Palin and Evolution

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In the media feeding frenzy on Sarah Palin in the last six days, some completely inappropriate and ridiculous questions have dominated the coverage I've paid attention to (which has consisted mostly of NPR, as it happens). Many of the questions getting major play would never be asked of a man, and some are actually illegal to ask at job interviews. But there have been a few genuine issues in the mix. I want to look at one that almost everyone reporting on it has gotten wrong, both in the mainstream media and on blogs (and it's taken me a lot of work to keep inaccuracies and misrepresentations out of her Wikipedia article).

It stems from a brief answer in a political debate when she was running for governor, which she was able to follow up on in an interview the next day. I have found exactly one source that details her response, although it doesn't actually include the exact wording of the question, exact wording that might actually be very important. Here is the exchange during the gubernatorial debate:

The volatile issue of teaching creation science in public schools popped up in the Alaska governor's race this week when Republican Sarah Palin said she thinks creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the state's public classrooms. Palin was answering a question from the moderator near the conclusion of Wednesday night's televised debate on KAKM Channel 7 when she said, "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."

I'd love to know what the question was, because I don't know what her answer means otherwise. Debate between both is a good thing. Both of what? The author of the article says creation science and evolution, but I don't trust a newspaper writer to be careful with important distinctions. Some people call intelligent design arguments creation science, despite there being a world of difference between the two categories. One is science done very badly. The other is a long-standing philosophical argument form that goes back to Plato and Xenophon whose current versions include a premise based on scientific fact but whose conclusion might be questioned, because it's an inference to the best explanation, and that sort of argument is by its very nature only probabilistic, and these particular arguments (depending on the version) can admit of alternative explanations that others will argue are the actual best explanation. So I'd like to know what they were discussing before I can interpret even her first sentence.

There's also an issue of what she means by teaching it. Does she mean (a) requiring it in the curriculum, (b) allowing teachers to include it in the curriculum, or (c) allowing teachers to discuss it if students happen to bring up the issue in class? The same article, which as I said is the only one a serious search could turn up from the time, goes on to describe her interview the next day, giving some much-needed clarification on the second issue. In short, she holds (c). (Unfortunately, it doesn't help very much on the first issue.)

In an interview Thursday, Palin said she meant only to say that discussion of alternative views should be allowed to arise 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 added that, if elected, she would not push the state Board of Education to add such creation-based alternatives to the state's required curriculum. Members of the state school board, which sets minimum requirements, are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature. "I won't have religion as a litmus test, or anybody's personal opinion on evolution or creationism," Palin said. Palin has occasionally discussed her lifelong Christian faith during the governor's race but said teaching creationism is nothing she has campaigned about or even given much thought to.

Later, after a discussion of the state GOP platform and the national issue, the article comes back to Palin:

Palin said she thought there was value in discussing alternatives. "It's OK to let kids know that there are theories out there," she said in the interview. "They gain information just by being in a discussion." That was how she was brought up, she said. Her father was a public school science teacher. "My dad did talk a lot about his theories of evolution," she said. "He would show us fossils and say, 'How old do you think these are?' " Asked for her personal views on evolution, Palin said, "I believe we have a creator." She would not say 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 said.

So she's certainly not ignorant of contemporary evolutionary theory. She'd had long conversations with her dad about the various theories in play, which I'm guessing includes the debate between Dawkins and Gould but may well have involved a number of other issues. She also seems to have an attitude something like Sam Brownback's. He holds that (a) evolution is the view that results from the best science, (b) its denial seems like the result of the best biblical interpretation, (c) either might be revisable given better science or better biblical interpretation, and (d) he need not take a stand either way as a result. She doesn't quite go that far, but it sounds like it might well be that sort of view. Brownback took a lot of criticism for that, and while it's not exactly my own approach I do think the position is fairly reasonable but I'll leave you to look at my argument for that elsewhere.

Finally, the article ends with fuller quotes from all the candidates from the actual debate. Here is Palin's, which had been abbreviated in its first appearance:

"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. And you know, I say this too as the daughter of a science teacher. Growing up with being so privileged and blessed to be given a lot of information on, on both sides of the subject -- creationism and evolution. It's been a healthy foundation for me. But don't be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides."

So something of her clarified position appeared in her debate response the night before. Letting kids debate the subject was part of her initial comment in the debate and thus not a revision of her view later on when advisers might have told her to soften her stance or something. Also, she does use the terms 'creationism' and 'evolution', although both words notoriously can mean a lot of different things. Creationism might be mere theism or creation science, but there are lots of stages in between. Evolution might be speciation and common descent, but it might be the denial of final causes and the insistence on naturalism as at least one influential author uses the term, and it might be a general phenomenon that includes the micro-evolution that no creation scientist denies. Given that she puts them in opposition, that narrows the range. She probably means to oppose ID and the denial of final causes, or she's contrasting outright creation science with speciation and common descent. Most of the people I'm going to cite below assume the latter, and that may be more likely, but I think the former is possible.

So compare how her view as I've looked at it carefully above given her actual comments with what has been presented in the mainstream media, critical blog posts, and Wikipedia in the last week:

On Friday, shortly after her announcement as McCain's pick for a running mate, Michael Paulson of the Boston Globe describes her as having "an openness to teaching creationism in the public schools" despite his willingness to give her exact quotes later in the article that present a weaker position than that makes it sound like. This first statement is at least very misleading, because it suggests that it will be part of the curriculum and even gives the impression that this would be taught without evolution entirely. But at least the article gives the fuller picture later on.

Also on Friday, William Yeardley, in a New York Times story, says, "She has supported the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, alongside evolution." The article then goes on to another item with no further discussion. This is certainly not helpful. It gives no sense of the view that she more carefully explained in her interview the next morning, but the only source I could find for the information about what she had said at the debate actually contained the next morning's clarifications too. Did Yeardley not read the whole article, or was he just presenting what she initially said because it makes her look more extreme? I have no idea, but neither would be good reporting. Unless he had some further source that I couldn't find, this is simply shoddy work.

On Saturday, Evan Thomas and Karen Breslau of Newsweek wrote, "Palin said during her run that creationism should be taught alongside evolution in schools." Again, this is incomplete enough to suggest something that's just plain false.

On Sunday Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times outright calls her a creationist. That's just unconscionably bad reporting. She explicitly refused to comment on that question when asked, saying she doesn't think we can know for sure how exactly it all took place. That's not creationism. It's agnosticism.

As for blogs, I'll give two examples from very popular blogs by academics, one from the right and one from the left. Late Friday night, Jim Lindgren of the Volokh conspiracy called her position a "ridiculous and embarrassing approach to creationism". Remember that all Palin said she supported was a discussion of it in class alongside the evolution curriculum if students happen to raise the issue. (And he didn't take his comment back once a commenter pressed him on his inaccurate assumption. He just said what he'd thought her position was and then asked if it was something else, when commenters had already pointed out that it was something else.) [Update: It took him over a week, but Lindgren has taken it back in an excellent, balanced post on the issue.]

