about the theory of evolution that tend to bother opponents: contradiction of the literal Biblical timeline, and the notion that we are descended from and related to apes. Brownback makes no mention of the former; his discomfort seems to stem entirely from the latter.

Most of his Op-Ed sounds like something I would have written: a passionate defense of faith as complement to science, and maintaining that “People of faith should be rational, using the gift of reason that God has given us.” He decries the false choice between evolution and creationism, which “does a disservice to the complexity” of the issue, and points toward a middle path, where “the process of creation – and indeed life today – is sustained by God in a manner known fully only to him. It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who…venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.” Brownback believes mankind is not some freak accident of history, and that there are disciplines outside of science to help us ponder why inorganic chemicals arranged themselves in such a fashion as to be able to contemplate their own existence.

“On the questions of the origins of the universe,” he continues, “I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves.” I find this a remarkable statement from a man who just weeks ago raised his hand on national television when asked who did not believe in evolution.

In his Op-Ed, the senator alludes to more complete remarks he made on the Senate floor in the summer of 2001, when he defended the Kansas School Board’s much-criticized position on the teaching of evolution. He argues that micro-evolution can be regarded as scientific fact, since we can directly observe it. Macro-evolution, on the other hand – “the theory that new species can evolve from existing species over time,” in the senator’s own words – is “scientific assumption” because it is “impossible to observe.” In a nutshell, Brownback will allow for minor genetic changes in a given population that become dominant, but he denies the common ancestry of life on earth.

His explanation for this is that man has a “unique and intended place in the cosmos,” an idea which seems (to him) to be threatened by the belief that modern humans evolved from apes. Ultimately, this Op-Ed doesn’t really illuminate a clear position on the issue of evolution. What it does show is another Republican who, like the President, makes a show of objectivity but isn't one to let a substantial body of evidence stand in the way of ideology.


Jeff said...

I was startled when I read this piece this morning. Although I consider myself an atheist, or at least an agnostic, I found that I agreed with this part of Brownback's piece: "Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology." I think most scientists would agree with him.

As an atheist/agnostic, though, I didn't agree with this part:

"Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science."

Still - the fact that I found at least one point of agreement with Brownback threw me for a loop.

Gino said...

i agree with brownback, but i am catholic.

but again, i refuse to waste much energy on a an issue among christians that serves only to divide, and does nothing to increase spirituality, or perfect us more spirirually in the eyes of God.

i have strong reasons to doubt the bacteria=fish=monkey=man scenario , and i wholly reject the six-day timeline, and refuse to accept genesis as literal worded Truth.

if it makes you a better christian to believe one or the other, then have at it. i'm no fun to debate with on this one.

little-cicero said...

You certainly aren't supposing it to be hypocritical to believe in micro but not in macro. I mean, I don't believe there are any intelligent individuals who do not acknowledge micro-evolution, particularly conservatives who we all know consist of overall-wearing farmers with straw hats who like to play the moonshine jug in the hoe downs held by local Republican Party headquarters. Clearly such men, who are truly the heart and soul of this nation, know from breeding experience how natural selection works...they simply don't have experience with seeing flies, horses, rattlesnakes and humans coming from a common ancestor. Would Farmer Jebediah be so off his rocker to consider such an astounding process of evolution as "miraculous,"? I suppose only an ignorant hick would use such a dogmatic term.

Silus Grok said...

As well-written as the piece may be, the concern doesn't lay there: either Senator Brownback meant what he said in the debate and the editorial is an effort by his campaign staff to "soften" his behavior; the editorial is his true belief, and he was just grand-standing at the debate; or the editorial is his true belief and he fails to understand the implications of his public actions... none of these are qualities I want in a president.

Andy said...

Silus: totally.

LC: I wouldn't say "hypocritical," I would say "baffling." It is wrong to say, just because it occurred over millions of years before mankind existed or was able to comprehend such matters, that the conclusion that modern birds are descended from dinosaurs is merely an "assumption." Modern man's DNA is only 1.24% different than a chimpanzee's. Brownback is trying to argue that man's existence is not a historical accident, but that our obvious genetic link to apes and a common ancestry is, or at best, is merely coincidental. It's not coincidental, it's highly significant. You can't pick and choose your science according to your ideology. To say you accept evolution on a limited, intra-species basis means you do not accept evolution, because evolution says we have common ancestry. A poor analogy, but one might as well raise one's hand and say, "Yes, I'm a Catholic!" and then later write an Op-Ed saying "I'm not sure the resurrection is real."

