Who knew a question about evolutionary biology would end up being the most important part of last week's Republican presidential debate?
Thursday night, John McCain was asked, simply, "Do you believe in evolution?" After pausing briefly, the senator answered, "Yes." The Politico's Jim VandeHei then opened it up to the whole GOP field: "I'm curious, is there anybody on the stage that does not agree — believe in evolution?" The camera didn't show the 10 candidates for very long, but three would-be presidents raised their hand: Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, and Tom Tancredo.
The next morning, I asked, "Will the base look askance at candidates who reject creationism?" Apparently so. David Brody, who contributes to (and blogs for) TV preacher Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, noted that Mitt Romney was not among those who publicly rejected modern biology — and he'd like an explanation.
Kevin Madden, Romney's spokesman, told Brody, "Governor Romney believes both science and faith can help inform us about the origins of life in this world." This only piqued CBN's curiosity.
With all due respect, what does that mean exactly? It leaves me with more questions. I have asked for further clarification which I assume will be forthcoming here at the Brody File. I have now asked the Romney campaign specifically if he believes in Darwin's theory of Evolution or does he take the Creationist view? The answer above suggests that he may believe in both. I'm not saying he does. I'm just saying I'm a tad bit confused by the answer.
Here's the key point. The majority of Born Again Evangelicals take the Creationist viewpoint. Some Evangelicals already have concerns about Romney's Mormon faith. He needs support from Evangelicals to win. That's why this issue is an important one that needs to be cleared up. I don't think this is an issue that Romney can avoid. I believe his views need to be clear.
If other elements of the religious right follow up, Romney could find himself in a bind fairly quickly. By not raising his hand, Romney pretty clearly noted that he accepts the reality of modern biology. He's willing to pander to the far-right on a great number of issues, but he seems to have drawn the line here. There are some depths to which even Romney won't go.
But in his party, and with his base, that may not be good enough.
CBN's Brody adds:
I understand Evolution can mean different things to different people and it can be a complicated issue. But Darwin's theory of Evolution is more clear cut. It is considered a "religion" of sorts by fundamentalist Christians. I fully realize that a Commander in Chief will not be making any "executive" decisions when it comes to Evolution. But since many Evangelicals are looking for a candidate with solid social issue conservative beliefs, Evolution enters the equation along with abortion and gay marriage.
It disappoints me terribly that this is even a legitimate political discussion in the 21st century, but here we are.
And just to reiterate a point from the weekend, Huckabee, one of the three evolution-deniers, argued that this issue is a spurious tangent. "I'm not sure what in the world that has to do with being president of the United States," Huckabee said.
I'd argue that it matters quite a bit. For an educated adult in the 21st century, who wants to be the leader of the free world, to reject modern biology, reflects a certain lack of intellectual seriousness. It speaks to how earnestly a man or woman takes evidence and reason, which in turn tells the nation quite a bit about how this person would make decisions in the Oval Office.
For Huckabee (and Brownback and Tancredo) to reject biology is to announce that scientific consensus has no meaning to them; they prefer dogma and pseudo-science.
We've had quite a bit of this the past six years; we don't need more of it.
As for Brody's questions for Romney, I have a hunch the campaign isn't going to get away with an unpersuasive dodge. So, what's it going to be, governor? Just how badly do you want to win over the GOP base?
Update: This morning, Brody rehashes a Boston Globe story from 18 months ago, where Romney said he opposes teaching intelligent design creationism in public schools. "Mitt Romney needs to get out of the first rounds of the playoffs before he competes in the Super Bowl," Brody said.