On Sunday, Brian Leiter called her an ignorant yahoo and then supported this by referring to her "fondness for creationism". I don't recommend calling someone ignorant if you don't have your own facts straight. I haven't seen any indication anywhere that she has a positive or negative attitude toward creationism itself (in fact she refuses to answer the question), just that she doesn't mind if kids are allowed to discuss it in a classroom led by a science teacher who knows the issues well. I would expect most people who dislike creationism would like that to be allowable so they could be free to criticize it. It's not a crazy position at all and certainly indicates no indication of fondness for creationism.

I do want to give kudos to Dave G at Race42008 for getting it right, and he got it right as early as Saturday morning, after a couple of the mainstream news stories were out but before several others appeared. All he had to do, though, was look at the article and read what she said. So I shouldn't give him too high a level of praise for doing what any reporter or blogger should do before publishing a piece that attributes a view to someone.

The other place this has been an issue is in Wikipedia. As soon as I heard that she was going to be the nominee, I went to her article to fill out my understanding of her. I knew a fair amount about her, because her name had been floated as a possible VP pick as far back as late 2006. (It's pretty crazy for the mainstream media to act as if they'd never heard of her. She's been a regular topic on the election blogs for months now among those who have been speculated as potential running mates. I've seen her name turn up as often as Romney's and Pawlenty's, and no one else comes up as often as those three.) So I knew something about her term as governor and high populaity in her state, and I knew about her decision to carry her Down Syndrome child to term. However, I didn't know all the fine-print on positions that weren't part of what she'd specifically done as governor, and this was one of them.

I was surprised to see in her Wikipedia article that she advocated the teaching of both views side by side, because I had expected her to be a little more libertarian than that. Its description of her would have her requiring biology teachers to teach something that hardly any high school biology teacher actually believes. Well, I was right. That wasn't her view. I followed the link given in support, and it went to the same article from the actual time of that debate. So whoever wrote it had no excuse. They had the article that gave her actual view and either didn't read it carefully or deliberately misrepresented her view.

I edited the article to reflect her actual position a little better. Someone then created a separate article for her positions and removed my edited description from her main article. Someone else came along and saw it not there and gave the NYT misrepresentation with a link to that article. I edited it again to reflect her actual position and linked back to the original article, removing the NYT reference that adds nothing because it isn't an independent source at all. I left several notes in the discussion page to explain all this, but those got archived very quickly and are no longer on the main discussion page. The new statement later got removed again because of its presence in the positions article. But then someone added it again with something mostly ok (although I'm not entirely happy with the wording). It's been pretty annoying, to say the least.

It's shameful that something so unimposing as a willingness to allow a teacher to have an actual discussion of an issue students might raise in class can come to this level. It really makes me wonder if this is just uncarefulness and gullibility, complicated by a refusal to find actual sources, or if it's more deliberate as a way to spread the meme that this woman is extreme because of the real fear that many on the left have that her presence on the ticket will provide what McCain needs to pull ahead of Barack Obama. When people are claiming with zero evidence that her youngest son is actually the son of her daughter, I'm not sure if I can put anything past those who want to minimize McCain's benefit from choosing her.

On the other hand, most critics of intelligent design are grossly ignorant of what the arguments actually do and what those who put them forward actually believe, as I've taken great care to point out repeatedly on this blog. (For examples, see here, here, here, here, here, and here. And keep in mind I don't even think most ID arguments are very strong, leaving aside the fine-tuning version of ID that I think is much better.) So maybe this is just the same phenomenon that prevents otherwise very smart people who have earned a Ph.D. in philosophy or biology from using basic reading comprehension skills and a simple, introductory-philosophy level of analysis whenever these issues arise.


While we're being careful, I want to point out that:

"On Sunday Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times outright calls her a creationist. That's just unconscionably bad reporting.She explicitly refused to comment on that question when asked, saying she doesn't think we can know for sure how exactly it all took place. That's not creationism. It's agnosticism."

That's not agnosticism. That's a claim that we can't be certain. If certainty was the test for belief, we'd all be skeptics. Not knowing that p for certain is consistent with both knowing that p and knowing that not-p. Agnosticism, on the other hand, is simply a matter of not believing either p or not-p because you don't believe you have sufficient evidence for either.

Her actual words say that she doesn't want to pretend to know, so I think it's accurate to call that an agnostic position. I may have been less careful when I described her simply as being unsure, and that may have misled you to think I was being more careful in that and thus less careful in calling it agnostic. So you're right that I wasn't being careful, but you picked out the wrong spot in finding the uncareful slip.

Are you sure her "not going to pretend" comment isn't evidence of not having anything to say about the issue, or else not wanting to reveal her position on the issue? Because that kind of evasion would be evidence that she doesn't have the willingness to hear the arguments and consider them. And that would disqualify her from the Vice Presidency.

This is, after all, an issue that many feel passionately about; she should be expected to care enough to consider the issue and discuss it publically instead of punting on it. Does she have something to hide? Or just nothing to say?

There are important theological/scientific/political issues at stake about reconciling science and theology and how that plays out in the classroom. And she's completely evasive in her response. Am I asking too much when I expect candidates to answer the questions they're asked?

Are you honestly defending the view that a Vice President needs to have a view on whether the best science is compatible with the best interpretation of Genesis and whether other possible views are theologically allowable? What she was asked is whether her commitment to a creator allows her to believe in evolution. That's not an issue the Vice President needs to have a view on, and I think a dodge on that question is not just ok to dodge but probably morally obligatory to dodge. I wouldn't answer a question like that at a job interview for any job except a ministry position.

She did state a view about how it plays out in the classroom, and she gave an argument for that. You can support her view without appealing to this, and the various ways of answering this question wouldn't necessarily undermine her policy view. The same isn't true of Obama's dodge. If you answer the question asked him in certain ways, it completely undermines his policy view, so it's important for him to have a view on where he stands on that question and to reassure voters of what that is in giving them a clue about how he'd answer similar questions that he hasn't publicly commented on.

So what crucial issue about theological interpretation or the compatibility of science and faith did she ignore that she needs to have a view on to have a view on what should happen in the classroom? I just don't see anything like that here.

She also wasn't at a forum where she had voluntarily agreed to discuss her views on faith and politics. She was following up on comments asked at a political debate about policy differences between candidates.

If her words are that 'she doesn't want to pretend to know', then that sounds more like an agnosticism. That said, I've a hard time taking anything that any political candidate says at face value. I suspect that her saying that is her way of not having to answer the question either in the affirmative or the negative.

Normally, I'd suggest we be charitable and take what Palin says at face value, however I think that anytime politicians are being asked about a well known "sensitive" issue--an issue that splits their constituents--we have good reason to doubt the agnostic answer.

Are you honestly defending the view that a Vice President needs to have a view on whether the best science is compatible with the best interpretation of Genesis and whether other possible views are theologically allowable?

I thought it was quite clear that I was not. I was presenting what I hope everyone could see was a ridiculous argument. I just thought that the parallels between this argument and yours in the other thread might give you some pause.

Of course it isn't a perfect parallel--we're talking about real life events, there will never be a perfect parallel. But this one seemed close enough to attempt to make my point.

Given your response, I don't know if I did, so I'll try the direct route. You often say that you are trying to take Obama at his word, or that you're being charitable to him, or whatnot. But when he says an innoculous comment, you see it as a dodge. And not only a dodge, but a heart motivation that he *does not care* to learn about important issues that matter to others. And following from that, he should be disqualified from the presidency. All hinging on an innoculous comment.