Dorian de Wind said...

Re: Senator Brownback’s NYTimes Op-Ed, “What I Think About Evolution”
I was well on my way to give Senator Brownback credit for a
dispassionate and balanced essay on the evolution vs. creationism
debate. That is, until I read his disappointing "my way or the highway"
conclusion. In his summation, the Senator magnanimously declares that he
will consider aspects of evolution "passing as science" just as long
as they do not contradict or undermine his indisputable beliefs in
creationism. Please, Senator Brownback, no more thinking or hand raising.. With “thinkers” like you we would still believe that the sun revolves around the earth.

Dorian de Wind

kr said...

I agree with Dorian that the conclusion of the OpEd kinda destroyed the whole thing--hello, you may be Catholic but generally we Catholics are taught to understand they are not God : P.

On the other hand, at least I won't get myself banned from polite society this election: in 2004 I made the mistake of treating a 17 year old at a dinner party as if he were an adult, and when he said about Kerry that he wasn't "sure our country was ready for a Catholic President," I snapped back with, "If that man even began to understand what his own Church teaches, he wouldn't say half of the things he says." Now, I was pretty proud I didn't add the appropriate cusswords, and the debate had been heatd even before that ... but I've never heard from that family again. (Sigh.)

Two holes in Andy's argument.
1) The Senate speech was from 2001. This OpEd was from 2007. Let's just take the most obvious example: Um, so, Andy--changed your mind about any theological issues in that six years? Maybe learned some things, from science or a good thinker at church? Yeah ... thought so ;).

I think a candidate who LEARNS (even if he just learns how to keep his mouth more shut--which Brownback apparently hasn't quite gotten to, see my initial agreement with Dorian) ... a candidate that LEARNS, who presumably did some LISTENING, is exactly what y'all keep saying you want--or at least that is the implication of your rants against the Administration (deserved rants). Additionally, at least he was HONEST, when asked a direct question. And his OpEd clearly shows it wasn't just for the conservatve vote, as he is actively trying to stand away from SixDay Creationists. You don't have to like what he said/did, but he is trying to be a stand-up guy. Rare in a politician, I think.

2) The Senate speech was defending his constituents and the legal integrity of his state, and was in its own way accurate. Macro evolution is an assumption--it's a VERY GOOD one, but it is an assumption. Brownback, yes, seemed comfortable defending the proposition of the school board, and clearly saw that it was important to a significant number of his constituents, but I would stop short of assuming his views matched (or match now) those espoused by the school board (and millions of other Americans--whom, again, he stepped very consciously away from in his OpEd and in his choice of the NYTimes).

RE, macro evolution is an assumption: I more or less believe in macro evolution, and as long as I could I followed the developments in evolutionary theory (too many kids now). I am sure we are ALL aware of the strengths of macro-evolution as a scientific theory (chimpazee vs human DNA, etc etc). The tricky part is that micro evolution does not translate to macro: new species always (I believe this is true, "always"--feel free to link me to counterexamples, though, I love to read about evolution) ... new species always show up suddenly in the fossil record, and there isn't ever a fossil that is 1/4 the way between or 2/3 the way evolved from the old, presumably progenitor, species. The new and old can coexist, but the "evolutionary" gap--progressives might prefer "leap" ;), although of course not all evolutions succeed--is sudden.

In human (hominid) evolution, I am most interested in the "offshoots"--the tribes that didn't make it. Most fossil examples of ancient hominids are coming to be considered that ... because they don't make sense in terms of a "gradual" evolution (which many people are still trying to find). Some of them even seem, chronologically, to be evolutionary backsliders, with traits that put them literally eons behind our fancy selves (scientists almost always asume we have a special place in creation, even if they phrase it differently ;) ). Of course Neanderthal is the most famous of these; as far as I know the scientific consensus is moving toward the theory that they were a sideshoot of the family tree, not at all our "ancestors."

(Neanderthal really messes with the humans-are-unique argument, of course, because they were so obviously artistic and probably religious. But then, Koko the gorilla was an artist too, as I recall ... . Anyhow, banishing them from our genetic background complicates things theologically.)

