Brownback on Evolution:

At the first Republican Presidential debate, Senator Sam Brownback was among those who raised his hand when asked if any of the candidates did not believe in evolution. Today Senator Brownback takes to the New York Times op-ed page to try and explain his position.

The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, 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. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.

Senator Brownback wants to argue that religious faith in a divine creator is compatible with the science of evolution, but he can't bring himself to embrace any aspects of evolutionary theory that are rejected by creationists. He explicitly accepts microevolution and rejects evolution insofar as it entails "an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision," carefully eliding over his views of evolution's role in speciation. It's as if he wants to appear to take a position while leaving plenty of room to spin his views to various constituencies -- or, as Jack Balkin suggests here -- pretend to engage the subject with intellectual sophistication while continuing to reject the scientific validity of evolution.