Meanwhile, Palin makes an innoculous comment, and I make the same "she's dodging" to "she doesn't care" to "she should be disqualified from the presidency" argument, and you leap to defend her. You certainly are not giving her the same level of scruitiny and critique that you are giving Obama. No ultra-careful parsing to see if you can discover a reason to criticize.

And if you want to be biased and partisan, that's fine. This is your blog after all. But at least be up front with it. At least drop the "I'm being charitable" type statements (unless charitable means "less mean than I could be, but not acutally kind", in which case, you need to get that definition out there front and center). Because then we wouldn't have to be charitable either, and that would be kinda nice.

I've been playing the "you're not being charitable" card on you recently because you hit me with it a few times when I was criticising Bush. And you're response now is that you actually *are* being charitable when you're attacking Obama. I'm hoping that this little parallel shows you that you perhaps aren't being as charitable as you think you are.

I expect that you'll respond by pointing out the differences between the two situations and show how those differences justify criticism of Obama and defense of Palin. If that's the case, then don't expect much of a response from me on this thread, becuase you'll have missed the point and I don't know how to make it any clearer.

Well, the differences really do justify different treatment. I really see abortion and creationism as very different kinds of issues. One involves issues of whether you're doing something very immoral to someone with moral rights, and the other involves (at most) whether you're teaching something factually false to someone and spreading ignorance. I expect politicians to have something to say about the former, and when you press them on it I don't think it's appropriate for them to dodge it, especially at a voluntary forum where they're agreed to answer questions about how their faith intersects with politics.

I also think the former issue is going to rely on a pretty basic question that you need to have an informed view on but that he wouldn't answer, whereas the particular question asked of her is a theological one that I don't think politicians should be asked. If they volunteer information on it, as Brownback, Huckabee, and others have done, that's one thing, but I don't think politicians should be expected to have to say anything about that sort of thing.

I don't understand how a responding to a charge of inconsistency by pointing out how it's not inconsistent is missing the point. I don't think you're being uncharitable to Palin. I just think your parody response expects something that shouldn't be expected, while the same isn't true of Obama. That's not a disagreement about whether an interpretation of someone is charitable. It's a disagreement about whether the circumstances and issue in question justify dignifying the question with a response. I've explained why I think one case does but the other doesn't.

Members of the state school board, which sets minimum requirements, are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Legislature. "I won't have religion as a litmus test, or anybody's personal opinion on evolution or creationism," Palin said.

When a governor appoints a state school board member, he or she had better make sure that person is NOT a creationist. Creationists are uneducated in science. If they knew anything about science they wouldn't be creationists. It's not fair to students to have a school board member who knows less about science than an average high school sophomore.

It's obvious Palin is not a strong supporter of teaching evolution. She sounds like a creationist to me. She certainly is very god-soaked. I doubt she would be a strong supporter of science if she became president. I also doubt she would do much to protect endangered species if she was president. Despite all that I will probably vote for her anyway because I'm nuts about her. I know that's a dumb reason to vote for anyone, but I never before enjoyed listening to a politician before she was chosen by McCain to be his running mate. Palin is the first politician who doesn't bore me to death.

I would like to talk about intelligent design which you seem to think has some value.

Intelligent design means "magically create". Intelligent design also means "I'm too stupid to understand how this evolved, nobody else will be able to solve this problem, and nobody not born yet will be able to solve this problem, therefore I invoke God's magic to explain it."

Invoking intelligent design = invoking God = invoking Magic.

Intelligent design is not scientific. It's the complete opposite of science. People who invoke intelligent design magic are too lazy to discover anything, so they choose the non-solution: god-did-it.

If a biology teacher is asked about intelligent design, he or she could say we don't talk about religious ideas in a science class, or perhaps he or she could say intelligent design means magic and only uneducated god-soaked people believe in it. It's better to not talk about it in a science class at all. Since it's not scientific it would be a complete waste of time to spend one minute on it.

Sorry. Just one more comment.

That's not an issue the Vice President needs to have a view on, and I think a dodge on that question is not just ok to dodge but probably morally obligatory to dodge.

If a candidate for president or vice-president is a creationist, the voters have a right to know that. If the candidate is a creationist, a voter can conclude this candidate is uneducated and probably too dumb to be a leader of this country. Of course the voter might vote for the creationist anyway if he was in love with her like I am.

She's got a public record of who she's appointed as governor. It doesn't suggest that she has any interest in appointing creationists to school boards.

The question she was asked wasn't whether she was a creationist. It was a theological question about whether she thinks evolution is compatible with her theological beliefs. She has no obligation to answer that question, and voters and media purporting to represent voters have no right to expect an answer from her on that. That would be a religious test, which would be unconstitutional.

I actually think every single sentence you wrote about intelligent design is false, except perhaps that you'd like to talk about it and what you'd report about what a science teacher would say (certainly many might say something like that). You obviously didn't read any of what I linked to on this subject.

Intelligent design does not mean "magically create". Now I'm not sure what you mean by magic, but I'm guessing you mean creation ex nihilo. Almost any theist believes the universe was created out of nothing. So most of the U.S. believes that at least something was created by what you call magic, and that's certainly not beyond the power of an omnipotent being. It's not as if there's any universally accepted origin account of the universe in science anyway, but the ones who are theists (which is a sizable portion, in case you aren't aware) do believe in creation ex nihilo.

Now it's a separate matter whether God has intervened in creation in a way that doesn't amount to just having set up the laws in advance. I'm assuming you would count such an intervention as magic. I know a lot of scientists who believe God can and does do that, though.

A further issue is whether you can tell from scientific observation that such intervention occurs, and that's where I think you might be on good footing if you say no. But of course intelligent design does not assume God's intervention to be of this sort. All it concludes is that a designer is behind whatever process led to what we've got. That could be such non-lawlike intervention, or it could be through the means of the normal process of causation via natural laws. The most prominent advocates of intelligent design (e.g. Dembski, Johnson) (and I believe Behe as well, but I haven't done the work to defend that claim) are neutral on that issue. So you're on shaky footing indeed if what you mean by magic is something intelligent design has no comment on.

The claim that intelligent design is religion is obviously false, but you're in good company for making it. People capable of earning a Ph.D. in philosophy and people who have managed to get appointed to a court of appeals have made exactly that ridiculous confusion. Nonetheless, the claim is pretty stupid. There's enough of a difference between philosophy and religion that the claim is baseless. ID is not religion. It's a philosophical argument. Lots of people accept the argument who aren't religious in the slightest.

Now it's a matter of philosophical debate whether God can serve as a good explanation. In this case, it's the sort of argument that postulates something unexplained. That unexplained fact is the existence of something that seems extremely improbably given the facts we know. It doesn't claim that it's impossible for it to have happened without a designer, just that we wouldn't expect it unless there were some intention for it to occur. That's a pretty reasonable argument in many circumstances (e.g. if you find a watch on the beach, you can reasonably conclude that it was designed). I think it's less reasonable if you're just talking about the complexity of organisms, since there is a naturalistic explanation of how that could occur. But there's no explanation of why it would occur if there's no designer, because the question of why is meaningless, and if the juxtaposition of its high improbability and its occurrence can be explained by the intention of a designer for such a thing eventually to occur, then there's an explanation of exactly the thing that needs to be explained (without denying evolution and without denying that the physical causes could have worked exactly the way evolutionary biology says they did). How that counts as magic is unfathomable to me.

