"The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster"

"The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster" by Dr.JohnBullas on flickr

“…. because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”

That’s part of the answer the Texas governor gave to a kid, prompted by his mom, to related questions having to do with science.  Here’s a description of the discussion in the Washington Monthly:

“How old do you think the Earth is?” the kid said. Given Perry’s larger worldview, it seems like a reasonable question. The Texas governor replied, “I don’t have any idea; I know it’s pretty old. So, it goes back a long, long way.”

We can hope Perry doesn’t think 6,000 years is “pretty old.”

At this point, the boy’s mother pushed him to ask Perry about evolution. The candidate explained:

“Your mom is asking about evolution. You know, that’s a theory that’s out there; it’s got some gaps in it. In Texas, we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools — because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”

They don’t teach evolution and creationism in Texas schools, at least not in science classes. Perry gives away a lot in this short talk:

There’s no excuse for what Perry said to the kid. Was he merely ignorant of what Texas schools do in the science classroom, or did he just say what he said to deflect cognitive dissonance that might come from making this subject one on the table at upcoming GOP candidate debates, in the dumbfest leading up to the 2012 primaries?

Hopefully, this will come up in the GOP debates, as Jon Huntsman has already challenged Perry’s statement:

To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy

Michelle Bachman is on record with:

I support intelligent design.  What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide. I don’t think it’s a good idea for government to come down on one side of scientific issue or another, when there is reasonable doubt on both sides.

I would prefer that students have the ability to learn all aspects of an issue.

At a 2007 debate, when a bunch of GOP candidates were asked to raise their hand if they believed in evolution, Mitt Romney kept his down.  When asked later by David Brody from Christian Broadcasting News, Romney’s campaign replied, “Governor Romney believes both science and faith can help inform us about the origins of life in this world.”

Rick Santorum was such an ardent advocate of intelligent design when he was in the U.S Senate, he proposed an amendment to No Child Left Behind, mandating the inclusion of intelligent design into science curriculum, that became known as the Santorum Amendment.  That was in 2001.  Fortunately, it didn’t make it into NCLB, which is bad enough without dumbing down our kids on science more than they already are.

Also, fortunately again, in 2005, the most important court decision on evolution since the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Edwards v. Aguillard, came about: the Pennsylvania case, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.

Edwards had nailed the door shut on teaching “creationism” as science in schools.  Kitzmiller nailed it shut on trying to do the same with “intelligent design.”  Both were definitive.  Perry should know that, as should the entire field of GOP 2012 hopefuls.

And so should your average newsperson or debate moderator.  To me, this is an important subject, and has been for some time.  Science education is vital to our future as a nation, as a planet.  Whenever I read, watch or listen to a media person bringing up creationism, intelligent design or evolution as if there might be a scientific component to more than one of those three ideas, I just shake my head.