May 31, 2007

Brownback spins furiously

The New York Times has an opinion piece written by Sam Brownback (running for Repub. nomination for presidential candidate) in which he, like Huckabee, tries to minimize the damage done subsequent to his fateful hand-raise.

A masterpiece of talking out of both sides of one's mouth, Brownback's "What I Think About Evolution" should be required reading for anyone preparing for a career in political obfuscation. Let's look at a bit of it:
"The premise behind the question seems to be that if one does not unhesitatingly assert belief in evolution, then one must necessarily believe that God created the world and everything in it in six 24-hour days. But limiting this question to a stark choice between evolution and creationism does a disservice to the complexity of the interaction between science, faith and reason.
Seems reasonable enough, until one reads far enough to notice that, golly gee, Brownback says a lot of things that indicate he's a creationist, like,
The question of evolution goes to the heart of this issue. 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.
Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.
The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accident. That being the case, many believers — myself included — reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.
The unique and special place of each and every person in creation is a fundamental truth that must be safeguarded. I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.
Maybe he just doesn't want to be called a creationist. It would certainly be utterly unsurprising to find that a politician wants to manipulate his image so as to offend as few voters as possible.

Then there's this fluffy bit of hot air,
The heart of the issue is that we cannot drive a wedge between faith and reason. I believe wholeheartedly that there cannot be any contradiction between the two. The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God.
Brownback believes, wholeheartedly mind you, that there cannot be any contradiction between faith and reason. However, as in the quotes immediately preceding this one, he seems to be willing to do a lot of rejecting of possible scientific conclusions if and when they come into conflict with his faith. Even so, he says again a few paragraphs later,
Ultimately, on the question of the origins of the universe, I am happy to let the facts speak for themselves.
Indicating his willingness (wholehearted I presume) to accept the conclusions of science. But this is once more just a cynical nod to political expediency as he follows soon thereafter with,
It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.

Biologists will have their debates about man’s origins, but people of faith can also bring a great deal to the table. For this reason, I oppose the exclusion of either faith or reason from the discussion. An attempt by either to seek a monopoly on these questions would be wrong-headed. As science continues to explore the details of man’s origin, faith can do its part as well.
I see. So for Senator Sam, "as long as the facts of science don't contradict my faith, I'm willing, as should any rational person be, to accept the conclusions of science. Physics and cosmology are well left to scientists, but hey, when it comes to biology I think people of faith should have a place at the table." The sad thought is that this kind of nonsense will resonate with some.

And then we come to Brownback's stirring denoument of double-speak,
While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

Without hesitation, I am happy to raise my hand to that.
Now, is it just me, or is Sam happy to leave at least a few stones unturned? You know, like the ones that have something to say about whether Man ("M"?) was an accident or not?

Yeah, Sam's happy to accept that "The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates," and to "let the facts speak for themselves," as well as leave no stone "unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins." Sure, all of this is fine with him, as long as none of it undermines his personal concept of the "truth."

In other words, Senator Sam is full of shit.


Anonymous Dorian de Wind said...

Re: Senator Brownback’s NYTimes Op-Ed, “What I Think About Evolution”
I was well on my way to give Senator Brownback credit for a
dispassionate and balanced essay on the evolution vs. creationism
debate. That is, until I read his disappointing "my way or the highway"
conclusion. In his summation, the Senator magnanimously declares that he
will consider aspects of evolution "passing as science" just as long
as they do not contradict or undermine his indisputable beliefs in
creationism. Please, Senator Brownback, no more thinking or hand raising.. With “thinkers” like you we would still believe that the sun revolves around the earth.

Dorian de Wind

6:24 PM  
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