As for whether ID is science, I've already said that I think it's fundamentally a philosophical argument, but it's a philosophical argument that has a supporting premise that's a result of mere scientific observation, and it's the sort of argument that we do find in science all the time (an inference to the best explanation). I don't think the lines between philosophy and science are clear enough to exclude it from discussion in a science class, and there are plenty of examples of both equally controversial philosophical arguments and well-established philosophical arguments that scientists are happy to count as science. So it's not clear to me at all that it's inappropriate as a topic of discussion in a science classroom, as long as the argument is presented and objections are fully discussed (and there are some strong ones, so this shouldn't be a scary prospect for ID opponents, even if it would be inappropriate for them to use most of the arguments commonly used against ID, which are either misrepresentations or simply unsound arguments).

Quoting Palin:
"I'm not going to pretend I know how all this came to be"

Neither am I. Pretending to know how life came to be is a very unsound scientific claim. The soundness of mainstream scientific explanations are based on the presumption of an already existing, fully functional and replicating cell. That's quite an assumption that glibly slides past the question of what chemical reactions would genrate a cell on a lifeless planet. Palin's reaction is honest and a refreshing contrast to the pretend knowledge that passess for scientific relevance.

Quoting bobxxxxx:

I would like to talk about intelligent design which you seem to think has some value. Intelligent design means "magically create".

This is a very unoriginal cliche that does not even rise to an analytical level. To quote one of ID's leading spokesmen: "Intelligent design begins with a seemingly innocuous question: Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause?" IDists would answer that question in the affirmative.

Intelligent design also means "I'm too stupid to understand how this evolved, nobody else will be able to solve this problem, and nobody not born yet will be able to solve this problem, therefore I invoke God's magic to explain it."

To put it charitably this claim is dumb and shows ignorance of basic facts. One being that leading spokespeople, among those counting themselves as IDists, include those who believe in evolution. Mike Gene is an excellent example. He believes an evolutionary process was front loaded and has cited numerous examples supporting this thesis at the blogsite Telic Thoughts as well as within a book he authored titled The Design Matrix He is extremely knowlegable and usually knows more about evolution than ID critics.

In addition ID is not constrained by an evolutionary paradigm. If we rule out magic, as we should, then a scientific explanation for the origin of the first cell becomes a necessity. There is nothing in current data, relevant to the origin of life, that excludes a design inference.

The 2006 AK Gubernatorial debate is now on CSPAN.

Todd, I don't think that's the same debate. I actually listened to that debate and didn't hear anything about this question. It's possible I missed something, because I was doing other things at the same time, but I listed closely at the end, and the article says the exchange in question took place at the end of the debate. I then checked to see what station had aired it, and it doesn't seem to be the same network. Debates aren't usually aired on more than one network. This one says at the beginning that they had something like 21 debates for that election (which seems incredibly high, so maybe that's not right).

Unfortunately, there are many, many different definitions of "intelligent design" and "creationism". Many scientists I know personally hold beliefs that could be characterized as being compatible with ID as defined previously in this thread (e.g. god=physical law, or the universe=god, etc.) There is also a much more ignorant definition, however, usually coming under the heading of "creation science" that postulates that the world as we see it, including fossils, 2.73K cosmic background radiation, etc. were all created out of nothing by some omnipotent being. This definition is nothing more than an attempt to make modern science consistent with the exact words of the Bible (no doubt the King James version). To a scientist, such machinations are abhorrent because they are not only untestable but do not actually assist in predicting any physical phenomenon whatsoever. Such beliefs are not truly theories, by the scientific definition of the word.

I believe that it is valid to judge a presidential (or vice-presidential) candidate based on their views on how America should grapple with scientific investigation. From an educational standpoint, I agree with her that no harm comes from an open discussion, provided that it is truly open. On the other hand, our political leaders are being asked as never before to make difficult ethical decisions. The abortion and stem-cell-research debates cry out for commonsense, consensus approaches to our next generation of laws. Will Mrs. Palin rise to that challenge? I don't really know.

I wouldn't grant your premise that following the exact words of the Bible requires thinking the fossils were instantly created, if that's what you're suggesting. But I would insist that Christians should believe everything was created out of nothing. There's room for questioning whether Genesis 1:1 requires that, but I think it's clear in the overall teaching of scripture that matter hasn't always existed. I don't see how there's anything unscientific about that, given that the Big Bang model in cosmology is perfectly consistent with that.

I'm not sure you're going to get a consensus on abortion or stem-cells for a very long time. There was room for a common-ground move on stem cells, but liberals refused to take it. They could have backed off of embryonic cells to go with the more promising methods that have actually worked once it was clear that methods without ethical objections were successful, but they weren't going to do it.

So I think there's little hope for consensus on that. I'm not sure what a consensus position on abortion would be. Obama wants pro-lifers to join him in the compromise position of allowing abortion but trying to prevent some of the circumstances when some people might be more likely to have an abortion. If the latter case involves genuine methods, I don't see how pro-lifers couldn't support such attempts, but his insistence on keeping abortion legal and removing all state restrictions on abortion in the last trimester seems to me to be anything but a consensus view given that the vast majority of Americans oppose abortion in the third trimester, and 60% disapprove of abortion if it's merely because of an unintended pregnancy. On a moral issue as important as this, I don't see a lot of room for pro-lifers to compromise in good conscience.

Hi Folk, Iam a Kiwi who has a green card and i have spent a lot of time living in Pueblo, CO. At the moment Iam back in NZ watching the Democrats rip them selves apart over the choice of Sarah Palin. Wow has she changed the politcal landscape for the Republicans.
I have to say that she seems to have a very strong sence of right from wrong.This seems to be her strength and will be happy to draw a line in the sand so to speak.Iam thinking about the strong sense of family that my American friends share with me here.
I think evolution is trickey for all of us.I have spent a lot of time thinking about this . I think Darwin is wright about the evolution as natural selection, and I would describe my self as a strong Bible student. I like the idea of students being encouraged to look at both sides. EG, Did God create matter? Would God know anything about a human if we ended up here through natural selection. Is God only interested in his Spiritual creation. Dose a brain think? Iam happy to talk about any thing to do with matter creation or spiritual creation. I think Palin is wise not to be talking about creation, the subject can be twisted in all sots of directions something the Democrates would love to do as the poles show that McCain has moved slightly ahead from where I view
USA politics. Palin has had a major influence on where McCain is at this time, and one would have to give him credit for the courage to chose Palin.
Here in NZ we also go to the poles on Nov-8th. There will be a change of Goverment to the National Party, as they are some 16 points ahead of the Labour Party. All the best to you yanky folk and have lots of fun
debating all these fun subjects.