How many people know that before the dinosaurs there was an age of the proto-mammals? Warm blooded, as far as we can tell. (This is a major point in the argument that dinosaurs were not cold-blooded: evolution couldn't "backslide" that much, you see ... notwithstanding that sharks and alligators and insects have all survived repated mass extinction events ;). ) (I believe dinosaurs were warmblooded, and I think it is very reasonable that they turned into birds--although, Andy, it is not really a settled matter yet, as other than Archaeopterix (?sp) there are very few potential connector-species ... and people, again, seem to really want some ;). )

I think the difficult question for religious people is "why did(/does) God cause to come into being so many apparent failures?" Especially I think this is difficult in the case of the hominids. At what point did God "breathe life" into "man"? If the Neanderthal weren't "people" in the theological view (if they aren't our ascendendants, this is a serious question), what were they (and their religious feelings/instincts)?

My favorite piece of evolutionary thought, though, is that these sudden changes might be wrought by misquitoes(etc.) spreading viral DNA and DNA from other organisms ... when that DNA hits an egg or sperm, poof, new genetic being! (This is of course more or less how they genetically modify crops and farmanimals now.)

And yet ...
If I were asked at a debate the stark question, "Do you believe in Evolution?," with no chance to explain ... I would have to say NO.

Because I believe God is active in the world, and always has been, and "Evolution" (in a question like that, the atheist version is implied) does not allow for that (to me) vital aspect of the development of the Universe and our self-aware, inherently social, energetically(/spiritually) active selves.

kr said...

I had a funny side-thought.

I would feel no compunction shrugging or making the "so-so" gesture instead of raising my hand, and only if specifically pinned down to yes or no would then fall on the side of "no."

This was clearly not a route chosen by any Republican candidate.

I wonder: because they are supposed to, as men, be "strong"? Is it wishy-washy to be a thinking man? Certainly the reaction here suggests Brownback is sufffering that judgment ... and that's from non-Republicans!

I wonder if a woman would have been given more latitude, or if it would have just confirmed (for Republicans? for everyone?) that she wasn't Firm Enough to be The Republican Candidate.

She might have survived with the shrug.
Probably not with the "so-so" ;).

I love that we demand our politicians speak in soundbites and demand they be thinkers. And then complain when they try to show us the thinking. Damn, it's gonna be a long long year.

kr said...

And Andy, Point 3: I further object to your assertion that Brownback rejects our common ancstry with the rest of creation. You seem very firm in this assertion, but there is no support for it in the two documents your provided.

I, like Gino, found nothing material to disagree with in either of the documents, and I (I don't know about Gino) firmly believe our common ancestry is part of the glorious mystery of God's creation. Apes and amoebas, all part of the glory.

If there are other Brownback speeches that address this, I am sorry, but these two do NOT.

Andy said...

Brownback made a good point that there is a false choice between "evolution" and belief that God is creator. I happen to believe that evolution is God's creative process, and I believe that position is very much supported by Genesis 1.

If Brownback rejects macro-evolution, then by definition he rejects common ancestry, even if he didn't put it in so many words. I'm sorry, how can you think that mankind has a common genetic origin with all life on the planet if you adamantly insist that evolution only occurs within a given species?

This whole exercise of Brownback's has nothing to do with explaining his views on evolution, and everything to do with political strategy.

kr said...

Maybe so.
I could be missing Clear Clues To His Constituency. However, I am unclear on exactly which constituency you imply he is communicating to ... it is clearly not you-all, it is clearly not the SixDayers, neither speech contained enough Catholicisms to have been a direct appeal to Catholics (except the most boring, thinking kind, which DJR will attest are rare ;) ) ... I am failing to see how this latest handraising and OpEd is a savvy political move. If Brownback is, as has been here implied, controlled by his people, they would definitely have prepared him for that handraising, too--the OpEd and the handraising have to be seen as a coherent set of political posturing if they are political posturing at all. I maintain he was trying to be honest, in a poisonous political atmosphere:

This whole exercise of Brownback's has nothing to do with explaining his views on evolution, and everything to do with political strategy.

Whch remaining 2% of the population, exactly, do you perceive him as pandering to?

And he doesn't "insist evolution only occurs within species." He says it is only directly observable within species. That is a very different assertion. It does allow for ultra-traditionalist voters to hold their own beliefs--as his OpEd conclusion does not allow for atheists to hold theirs (sigh)--but it does not directly support them. (I seriously wonder if, being from Kansas, he just doesn't understand how offensive/threatening his God-assumption is to some people, whereas he does understand how offensive/threatening a macroevolution assumption is.)

