. . . until the New Hampshire primary. Really and for true this time.
Why should being a creationist disqualify someone from being President? I've been thinking about this recently, what with former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee now in the running. Like his compadre Sam Brownback (Christianist - KS), Huckabee believes that students should be exposed to both evolution and creationism in the public school classroom.
On the one hand, this seems to be the silliest issue possible. As Republican Representative Chris Shays (CT) puts it,
while Rome's burning, we're eating grapes. I mean, the thought that we would have a debate in the Senate about creationism and scientific evolution, and that we would focus on this issue blows me away.
But the debate is there not because of scientific uncertainty, and not even because of religion. The debate is ultimately about power.
The only episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that I forbade my kids to watch when they were youngsters was Chain of Command. In that two-parter, Picard is captured by the Cardassians and tortured horribly. There is seemingly no point to the torture; Picard's captor doesn't demand that he reveal Federation secrets. Instead, he shows Picard a row of four bright lights and asks him how many lights there are. When Picard answers factually--four--he is subjected to agonizing pain. His torturer insists there are actually five. Picard refuses to agree, and the pain is repeatedly inflicted upon him. By the end of the episode, a degraded, broken Picard is on the verge of admitting that he does indeed see five lights.
Certainly the scene of torture is not child's fare. But even after my kids were older and watching scenes that were more bloody and painful, I still denied them Chain of Command. The idea of being tortured into denying reality was deeply unsettling to me, and I wanted to protect my sons from it for as long as possible.
The whole TNG scene is derived from Orwell's 1984, when Winston Smith wonders what would happen if the state declared that 2 + 2 = 5 and everybody believed it; would it then be true? Smith writes, "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows."
Making people deny reality is the ultimate exercise of power. In an inversion of Orwell, I would say that once that occurs, all else follows.
Science in general, and evolution in particular, are grounded in observable reality. Causing people to question that reality--or at least to give unreality equal time--is a first step to the destruction of thought and of resistance to tyranny. Orwell and the Star Trek writers knew this.
We are now in the seventh miserable year of being governed by an administration that believed itself so powerful that it could create its own reality. Lately it has begun to get its comeuppance, but only after the deaths of thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis.
In the background, according to Chris Hedges, is a frightening movement that reaches into all levels of government:
[T]he powerbrokers in the Christian Right have moved from the fringes of society to the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Christian fundamentalists now hold a majority of seats in 36 percent of all Republican Party state committees, or 18 of 50 states, along with large minorities in 81 percent of the rest of the states. Forty-five Senators and 186 members of the House of Representatives earned between an 80 to100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian Right advocacy groups - The Christian Coalition, Eagle Forum, and Family Resource Council. Tom Coburn, the new senator from Oklahoma, has included in his campaign to end abortion: a call to impose the death penalty on doctors that carry out abortions once the ban goes into place. Another new senator, John Thune, believes in Creationism. Jim DeMint, the new senator elected from South Carolina, wants to ban single mothers from teaching in schools.
Evolution is the canary in the coal mine of enlightenment, of science, of reality itself. When it finds it hard to breathe, that is a clear sign that the atmosphere has become toxic. Again, Chris Hedges, from his new book, American Fascists:
The goal of creationism is not to offer an alternative. Its goal is the destruction of the core values of the open society--the ability to think for oneself, to draw independent conclusions, to express dissent when judgment and common sense tell you something is wrong, to be self-critical, to challenge authority, to advocate for change and to accept that there are other views, different ways of being, that are morally and socially acceptable.
This, then, is my single issue, and why Mike Huckabee will only get scorn from me.