Intelligent design? A perspective from someone smarter than I am see:

If you wish to skip the beginning and end then 4:02 to 4:17 if you choose this you will miss a very interesting talk as are all the talks on

Shermer doesn't seem to me to understand the argument he's criticizing. I looked at his website, and he's perpetuating several misrepresentations of ID there, including the crazy view that because religious people accept ID the argument itself is religion. He runs roughshod over several important philosophical distinctions (including final causes vs. efficient causes in his treatment of the Far Side cartoon that he says is the same thing as ID).

You state "Some people call intelligent design arguments creation science, despite there being a world of difference between the two categories. One is science done very badly." Neither is science. U.S. District Judge John E. Jones in his ruling, said that while intelligent design arguments “may be true, a proposition on which the court takes no position, ID is not science.” Among other things, he said intelligent design “violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation”; it relies on “flawed and illogical” arguments; and its attacks on evolution “have been refuted by the scientific community.

In the present, people are permitted hold any opinion they desire (however, it is not a good idea to allow your desires to override your reason). People can continue to believe that the earth is the center of the universe if they chose, however, they can no longer imprison, torture, and murder those who believe differently (thank goodness).

The claim that supernatural causation is required for intelligent design is false. I've already presented the argument for that and linked to a post arguing it in more depth. I'm not going to repeat the argument.

I'm not convinced that allowing supernatural causation is inconsistent with science, either. Science can be defined in such a way that it rules out anything but naturalistic causation, but I'd never want to assume a priori that naturalism is true. If the best explanation for something really turned out to posit a supernatural cause, then I can't see why science couldn't lead someone to such a thing. If there really turned out to be no naturalistic explanation for something (or at least none better than a supernatural one), then I don't see how such a conclusion would be unscientific. Explain to me why it would be without relying on the question-begging assumption that science must be naturalistic. I don't think you can do it.

Flawed and illogical arguments don't make something religion and also don't make something not science. Phlogiston used flawed arguments. It's still science.

Grant that attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. It's certainly not true that all questions about the particular evolutionary proposals at work now have been eliminated, but supposed it were true. I don't see how it follows that intelligent design is not science or that ID has been refuted. Since ID is not evolution but is consistent with the full evolutionary picture of contemporary science, that argument just changes the subject.

This district judge doesn't seem all the impressive to me. He sounds like he makes his decisions in terms of things he doesn't have any business commenting on as a judge.

Jeremy Price writes:

"This district judge doesn't seem all the impressive to me. He sounds like he makes his decisions in terms of things he doesn't have any business commenting on as a judge."

And you base this on what? Should judges not rule in malpractice cases because they are not doctors? Not rule in liability cases because they are not engineers? Not rule in criminal cases because they are not (at least not most of them) criminals? Why was Judge Jones not qualified to make a judgment on what is, and what is not science? He sat through weeks of thoughtful testimony. Read thousands of pages. Listened to experts from BOTH sides. And you are not "impressed"?

So what WOULD impress you about a federal district court judge? Would it require that they agreed with everything you every time? How about if they were a Christian, lifelong Republican, G.W. Bush appointed Judge? Well guess what? Judge John E. Jones IS all those things.

Try learning about something before you criticize it. Read his decision as he wrote it, not as some blogger spins it:

If you can't read the whole thing start on page 136 where he writes:

"The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents."

Go to PBS and watch for free the award winning film Judgment Day which details the case.

I have provided the links for you. There should be no further reason to maintain your ignorance or your baseless opinions.

My reasons for criticizing the decision by Judge Jones come from reading the opinion, not from some blogger, whoever you might think that is. I've not in fact spent much time at all looking at anyone's evaluation of this decision, blogger or otherwise. I've looked at the decision and evaluated it the same way I evaluate anything else I read. It doesn't hold up to a rational examination. If he came to this decision after reading thousands of pages and listening to genuine experts on both sides, then that just shows his incompetence even more. My sense is that he doesn't understand what the ID people are actually saying, and he really has no clue how to situate it historically and philosophically. But half of the people he was listening to don't either, so he seems just to be buying their line on it.

This isn't the place for a detailed evaluation of the decision. I'll do that in a separate post and then post the link here.

Why should it impress me that he's a Bush appointee who comes to the wrong decision by getting the facts wrong and arguing fallaciously? Do you expect that I would find a judge who could be liked by Bush who does this to be any better than one Clinton might have selected who uses such bad reasoning and misrepresentations of views? Either would be failing at their responsibilities to judge fairly and to reason clearly and well. Either would b e equally criticizable.

In writing your detailed evaluation of Judge Jones' decision be certain to include the words "cdesign proponentists." These two words proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the ID "text" book "Of Pandas and People" (a book that until the trial was heavily promoted by the Discovery Institute) which was put forward as an alternative to the science text used in Dover H.S. was nothing more than a badly edited creationist text.

So it would seem that your legal argument now rests on biblical creationism also being defined as science. If that is the case then you must now challenge not just the wisdom of one federal judge but of the United States Supreme Court who in 1987 found that creationism is most definately NOT science (see Edwards v. Aguillard).

You must be quite a legal scholar.

Perhaps it was the dishonesty of the Dover School Board members who lied on the witness stand or perhaps it was the testimony of expert ID witnesses such as Dr. Michael Behe who in a court of law admitted that his definition of "science" would also encompass astrology that led Judge Jones to conclude that like creationism, ID is a religiously based faith, not science.

If these are your best examples of Judge Jones' "...bad reasoning and misrepresentations of views" then you really have your work cut out for you.

Can't wait to read it. Be sure to send me the link.

Oh, and if want some authoritative information about Sarah Palin's opinions on Young Earth Creationism you might want to check out the blog of one of the very few people who has actually spoken to her about this and other topics of great importance (such as the return of Jesus in her lifetime).

I wrote to the author Philip Munger, a professor of music, and he confirms that what he wrote is the truth.

I wonder if she, like her pastor in Wasilla, believes in what is written in the book of Revelation and that we must pass through Armeggedon before the second coming and the rapture can occur. I wonder what she would do if she ever gets her finger on the US nuclear trigger. I have not slept well since reading Mr. Mungers blog.

If you can provide a verifiable source for Palin quotes on this, that would be nice, rather than "some blogger who spins it" or may even have made it up. That you say he assures you it's true isn't all that reassuring.

But suppose she did happen to accept YEC at one point and then changed her mind. So what? She can change her mind on seeing better evidence. There wasn't actually much of a presence in evangelicalism of literature explaining the difference to non-specialists until the late 80s, and it probably wasn't all that well-known to many, especially of her generation, until the mid-late 90s. I don't know what this guy's timetable is, but it doesn't surprise me that an evangelical of her generation would go through such a change during adulthood after having investigated a bit once the popular evangelical literature making the options more clear appeared.

Lots of people think Jesus will return in their lifetime. I'm not sure how that's supposed to be relevant. I don't think the signs really show the things necessary for that yet, but I understand what she's talking about. She probably thinks this because of natural disasters that seem to be getting worse (partly due to cable news having to report something) and certain political events like the formation of Israel (which many take to be signs of events predicted in Revelation and some of the earlier Hebrew prophets). I don't agree with the interpretations of these passages that such people assume, but I don't think it's a completely crazy view to think Jesus will return in one's lifetime.