Saying microevolution is observable scientific fact and macroevolution is scientific assumption is not, to my fairly educated thinking, incorrect. (Educated: on the concept of scientific theory, and on evolution specifically.) He is, in fact, very specifically correct--far more correct than most Americans ever manage to be when describing scientific theories.

Macroevolution is a set of theories which (YES!) well-describe the observed patterns in nature but are not (NOT!), as far as I have heard, testable ... repeatable ... the process(es) has(/have) not been directly observed, and have not been successfully repeated/tested. Our theories about species-change are _theories_, and I have not heard that there is even any kind of scientific consensus regarding them. (Scientific consensus of course has little to do with the actual truth of a matter. See: equal acceleration due to gravity, the makeup of matter, the Big Bang, the cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs, the coldbloodedness of dinosaurs ... dark matter ... and your Galileo-flavored favorite, the heliocentric solar system ... The Missing Link, orderly evolution, the evolutionary superiority of hominids ... .)

What we think we know is entirely different from what we know.
We know development within species.
We see evidence for the appearance of new species, closely biologically related to prior species. How they appeared? Not a settled fact.

Perhaps, as far as we've proven anything, God formed them out of the mud, and breathed life into them ; P. (I don't think this--but it is as well tested as other theories. Which is to say, it is not.)


I admit not paying enough attention to the early-stage presidential politics to know why this Brownback fellow has drawn your especial ire (as an independent, I can't vote the primaries ... yet). But again, these two documents and a hand-raising do not support your conclusions--your aspersions upon this man's beliefs, intelligence, and character. He may in fact be midieval, stupid, and evil ... but you have not proven any of those things to anyone who didn't already agree he was a legitimate object of mockery, and in fact some of those here commenting have been surprised by the OpEd's evidence of his thoughtfulness and intelligence.

Again, he says nothing here I materially disagree with. Are you going to cast the same set of aspersions on me? You know they are wrong in my case. The fact that I clearly do believe in macroevolution--and that I don't materially disagree with Brownback--by itself should prove to you that you are making prejudiced assumptions, or at the very least that you haven't chosen appropriate documents to illustrate why you have a right to mock this man on this topic.

At least he thinks. At least he tries to clarify, in our soundbite culture. Unless you can come up with some decent-sized (or maybe well-heeled?) constituency he was trying to appeal to, I can't see how he was being a politcally savvy snake--he's kinda' buried himself in a hole instead. It seems to me he values honesty--careful honesty, but honesty--above direct political gamesmanship. In fact, however much his OpEd conclusion kinda' bites after all the rest of it, at least he put it out there--you can't say he was hiding his true beliefs!

You may not like what he has to say (I assume primarily on other issues?), but you have not convinced me of anything negative about his character, with the evidence at hand. I'm not about to jump onto this guy's bandwagon, but I am irritated at you for what appears to be prejudice.


Andy said...

KR: I do see your points and, naturally, defer to your scientific education, and yes, I probably am biased against the Senator. But I think also I may not be wording my objections as lucidly as I might(I am out of practice in persuasive political writing), and I'm also not alone in my assessment. Slate sometimes does a survey of various bloggers on issues like this to see what people are saying. Here are some of the comments made by other people with which I concur:

On target audience: Maybe the Senator is trying, in his op-ed, to simultaneously (a) assure the New York Times that he is not an ignoramus and (b) assure those Christians for whom it is important that evolution involve no more than 'small changes over time within a species' of his bona fides, but I hope not.

On the idea that the special value and purpose of each human life is somehow undermined by macro-evolution: If we can say that God intends my particular existence, even though I came into being through natural processes, then why can't we say that God intended to bring human beings as a species into existence by means of natural processes?

On Sen. Brownback's qualifications to speak on the subject: Here is Sam Brownback talking about evolutionary biology. That's a bit like saying: 'Here's Paris Hilton talking about partial differential equations.' Okay, that's snarky. But I love digs at Paris Hilton, especially when they also take down a Conservative. : ) Leaving that aside, however, the same blogger had this crucial insight: What's going on here is that Brownback has got a whiff of the notion that living species indisputably do change over time. This is so well established that the old creationist position—that species do not change over time—has had to be abandoned.

Yes, macro-evolution may not be theory in the sense that we can't test it or observe it because the process takes so long. But there is a vast body of scientific evidence that points toward macro-evolution. Are there other explanations seriously entertained by the scientific community?

