Monday, March 19, 2012

Evolution Litmus Test

Evolution was introduced to the world in 1859 by English scientist Charles Darwin, who spent decades working on the supporting research.  Since then, it’s been tested and examined by top scientists worldwide.  In the process, it has been developed, expanded and conclusively demonstrated in laboratories and in the field.

It not only explains the world, it also is a great way to separate candidates running for political office.  Candidates opposed to evolution are doing so in the face of overwhelming evidence, logic and common sense.  In denying evolution, they are letting their religious views overshadow provable facts. 

Into the dustbin of history they should go, right along with Creationism.

Democrats have this issue sewed up.  President Barack Obama is running for re-election and has stated firmly that he “believes in evolution and supports teaching it in public school classrooms.” He has also said that” intelligent design and creationism should not be taught in a science classroom as they are more religion and faith based,” according to his website.

He is not alone.  Former Gov. Mitt Romney, the GOP frontrunner, declared in a speech: "I believe that God designed the universe and created the universe. And I believe evolution is most likely the process he used to create the human body.  In my opinion, the science class is where to teach evolution. If we're going to talk about more philosophical matters, like why [the world] was created, and was there an intelligent designer behind it, that's for the religion class or philosophy class or social studies class."

On the other hand, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, vying for the Republican conservative vote, insisted (historically incorrectly) that the United States was founded on Christian principles and prayer, and that Creationism should be in school curriculum. He is not opposed to replacing evolution with that pseudo-science.

Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, goes further.  He actively opposes evolution and wants intelligent design taught in schools instead.   For good measure, he doesn’t believe in Global Warming or in using embryonic stem cells for research. 

Of course, conservatives, with their “enlightened” approach to education, would -- in the words from Inherit the Wind -- take America “with banners flying and with drums beating … marching backward, backward, through the glorious ages of that Sixteenth Century when bigots burned the man who dared bring enlightenment and intelligence to the human mind.”

Despite that, Santorum and right-wing conservatives like him have touched a chord in some Americans.  According to a recent Public Religion Research Institute survey, 38 percent of Americans still ignore fossil records and insist that mankind hasn’t changed since creation.  About 32 percent of white evangelicals agree with that ill-logic.  Even 46 percent of African American Protestants back creationism.

This minority is trying to get states to go along. Legislators in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina — obviously the cream of the American educational system – have considered bills that would force teachers to include “views about the scientific strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory,” according the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based strategic center of the intelligent-design movement.

At least in Florida, that didn’t work.  The state’s Department of Education now requires schools to teach evolution, calling it “the organizing principle of life science.”

Candidates who insist on hanging onto their outmoded ideas might consider a sobering fact.  Attempts by religious conservatives to impose their views in the past have been incredible unsuccessful – Prohibition and restricting immigration from Catholic countries come to mind. 

Opposing evolution is a losing proposition anyway:  61 percent of Independent voters and 64 percent of Democrats recognize the reality of evolution, according to the 2012 Public Religion Research Institute survey.  Even 43 percent of Tea Party members do.  So do nearly 66 percent of white mainline Protestants, 61 percent of Catholics, and 77 percent of religiously unaffiliated voters.

In addition, almost three times as many voters in the poll said they would vote for a candidate who accepts evolution than those who would vote against such a candidate.

Any candidate who doesn’t recognize those figures is well on the way to becoming a dinosaur.  We all know how successful they were.

Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers. 

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