But whatever else is true, such a view certainly doesn't imply anything relevant for foreign policy or having access to nuclear codes. The New Testament is very clear that the apostles thought Jesus could return during their lifetime but might not, and thus it's very clear that they should be prepared for it if it is to happen but also prepared that it might not happen in case it doesn't and thus to care for the needs of their children and so on, not assuming they'll never grow to adulthood. So anyone who thinks Jesus actually will return in their lifetime still has those biblical commands to go by in case they're wrong. Believing Jesus will return soon should motivate someone to live in a way that's good, but it shouldn't lead to any of the dangerous behavior that you and the blogger whose word you are trusting seem to assume. So I don't think it's remotely rational to be worried about her just because she said this, even if it's true (which I don't think I have any reason to be sure of at this point).

You can rest assured that your comment about what I must have to say about the Dover case doesn't remotely capture what I've written so far in my post on it. I do address the irrelevant issue of the various drafts of the book in question, and I don't have any argument that relies on ID being science, because it doesn't have to be science for it not to violate the establishment clause. I never said I was a legal scholar. I'm a philosopher, and where Jones mostly goes wrong is in philosophical reasoning and misrepresentation of philosophical positions.

I've posted my criticism of the Dover decision here.

With regards to your comment

"If you can provide a verifiable source for Palin quotes on this, that would be nice, rather than "some blogger who spins it" or may even have made it up. That you say he assures you it's true isn't all that reassuring."

Given the frightening prospect of the US nuclear codes in the hands of someone who believes that we are close to living in the end times, that Alaska may be the safe haven for "the saved" and that someone who believes the world must pass through Armageddon before Jesus can return I can understand why you find my comments not "all that reassuring."

AS for my source? Sure thing. His name is Philip Munger. He teaches music in Alaska and he has known Sarah Palin and followed her career for over ten years. There are lots of verifiable websites that discuss his work in music composition and you can write to him yourself at

His profile provides his real name, age, occupation and address.

More information than I could find on your profile page.

I meant a public quote that can be checked by someone who isn't likely to be lying. A video clip would be even better given how many people have a vested interest in lying about this woman, but a news story from a mainstream paper from before she was the VP nominee would be ok.

I wasn't asking to be reassured that she didn't say this. I'm not bothered by it in the least, so why would I be worried that she did say it? I simply wanted reassurance that your source was reliable, and apparently there's no reassurance that he is. I'm not accusing him of lying, but that doesn't help me be sure he's not. Writing to him won't help, because it's just his word. We already know of someone who has known Sarah Palin for decades who has been consistently lying about her since she was nominated for VP (and fact-checked sources have established that). So I'm not trusting any personal reports at this point without further verification.

Jeremy writes:

"I meant a public quote that can be checked by someone who isn't likely to be lying."

Although you later try to absolve yourself by stating that "I'm not accusing him of lying," you simply think that Professor Munger is "likely" to be lying. Thanks for clearing that up. For a moment I thought you were implying that we cannot trust the word of anyone, even ambitious politicians who will say or do anything to get elected. Apparently the Los Angeles Times (which I presume has better fact checking staff than do either you or I, thinks that Mr. Munger is a credible witness to Ms. Palin's statements.,0,1440865.story

Remember that one need not commit statements on tape to be convicted of a crime. Personal statements made to credible witnesses are admissable in court and in the forum of public opinion.

I don't think that we are likely to ever have a tape of Ms. Palin speaking in tonques or confirming that dinosaurs romped with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden so I guess we will both be left with the open question of whether Mr. Munger is a lier and if so then why (and why did he begin laying his nefarious plan eleven years before Ms. Palin was selected as the VP choice, My God what foresight).

Nope, all we have on tape is her praying for a gas pipeline, claiming that the Iraq conflict is God's will, a lack of understanding of George Bush's foreign policy, asking for blessings to protect her from witchcraft* and an inability to answer a simple straightforward question from Katie Couric

And you are worried about Philip Munger's credibility??

*Sorry, that one is not on tape, it is only confirmed by the Pastor and members of her church.

The only place where I used the word 'likely' is in describing someone who can fact-check someone else's claims. If it's confirmed by a friend of hers or a politically ally, then it's likely to be credible. If it's confirmed by someone who opposes her politically, it's not clear whether it's credible. This is a basic component of fact-checking. Unfriendly testimony from a political opponent doesn't carry very much weight. Unfriendly testimony from a political ally or friend does. This guy is obviously opposed to her politically, so I have no reason to believe he's more reliable than Anne Kilkenny, who has been lying through her teeth about Palin since long before Palin was the VP nominee. (Someone can have political opponents without being the national VP nominee.)

Not accepting them as true is not the same as taking them to be false. I have no view whatsoever on whether he's telling the truth or lying unless I can get some independent evidence. I don't know the guy at all, but I know there are people in his position who have been lying, and I know he might or might not be doing so. So I'm hesitant to take any view on it.

In the story you link to, they don't independently verify his claims. They just repeat his claims and point out that he criticizes her regularly on his blog. That doesn't strike me as an endorsement of his claim, just a recognition that what he's saying might be evidence of her views but might not be (which is presumably why they need to point out that he's long been opposed to her politically, to show that he's not necessarily as reliable a source).

Their fact-checking is quite suspect when they call intelligent design the modern version of creationism. It's neither modern nor the same thing the word 'creationism' usually refers to. It's in fact much older than creationism and something altogether different.

One thing is clear from that article, though. She has no serious desire to push any particular agenda on this issue at the political level, so there's nothing for you to be worrying about. Her appointees in education who could have done something about it have not, and she hasn't pushed them to do so. She's not interested in changing how things are done. She just wouldn't mind if they could discuss the issues in a serious way if they happen to get raised, and it's basically anti-intellectual to think otherwise, so I can't see why you think this is a big deal.

Education isn't supposed to be about suppressing viewpoints that aren't true or that are against the consensus in science. It's supposed to be about informing people, and that can be done while discussing intelligent design arguments as long as you explain how the argument works philosophically and why many scientists aren't moved by the argument, which should be done for any issue where there are opposing positions that often get mentioned in the news where students can hear about them.

As for speaking in tongues, who cares? Lots of people speak in tongues, and it says nothing about them of any substance. Given that she went to a Pentecostal church that didn't emphasize that particular gift of the Spirit, and that she eventually left the church, saying it was a bit extreme for her, it may well be that she doesn't, and she left partly because she thought they emphasized that too much. But it wouldn't matter to me if she did. I know lots of people who do or have done so in the past. It's a common phenomenon, in fact. I'm sure Gordon Fee speaks in tongues, and it doesn't prevent him from being one of the most respected New Testament scholars in the world by people ranging from serious skeptics to devout believers of nearly all theological stripes. I won't go as far as calling it religious bigotry to think it's problematic, but it's certainly not something that can count as a test for office in this country, since that would be a clear religious test.

First a public apology. I implied that there was no public record of Ms. Palin seeking a blessing and protection from witchcraft. Apparently I was mistaken:

With regards to your commitment about there being no religious test in this country in order to run for higher office, please give me a break. Do you really think a self avowed atheist (or even a deist) would stand a chance running for higher office? And in regards to Gordon Fee speaking in tonques last I checked he was not seeking to be the Vice President of the United States. The American people do in fact require that their leaders be Christian, but they also expect them to be sane.