One of the points you brought up earlier is that there are precious few "in-between" fossils that would more conclusively support micro-evolution being macro-evolution over time, i.e., we have mouse fossils and bat fossils but no semi-winged, non-flying mouse fossils. Hammerhead sharks, also, for example, seem to have just appeared suddenly. Is your concern that such sudden, major shifts cannot satisfactorily be explained by genetic mutation or adaptation, or is it that secular science is too easily dismissive of the possibility of God's active hand in the variation of life on earth?

I'm sure you and I agree more than we disagree on this (actually, I'm not sure where we disagree) so...?

kr said...

No, Andy, what I am arguing with you about is not evolutionary specifics, it the thesis of your post: you draw conclusions, about this man and his beliefs, that are not supported by what he says. My citations of evolutionary specifics are merely to lend credence to my assertion that I agree with you, and I agree with him, so I don't get your mockery of him.

I doubt heartily that we (you and I) disagree on anything substantive regarding macroevolution--except perhaps that I keep the distinction between "very good theories I believe" and "theories supported by phyical testing" a little more sacrosanct ... it's an old habit ;). It's also a tendency supported by the ultra-legalism of the Catholic philosophical style.

The adherence, in Brownback's OpEd, to that Catholic-philosophical style of thinking and writing, I admit, makes me especially prone to assume he meant to say what he said and nothing more ... as opposed to your assumption that he meant quite a bit more. (This is a problem for Catholic writers in American society in general--witness the number of times people here, Catholic (LC!) and non-, have assumed things about my beliefs based on sometimes-ridiculous buzzword perceptions rather than on what I actually have said--and more importantly, often counter to what I actually believe and how I actually live.)

As for citing other bloggers' perceptions, I hope I need not remind you that a majority opinion does not make a perception "correct." No, edit that. I am disappointed that I apparently have to remind you: you, who are an advocate of a misunderstood minority about whose beliefs and practices unfair and damaging assumptions are frequently made, and against whom prejudiced judgments were(?/are?) acceptable to the majority of Americans.

I ask again what seems to me the crux of this argument:
If he is a conniver, if this is all a political ploy, just exactly which chunk of the voting public is he trying to appeal to?

And STOP implying he's somehow pandering to the Creationists. He specifically chooses to alienate the SixDayers, who really are the only people who call themselves Creationists anymore. Don't even begin to think that he is 'hiding' his 'duplicity' in the NYTimes--the SixDayers(-and-friends) have people who read the NYTimes(-and-similar-publications) specifically to expose all the evils in the afamed Liberally Biased Media--I'm pretty sure at least some of those readers get officially paid for this diligence, like CIA "readers" and researching stockbrokers--and Brownback's OpEd, in that paper, can only be perceived as a double betrayal: he is apparently trying to gain the sympathy of at least some NYTimes subscribers AND he directly disses SixDay-ism as simplistic and only possible if one separates faith from reason ("... then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days. But limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason. / The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two.").


Your entire thesis-set--which is not about evolution, as you seem to be trying to make it out to be in replying to me now, it is about Senator Brownback--is flawed:

pretend to issue a clarification by so carefully choosing your words that people on both sides of the argument think you agree with them
Um. Let's see. You all don't think he does, SixDayers can't possibly think he does--to which "both sides" are you referring? (Oops! And ... could there be ... more than two sides?!?) (I still don't see a significant constituency pandered to, however one draws the lines. MAYBE Catholics, if more American Catholics had ever studied the teachings of the Church.)

the senator attempts to defend raising his hand during a recent televised debate to indicate that he did not believe in it
I love that, "attempts to defend"--do you see how many assumptions you had made before he even began penning this OpEd? Again, from my experience, "Do you believe in evolution?" in a debate (an inherently combative atmpsphere) always implies "at the expense of a belief in an active God"--just as if someone challenged you, "Are you a creationist?," you would clearly perceive the implied "an Active God is inherently the only actually important question, not that science stuff" (and I suspect, if forced to choose yes or no, you would, in the end, choose "no" as the most honest answer to the underlying (the actual) question ...?).

