About nine days ago, shortly after Sarah Palin was announced as the VP candidate, I mentioned in passing what I termed Palin’s “ridiculous and embarrassing approach to creationism.” At the time, I had seen only left-wing attacks on her statement that both should be taught in public schools. Not surprisingly, I was immediately attacked in comments as being unfair to Palin.
While I consider Palin’s initial statement on the issue to be “ridiculous and embarrassing,” I admit that I was unfair to call that statement her “approach” to creationism for two reasons.
First, almost immediately after the debate, Palin backed off her initial statement, so the statement I had seen quoted by the anti-Palin folks did not represent her public views beyond the debate itself. In other words, she quickly reconsidered and changed her approach, so it was unfair of me to call it her approach.
Second, Palin promised not to push creationism into the schools or appoint people who would do so – and she apparently kept that promise as Governor. So her actual public policy approach to creationism is not to add it to the curriculum.
So what remains of her personal or policy views? Unlike McCain, who says he believes in evolution, Palin has never clearly addressed the truth or falsity of evolution.
In 2006, Palin did say that, if a student brings up creationism, it should be discussed in class. I guess I warily agree that discussion — ie, free inquiry — should not be prohibited, so long as creationism is presented as a religious belief that is not supported by prevailing science. I would certainly hope for a clearer statement of support for evolution from Palin (or any other national candidate who was asked for an opinion).
Further, both evolution and the Big Bang Theory refer to how worlds or organisms changed over time and do not necessarily tell us how these worlds came into being in the first place. For example, it would be contrary to prevailing views of modern science to believe that evolution did not occur; it would not be contrary to modern science to believe that God started the Big Bang, though that belief would not usually be thought of as based on science.
A sort of middle ground would be occupied by the large numbers of Americans who believe that evolution occurred, but that God guided it.
John McCain's comments supporting evolution were followed by this ambiguous statement hinting that he believed that either God started it all or that God guided the process:
At a GOP presidential debate in May 2007 in Simi Valley, Calif., McCain said he believed in evolution.
"But," he added, "I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also."
In this AP story a few days ago, Palin’s expressed views on teaching evolution in the schools were explored:
Palin has not pushed creation science as governor.
As a candidate for governor, Sarah Palin called for teaching creationism alongside evolution in public schools. But after Alaska voters elected her, Palin, now Republican John McCain's presidential running mate, kept her campaign pledge to not push the idea in the schools.
As for her personal views on evolution, Palin has said, "I believe we have a creator." But she has not made clear whether her belief also allowed her to accept the theory of evolution as fact.
"I'm not going to pretend I know how all this came to be," she has been quoted as saying. . . .
When asked during a televised debate in 2006 about evolution and creationism, Palin said, according to the Anchorage Daily News: "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."
In a subsequent interview with the Daily News, Palin said discussion of alternative views on the origins of life should be allowed 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 said.
"It's OK to let kids know that there are theories out there. They gain information just by being in a discussion." . . .
Palin said during her 2006 gubernatorial campaign that if she were elected, she would not push the state Board of Education to add creation-based alternatives to the state's required curriculum, or look for creationism advocates when she appointed board members. . . .
Palin's children attend public schools and Palin has made no push to have creationism taught in them.
Neither have Palin's socially conservative personal views on issues like abortion and gay marriage been translated into policies during her 20 months as Alaska's chief executive. It reflects a hands-off attitude toward mixing government and religion by most Alaskans.
"She has basically ignored social issues, period," said Gregg Erickson, an economist and columnist for the Alaska Budget Report.