The citizens of the U.S., and indeed the entire world, deserve to have a President who thinks rationally, clearly, and is willing to act based on verifiable information, not solely their beliefs. By believing in witches, dinosaurs 6000 thousand years ago, and that God gives two cents about an Alaskan natural gas pipeline Palin has demonstrated herself not to be such a rational person. Lest you say "Ah, but John McCain will be President, not Sarah Palin" remind yourself that when the President undergoes general anaesthesia the VP assumes all duties. They become, for that brief time, President of the United States. To think that we could go four years without this happening is wishful thinking.

I am a Christian who believes, and trusts, deeply in God. But the prospect of Sarah Palin in the White House scares the crap out of me.

That video is something else. The idiots who put it together can't tell the difference between a list of four things (Buddhism, Islam, witchcraft, and sorcery) and an equation between them (Buddhism and Islam = witchcraft and sorcery). They also highlight some typical Assembly of God elements like tongues-speaking, of all things, as if it's odd that anyone might mention it in a Pentecostal church.

As for your claim, I see her being prayed for. One of the things he mentioned in the prayer had to do with witchcraft. What I don't see is her seeking anything at all, so I'm not sure why you think she sought a prayer about protection from witchcraft in particular. The first line of the video is him saying that he suggests they pray for Sarah. That seems to contradict the notion that this was her idea to begin with, even if she did magically know exactly what he was going to pray and even if you had some evidence that it was the witchcraft portion (as opposed to what she later highlights) that she found compelling in his prayer.

It's pretty clear from polls that a lot of people say they wouldn't vote for an atheist. That doesn't make it a good reason to vote against someone because they're an atheist. I don't think it's a good idea to use mere religion as a basis for voting for or against someone, as in the mere fact that they belong to a certain religion or engage in a certain religious practice would automatically rule them out or guarantee a vote (unless it's an illegal practice like human sacrifice or temple prostitution). What's fine is using my religious beliefs to influence who I vote for. What's not fine is using someone else's religious beliefs (as opposed to moral beliefs that affect policy) as a basis of fitness for office.

Gordon Fee is not seeking to be Vice-President of the U.S., but the point isn't whether he is seeking the office but whether someone can be very intelligent and qualified to make careful decisions and yet speak in tongues. The eminent philosopher William Alston is surely qualified to be president, but he's in print indicating that he has had charismatic experiences of a similar sort. I don't think anyone who knows him would see him as a wacky kook. He's one of the smartest people I've ever known, and his interactions with people are certainly not indicative of anything like insanity. I'm curious as to whether you think the apostle Paul was insane, because he spoke in tongues more than the Corinthians he was writing to whom he thought were abusing the gift.

I'm not sure why you're contrasting rationality and clear thinking with beliefs. Beliefs can come in all sizes and shapes. Some are rational and clear, and basing a decision merely on those beliefs is fine. Others are irrational and confused, and it's bad to base decisions on those. Even if believing in witches is irrational, give me any sign that Sarah Palin bases any policy decisions on that belief, and then I'll concede that if it's an irrational belief then she's making bad decisions. You'd then have to do some further work to convince me that belief in witches is irrational. I'm extremely hesitant to accept that. There are certainly people who practice a religion called Wicca that looks close enough to what traditional witchcraft is often described as being. Wiccans even frequently call themselves witches, and they believe what they're doing is magic. You call yourself a Christian but deny the possibility of something the Bible regularly speaks of as something evil and worth avoiding? Then you call her belief irrational? I'm sure consistency is a big part of rationality, but I'm having a hard time putting together your claim to be a Christian and your dismissal of witchcraft as a silly thing to believe in.

You've got the pipeline thing very wrong, as badly as the media mangled her line about Iraq. I've addressed it here, but the short of it is that she doesn't claim the pipeline is God's will. She says that it's not going to happen unless God is behind it and that people should pray that God's will is accomplished. I'll repeat the relevant section of that post:

But what she said there was exactly the same thing. We need to pray. We need to pray that our leaders are doing the right thing. For it to happen, "God's will has to be done in unifying people to get that gas line built, so pray about that." In other words, it won't happen unless it's God's will. She goes on to say that all the things she's doing politically are not important if the church isn't reaching people spiritually, if people's hearts aren't right with God. So she very clearly has the view that spiritual significance is what God cares most about, that it's still important to do things like meeting people's needs, and that we should pray that God's will be done, in particular when we have the idea that a certain proposal might be God's will. We should "strive to do what's right", as she says when describing her son's enlistment, but we should pray that God is behind it also, accepting humbly that we might be wrong.

Now that being said, I think it's thoroughly opposed to the thrust of the Christian scriptures to say that God doesn't care about whether a pipeline is built. The Bible is very clear that God cares about even the things that seem least significant to us. He clothes even the sparrows, so obviously he's going to pay attention to the smallest details of what affects us. Whether a pipeline gets built can affect a lot of other things, so surely God cares about it. Whether he wants it built is another matter, but she never claimed to know that God wants it built, just that it won't happen unless he is behind it, since nothing happens without God being behind it, and thus those who do desire it should pray for it, since God asks us to bring requests to him.

Now she does have room for the biblical notion of coming to trust that God will do something through being given special assurance directly from God that it will happen. The apostle Paul calls this a gift of faith. She admits in retrospect that she thinks something like that was probably going on with this guy's prayer to make a way for her. I can't tell if she's saying that he didn't know she was running or if it's some other plans he didn't know, but it sounds as if he didn't know something crucial to the situation but just had been given faith to trust God to do something. But I haven't seen anything, despite many people's assumptions to the contrary from misreadings of her statements, that indicates that she thinks she can assume God wants to do something in any old instance. That sort of conclusion just shows unfamiliarity with typical evangelical ways of talking about praying for things. I do think a lot of Pentecostals do make those assumptions too often, but I haven't actually seen her doing it. The two examples people have pointed to don't seem to me to be that sort of thing at all.

Mollie Hemingway, a religion journalist, has written a pretty serious criticism of that L.A. Times article that was linked to a few comments ago. She makes some of the points I had to say but has a number more, some of which I didn't pick up on with my quick speed-read of the article.

Update: At the same site, which I highly recommend for evaluations of how the media covers, Mark Stricherz looks at the Muthee issue. I agree a lot less with his acceptance of the descriptions in the piece he's evaluating, but I did notice one interesting tidbit. This pastor could misleadingly be described of having driven this witch out of town, I suppose. You could even extremely uncharitably describe this as a witch hunt. But what the guy did is identify the cause of a troubled neighborhood as spiritual, and then look around for someone practicing the occult to blame. He found this woman who practiced divination, and then he did something absolutely awful. He prayed that the spiritual hold on the neighborhood because of her divination would be lifted. He later declared the spiritual hold on the area to be broken on the occasion of her leaving town, apparently not due to anything he had done directly to her but at most because he'd been praying against her. If you want to call that a witch hunt, go ahead, but be aware that it's almost a lie, given that most people think of witch hunts as actually using force against someone and usually killing them, and usually it doesn't count as driving someone out of town if you pray that they leave and they do.

"I see her being prayed for. One of the things he mentioned in the prayer had to do with witchcraft. What I don't see is her seeking anything at all..."