But your hugest unfounded assertion, the one that is making me mad, is the end of this one: There are two things about the theory of evolution that tend to bother opponents: contradiction of the literal Biblical timeline, and the notion that we are descended from and related to apes. Brownback makes no mention of the former; his discomfort seems to stem entirely from the latter.
1) As I mentioned above, he DOES directly mention sixdayism--in a very negative light.
2) He is not An Opponent of Evolution. Even his comments from 2001 indicate only that he might be a skeptic, and only of some parts of the current mismash we lump together as "evolution." In fact his 2001 remarks argue merely for the openness to choose whether to personally believe in macroevolution, rather than having it taught as Truth. (And in 2001 he was defending his constituents, not himself. Senator Smith defended Oregon's Right to Die law despite his personal abhorrence for it. You've severely overassumed.) His 2007 remarks don't reject macroevolution--they merely specifically reserve a mental place for God in the process.
3) Even if he is An Opponent of Evolution, and even if those two ideas are the primary sticky widgets for most Opponents (as you imply, and I admit seems a reasonable generalization, since, sadly, most Americans are not precise thinkers), that does not mean that you can assign either of them them to Senator Brownback, and ESPECIALLY it does not mean that, having rejected one, he necessarily is hung up by the other (to which there is, hello, no actual indication he ascribes at all). That, sir, is some FREAKISHLY close-mided thinking, and I'm becoming more and more disturbed that you are not seeing it as such.

You CANNOT _responsibly_ ascribe beliefs to him so cavalierly.

Everything that he said can be said honestly by someone who simply recognizes that the mechanisms for macroevolution are not scientifically understood (eg., me). He DOES NOT say "And, really, who could believe we're related to raccoons, eh?" nor does he even begin to assert that "humans are somehow unique" means "humans don't share significant biological unity with the rest of creation." As I have implied in earlier comments, the very way that scientists examine our shared history implies by its method the assumption that we are somehow unique--clearly this assumption does not threaten biological studies ... it is merely one driver for question-creation.

Brownback's primary objection to "evolution," as he specifically states he perceived it to have been implied in the debate question, is to the atheist assumption. The last several paragraphs of his OpEd are repeated statements of this objection.

You have assumed far too much.

It's not often you get me angry (not like, say, LC, whom I assume is having a grand time watching this one go by)--but I am moving beyond "irritated" and becoming actively offended at this point. This man said and did nothing to earn such dismissive condemnation. You are not supporting your assertions. You are not answering my challenges. And having made the unusual for me move of directly aligning myself with something someone else said for emphasis of my argument, I am disappointed that you are not admitting that saying "no" to "evolution," especially in that charged atmosphere, isn't simply inherently mockable. Because it isn't.

The whole point of the OpEd was that the question isn't simple.
You know it is not. You always argue it is not.
But you are treating it as if it is, from (apparently) your first reaction to the hand-raising right through your last comment.

Andy said...

Well, I might be wrong. I have been before. All your points are good ones. Alas, given the last six years, it's going to take a lot before I regard any self-proclaimed Republican seriously without first processing them through a very cycnical filter. And while yes, I've made conclusions here that go beyond Brownback's literal words, that's because I find myself unable to accept that this wasn't strategic more than anything else.

I don't think this was particularly adept strategy. I DO think it was a pander, or at least a nod, to the six-dayers because he scrupulously avoided any mention of time, which is pretty central to evolution, that this world, by dint of what we have uncovered, pretty much has to be more than 6,000 years old -- WAY more. To my thinking, this was a transparent attempt to court both the wingnuts and conservative intellectuals (research shows that there are about six of them who read the Times daily, mostly to mine it for blog fodder).

I don't know, I don't have an eloquent rebuttal to your well-put-together indictment. Guilty as charged, I suppose.

kr said...

(sorry. I didn't mean to get so excited. I'm a bit P.O.'d at someone else today--er, was, yesterday--and if I hadn't already engaged the argument I might have had the sense to sit out for a day or two : P. I still think you were altogether wrong, of course ; ) ... but I shouldn't have ranted at you.)

I won't give you SixDayers, as Brownback specifically rejects them. Conservative intellectuals, OK ... but we are a varied and cantankerous crowd ... .

As for 'scrupulously avoiding a mention of time,' have you ever tried to stick to the maximum-word requirements for an OpEd? (You can imagine that always goes poorly for me ; ). ) You get maybe a maximum of three points, if you want to write well (and actually get published). Brownback chose what was most important to communicate, and his view on macroevolution was not his chosen point--God was.

I think he was trying to play the honesty card, and the thinking-person card--not for any specific bloc, but as a slow-build-up, come-from-behind sort of tactic. Oh, and a basic God-card, for anyone not too mad at him for dissing SixDayism.