The Corner

Brownback & Evolution

Derb – I know very little about Sam Brownback’s views on evolution. Nor, I must confess, am I particularly keen on remedying this shortcoming. You may be entirely right in how you parse Brownback’s real intent and meaning. But as a relative outsider to these debates, I wonder whether there couldn’t be a different or at least additional interpretation of Brownback that is equally plausible? The Brownback passage that sets you off :

“If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.”

Me: Now, I’d guess you’re right that he’s trying to slip something past the reader with the use of “microevolution” and “within a species.” But you ignore the second half of that statement, which stirs some sympathy from me, and I would guess many others.

As one of those people who believes in evolution, macro and micro, but who also believes that such belief doesn’t rule out the existence of God, I agree with Brownback’s complaint even if I reject his argumentation. He’s setting up a strawman, it seems to me, by saying that if you believe in anything more than “microevolution” you’re buying into a cold, godless, materialistic universe. But he’s certainly on defensible ground when he suggests that some want to use evolution as a tool to dethrone God and religious faith. Obviously, that’s not the case with many others — but those folks aren’t the ones Brownback’s concerned with. And his op-ed isn’t about the science, but about how faith and science interact.

Again, you’re probably right about his emphasis on microevolution, but I think you’re focusing on a pretty minor part of his argument. As you stipulate up front, nobody’s looking to Brownback to clarify the science. But a lot of folks  look to him to clarify how the faithful should greet science.

Update: From a reader:

From your latest blurb on the Corner: ”As you stipulate up front, nobody’s looking to Brownback to clarify the science. But a lot of folks  look to him to clarify how the faithful should greet science.” How very disturbing.  Why on earth would anyone look to a politician to clarify how the faithful should greet science?  And why would any supporter of the Constitution think that this is appropriate?

 Me: Fair point, though of course, people do look to politicians for all sorts of things they shouldn’t. Merely pointing it out doesn’t exactly undermine my support for the Constitution. And, I suspect the reader isn’t so much “very disturbed” as very eager to overstate a valid point.

(Also, I had a typo in both the original post and in the quote from the reader. I fixed it in both. My crimes against history know no bounds)