Hmmm, I see her going up there of her own free will to receive Muthee's blessing AFTER he said all those things. So yeah, she did have a choice and yes she did choose to be blessed by him. You might say that she did so because of the expectations of those gathered around her but I seek national leaders who have more spine and are not so easily swayed by peer pressure. No, I think it is clear that she heard everything Muthee said and went up to receive his blessing anyhow.

"Mollie Hemingway, a religion journalist, has written a pretty serious criticism of that L.A. Times article"

Great, you know what we have not heard? A denial from Sarah Palin or her staff. If Philip Munger is out to get Ms. Palin and is lying to do it, she has a simple way to refute it. Publicly call him a lier. Munger posted his comments nearly two weeks ago and to date the Palin/McCain camp has been dead silent about it. Does this mean he is telling the truth? Not necessarily, but if he is a lier and the story is gaining so much traction why not call him on it. The silence from Wasilla is deafening.

"You call yourself a Christian but deny the possibility of something the Bible regularly speaks of as something evil and worth avoiding? Then you call her belief irrational? I'm sure consistency is a big part of rationality, but I'm having a hard time putting together your claim to be a Christian and your dismissal of witchcraft as a silly thing to believe in."

This thread began on September 4, 2008 with two questions. Has Sarah Palin openly professed a belief in young earth creationism and if so, does it really matter? I believe the answers are yes and hell yes.

I think that Philip Munger is a credible witness not just a political hack. If you read more of his blog you'll find that he does not suffer fools lightly and is often as hard on democrats as he is republicans. Sure he doesn't seem to agree with Ms. Palin but if he is lying about her then call him on it. So far only silence.

Next we have her own comments about teaching creationism alongside evolution in the public schools. Not "Is this a philosophy that is open to discussion in public schools" but should it be taught alongside evolution, on a par with other sciences. She thought that it should. She then backpedaled a few days later adopting a more moderate tone, but her first unscripted answer remains there for all to see. Knowing that it could really sink her politically she has steadfastly avoided directly answering the question of her creationist beliefs since then. So yeah, I think that in the mid-90s she was a YEC. I think that even today she probably is a YEC, but her handlers have made it clear that she should never publicly reveal this.

Why does it matter? Quite simply because anyone who as a college educated person in their 30s thinks that the Earth is 6000 years old, that dinosaurs and humans co-existed, or that all the extant creatures on earth passed through a genetic bottleneck 4000 years ago by being reduced to a single breeding pair on a boat with a guy named Noah is NOT thinking rationally. What they are doing is placing their beliefs over and above overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They are willfully turning a blind eye to the facts and acting out of conviction rather than reason. Remind you of anyone? I'll give you a hint. WMD and Iraq.

THAT is why I think it matters. THAT is why I do not trust the nation's, and the world's, security in the hands of a woman who thought it was even possible that human footprints could be found within dinosaur footprints. THAT is why I think a belief in witches, or the tooth-fairy, or the Easter bunny is NOT something I want to see in a commander in chief.

You call yourself parable man yet you have spent hours defending a woman who apparently cannot distinguish a parable from a literal account of events.

God help us if thousands of years from now people speak of the parable of the woman who destroyed the earth thinking she was carrying out God's will.

She went up willingly, sure. But she didn't know exactly what he would pray for. Sure, she heard him say that Buddhism, Islam, witchcraft, and sorcery are barriers to the gospel, but they certainly are. So what? She didn't know he'd be thinking witchcraft would be a barrier to the particular thing she was doing, and she didn't know he'd be praying about that. It's clear from her response that what she liked about his prayer is that he was bold and trusted God that God would do something, even if he had know idea what was in her plans and what God might do. It's a little weird to treat her as if the witchcraft element is what she would emphasize about his prayer when it's not what she did emphasize.

There's a lot we haven't heard from Palin or her staff. The McCain campaign hasn't exactly been giving her free reign, and it's showed. The Palin of the Gibson interview was much more like the actual Palin. The Palin of the Couric interview looked as if she'd been told not to say anything substantive by the Bush team. Reports are now coming out that McCain is really upset at the Bush handlers his campaign has been keeping around her, so hopefully this will change, and the Palin who gave the RNC speech will appear at the debate on Thursday, and hopefully they'll allow her some public appearances and allow her to be herself for a change. We know there are lies about her that she hasn't specifically addressed, so the fact that she hasn't said anything about it isn't really evidence that he's telling the truth.

As for her next-morning clarification in an interview that had already been scheduled (not some several-days-later attempt to stem the media criticism), what she said is perfectly consistent with what she said in the debate. All she said in the debate is that she thinks teaching them both is ok. I teach a lot of things that aren't in my planned lecture notes. If I'm talking about the fine-tuning argument in my introductory philosophy class, I don't usually also discuss the biological intelligent design arguments like Behe and Demsbki's. But one time a student asked about them, so I discussed them. I taught them. I in fact taught it alongside the fine-tuning argument and discussed the evolutionary response to the argument while pointing out that the arguments themselves are perfectly consistent with evolutionary theory. So I taught them side by side. I did this without endorsing any of the views, and I did this without taking any stance on whether ID is science. I could do the same in a science class if a student raised it, and it would count as teaching ID alongside evolution. There's nothing problematic about that, so her initial response is perfectly ok and perfectly consistent with her clarification the next morning (before any media reports had said anything for her to prepare a response to; the only media report we know of came after her interview).

The only evidence for this is from a guy who admits that she says now that she no longer holds exactly that view, so you decide to interpret that in the least charitable way by assuming she's lying about changing her mind, because the alternative is to admit that she actually changed her view in the face of the evidence. Nice. That says more about you than about her.

You seriously misrepresent the WMD issue. You have a pretty jaundiced view of the purposes for invading Iraq if you think the Bush Administration thought their argument depended entirely on intelligence on WMD, and you also ignore the fact that even the incompetent and corrupt countries whose financial ties to Iraq prevented them from supporting the invasion were willing to accept the intelligence as legitimate. But this isn't really the place for that.

I still think you're grossly ignorant if you think witches are in the same category as the tooth fairy. There are indeed witches. Christians believe that witches can actually tap into demonic power, but even non-believers should admit that there are witches, even if they think witches are foolish in thinking they have magical powers. But I think it would be irrational for someone to claim to be a Christian and to deny that there are witches. You apparently think it's not irrational to be a Christian, but maybe you think it's irrational to be a Christian and to take the Bible as seriously as its authors took it.

I'm not sure what parable you're talking about. I don't see any parables in the first few chapters of Genesis. I see a poetically-ordered account of creation that clearly describes something the author intended us to believe actually, literally happened, even if the literal days in the account didn't happen in real time that way. It's theologically organized in a poetic way. But the terms are being used literally to describe something that may not have been chronologically organized in the way the account tells it. It's not easy to pick up on the hints of that, though, so I can understand why someone would take it to be referring to actual chronology. I don't myself think it's the best way to take the passage, but I can certainly understand someone's wanting to remain agnostic on the details of how science fits with Genesis, which is where she seems to be from her only public quote (and it fits with her second statement to Munger.

Your last statement seems to assume a very uncharitable interpretation of her prayers that God's will be done. Didn't we already have that conversation?

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