Hardball, Part One
Over at MSNBC, Chris Matthews has done several segments on this subject. On last Friday's show the subject arose during his discussion with Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Rendell is a Democrat and Huckabee is a Republican. Here's the full exchange:
MATTHEWS: Let me take the—turn to some cultural issues in the country.
Again, let‘s go to Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. I know your state is very diverse. You‘ve got people who are pretty conservative, people pretty liberal, people in the middle. What did you make of the fact that the president this week weighed into the argument over education and said that we should be teaching not just the theory of evolution, which we all grew up believing in or learning at school, but also alongside that this sort of neo-creationism, this notion that man himself did not really participate in the evolution of the species?
Do you think that‘s something the president should be pushing?
RENDELL: Well, with all of the challenges that President Bush has, lord knows why he weighed into that issue.
I believe, in Pennsylvania, that we should stick to in education what is proven scientific theory. I also think there‘s nothing wrong with having our public schools teach religion and comparative religion. In the instruction of religion, we can talk about theories like intelligent design. But I think, in science classes, we should stick to those that are supportable by scientific evidence.
MATTHEWS: Rick Santorum, the senator from Pennsylvania, the junior senator, who is a Republican, has come out against the president on this and said the president—he doesn‘t agree with the president, that science courses should be teaching this neo-creationism. Does that surprise you?
RENDELL: Well, yes, it does surprise me a bit.
RENDELL: But I agree with Senator Santorum. Science courses shouldn‘t be teaching it. If we want to have—and I think it is fair game to have religion taught in the schools, comparative religions. And if they want to discuss intelligent design in a religious course, so be it. And I think Senator Santorum is right, although there‘s another guy—I happen to like Rick Santorum personally, although I disagree with him on a lot of philosophical things.
Why in lord‘s name did he come out with a book a year before he is running in an election? Couldn‘t that book have waited a little bit?
MATTHEWS: I know. Well, we talked about the book on the show the other day. We‘ll talk about it with him again.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to Mike Huckabee, the Governor of Arkansas.
Are you comfortable with the president‘s suggestion that schools might properly teach evolution, like was learned in school, the sort of scientific approach, and also, alongside that, another point of view, which is that man somehow did not—did not—was created separately in the universe and not part of the rest of the—the living beings on this planet?
HUCKABEE: Well, I think the proper thing to do is to make sure that students have an understanding that there are a lot of points of view as to how the world began.
Personally, I‘m a devout believer. I believe God created the heavens and the Earth. But, frankly, how he did it, I don‘t know. I wasn‘t there.
HUCKABEE: I have to take a lot of things by faith. One thing I will say, Chris...
No, but do you believe there should be a separate—do you think there should be a public school science course that says that evolution should be challenged by another point of view, which is that there was a separate creation of man? Do you think they should teach that in science courses?
HUCKABEE: I would be more comfortable with simply an acknowledgment that there are many points of view and that nobody actually knows what happened and we can‘t prove any of them. You can say, this is the predominant view.
But one thing I‘m very adamant about, I don‘t expect the public school system, a secular public school system, to instruct my children in religious affairs. And I frankly don‘t want them to, because I think they‘ll mess it up.
HUCKABEE: So, I would rather have those sorts of things focused at home and at the church.
But I certainly don‘t mind them having a variety of views, because real faith can withstand the challenge. Faith that isn‘t very sturdy, that‘s the faith that is shaky any time somebody challenges it.
MATTHEWS: So you think it is unhealthy even to have Bible studies as part of a history or a literature course, literature course, especially?
HUCKABEE: Oh, no, no, no, no. I think it‘s a—no, I think it‘s a wonderful thing, because people should understand...
MATTHEWS: In public schools?
HUCKABEE: Absolutely. That‘s fine.
MATTHEWS: I thought you just said you didn‘t want any of that taught in public schools.
HUCKABEE: No. I don‘t want the doctrine taught.
HUCKABEE: But, as far as to have a comparative religion course or to let students read the Bible, I think that‘s great. Kids ought to be able to be exposed to a wide variety of subjects and courses and understand, not everybody is going to agree with them.
Sadly, this was one of the more coherent sugements I've seen on television on this subject. Matthews' initial question doesn't really make sense, but I like his use of the term “Neo-Creationism.” Ed Rendell gave a typically sensible answer. I would simply add that in principle I'm all in favor of teaching comaprative religion, and “Bible as literature” classes. As a practical matter, though, I think it is impossible to teach such things in the public schools without offending just about everyone.
Huckabee's answer was rather suprising, however. I would have expected something much more overtly supportive of teaching creationism. His comments about “not being able to prove any of them” is standard creationist cant, but otherwise I got the impression that he was trying to say the minimum possible that wouldn't cause people to question his right-wing credentials.