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Only in an American Presidential Debate

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In Thursday night’s Republican Presidential debate on MSNBC, 3 of the Republican candidates expressed something so shocking I almost couldn't believe it - that is, until I remembered whose party they hailed from.

Upon being asked if anyone on the stage “does not believe in evolution,” Senator Sam Brownback, Former Governor Mike Huckabee, and Representative Tom Tancredo raised their hands. That alone should spell an immediate end to their respective candidacies. It indicates that their minds have been so thoroughly poisoned by religious literalism - truly fundamentalism of the most dangerous kind - that they have lost touch with reality.

As if it needed repeating, there is no debate within the scientific community regarding the overwhelming validity of the Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. It is most unfortunate that a handful of religious extremists have created the illusion, in the public sphere, that there is anything to discuss as far as science is concerned.

What does need to be discussed, on the other hand, is the very nature of religious faith as a mode of knowing about the world. I submit to you that this is a clear case of faith having overstepped its bounds. Your faith should not require you to deny matters of overwhelming empirical fact. Faith operates within a different realm than that - a realm beyond the sensible world from which science extracts its data. As the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan once put it, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

As prominent Harvard biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Edward O. Wilson have insisted, there is no necessary conflict between religion and science, presuming the former deals with “why” and the latter with “how.” Those trained in the analysis of physical data should not pretend to philosophical or literary expertise, and those trained in the tradition of attempts to interpret the human condition should not pretend to scientific expertise.

Quite simply, our 3 dear Republican candidates overstepped their bounds as men of faith, Thursday night, by dissenting on a matter on which they clearly don’t have the education to be able to intelligently opine.

Matt Henderson
Millersville, PA

Millersville ‘06, Philosophy & Political Science

— Posted by Matt Henderson

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I hold bachelor of arts degrees in Philosophy and Political Science, as well as a minor in psychology.

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Only in an American Presidential Debate

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