Rick Perry evolution question

Governor Rick Perry. How does his faith inform his decisions?
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The Rick Perry evolution question was all the rage two days ago, and raises at least three disturbing questions of its own.

What was the Rick Perry evolution question?

Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) traveled to New Hampshire on Thursday (August 18) and did what candidates do: mingle with the people. A small boy and his mother formed a “tag team” to ask him how old the earth is. He said that he didn’t know, and wasn’t prepared to say. Then the boy asked him whether he believes in evolution. Here is what Rick Perry actually said:

It’s a theory that’s out there. It’s got some gaps in it. In Texas we teach both creationism and evolution, because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one’s right.

Somehow the Associated Press preferred to quote him as saying only that “evolution is a theory that’s out there,” as if he were saying, “evolution is a crazy theory.” More on that below.

Then the boy’s mother chimed in:

Ask him why he doesn’t believe in science.

She asked that, not once, but twice. Perry turned away, to face a gang of hecklers who harangued him about another issue.

The Rick Perry evolution question in context

The man behind the Rick Perry evolution question - Governor Rick Perry

Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) addresses the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference. Photo: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic License.

The real context of the Rick Perry evolution question is not the state of education in Texas. (Recently the evolutionists gained the upper hand.) As Kevin D. Williamson writes in National Review, it is Rick Perry’s religious beliefs. Those beliefs inevitably clash with the “managerial progressivism” of the man now holding office as President, Barack H. Obama, and his supporters. And for them, the real question is whether the candidate agrees with them or not, not his “qualifications.” Again as Williamson pointed out, rival candidate Jon Huntsman shot back (on Twitter.com),

To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.

Predictably, the mainstream press finds that acceptable and Rick Perry’s answer unacceptable. In fact neither man is more, or less, qualified to speak on scientific matters than the other.

A child playing team tag in politics

The embedded video shows the Rick Perry evolution question, and the tag-team players who asked it: a schoolboy and his mother. Notice also that the mother asked,

Ask him why he doesn’t believe in science.

Two things are wrong with this scenario. First, a child asking an honest question is one thing. An adult pushing a child into playing “team tag” with another adult is another. This is only the latest example of adults using children as props to embarrass candidates with whom they disagree. In this YouTube Age, this sort of spectacle will happen again and again. But one question that the Associated Press, who shot the video, did not ask was:

  1. Was that boy’s mother really so obsessed and compelled about anyone who disagrees with evolution to pull such a stunt on her own? Or:
  2. Did someone put her up to it, or even pay her to do it?

The second problem is more basic: Rick Perry never said that he didn’t believe in science. He said that he was not sure that the theory of evolution is correct. He said that the theory of evolution cannot explain everything. And that much, even some evolutionists (the honest ones) will admit. The phrase missing link, to describe a “transitional form” that no one has yet found, is a classic example.

Willful distortion

This shows another thing wrong with the reporting on the Rick Perry evolution question. The Associated Press willfully distorted its report. The choice of title in their own upload of their own footage condemns them:

Perry: Evolution a ‘Theory That’s Out There’

Again, Rick Perry did not say, “evolution is a theory that’s crazy.” He meant to say, “evolution is a theory that everyone is talking about.” But how many people will ask what the phrase out there means? (They might be able to figure it out, if they listen carefully to Perry’s actual words.)

The right answer

The last problem with the Rick Perry evolution question is the answer he gave. He said only that evolution is questionable. He should have said that evolution is flat wrong. That’s not a matter of “not believing in science.” It might be a matter of not believing those who pretend to offer a scientific explanation. What they’re actually offering are a lot of “just so” stories. And, like the populace in Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” people are afraid to check them out. Afraid because the evolutionists have convinced everyone that anyone who disagrees with them is stupid or unfit for his post.

Evolutionism isn’t the only premise that people are afraid to check. Keynesianism, or the idea that a society can tax and spend its way to prosperity, is another. That the same people (with rare exception) propound both, is no coincidence. Rich Perry is one candidate willing to challenge both.

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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

27 Responses to Rick Perry evolution question

  1. Stan Lee says:

    Terry:

    There’s also another negative rumor floating around, regarding Rick Perry’s association “with Muslims.”
    Those reporting this fail to qualify that the Muslim is Aga Khan, leader of approx. 15-20 million Ismaili Muslims who have been adjudged as “infidels” by the two main divisions of Islam, Sunnis and Shias.

    The association was to shape an educational element in the Texas educational curriculum about Islam, which obviously would be via Aga Khan’s knowledge. I’m not a Texan, but that idea looks OK with me. It’s far better than having CAIR as an advisor.

    I haven’t seen any further clarification about this except in Front Page Magazine, column by David Stein, Aug. 2011, Editor, David Horowitz. It’s titled “Five Myths About Rick Perry.”
    Once again, I must accuse the “elitist press” for not reporting the whole story.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      I had heard the Muslim rumor, but not these details. Thanks for clarifying. And for giving the reference.

  2. What the nation has witnessed, is the snobbery of the mainstream media, attempting to marginalize the GOP candidate as being Neanderthal, simply because he doesn’t accept, hook, line and sinker the political correctness of the willingness to accept “evolution” as a core [immmovable] religious belief.

    Mainstream media and those who look to evolution as a be all and end all, blind themselves to the scientific reality that evolution is an unproven theory and without credible basis.

    Shoving aside Creator God, as first cause, those who gullibly hold their religious belief in evolution, make themselves out to be religious nuts, believing in pure random chance for their existence. What could be more foolish and anti intellectual than that?

  3. Geno says:

    Perry’s comment about theories doesn’t bother me. What I find disturbing is his declaration that:
    “In Texas we teach both creationism and evolution,”

    Perry knows, or should know, every court that has reviewed the matter has ruled creationism to be a religious belief and evolution to be he prevailing scientific theory.

    Further, I find his declaration these students are “smart enough to figure out which one’s right” disturbing. These are children who aren’t “smart enough” to sign a binding contract or even decide if they should get a flu shot, but he believes they have the capability to examine multiple lines of complex evidence in an introductory class and make a reasoned evaluation of a scientific theory. As a high school science teacher, I have a pretty good first hand knowledge of the ability of these children to understand science….. and they’re nowhere near ready to determine the validity of scientific theories.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      You do realize, of course, that you lay yourself open to the very charge that you are making. What’s worse, yours is a highly paternalistic, anti-freedom outlook. Which is exactly the sort of outlook that The Man Now Holding Office As President of the United States has made everybody positively sick and tired of.

      • fliteking says:

        Well said.

      • Geno says:

        Terry claims I’m laying myself open to the same charge I’m making. Let’s make it perfectly clear what the charge is. I’m accusing Perry of openly stating Texas is engaging in unconstitutional activity. Further, Perry, by his actions endorses this unconstitutional activity. There are numerous court decisions including at least two by the United States Supreme Court that the teaching of creationism in the public school science curricula is unconstitutional. Your comments indicate to me that you support this unconstitutinal behavior.

        Paternalistic?
        Well, Terry, we are talking about 14-16 year olds here. Most of them aren’t even old enough to drive a car. These students are just being introduced to basic biology and chemistry. Perry seems to believe these kids are qualified to rule on the validity of scientific theories developed by those in multiple disciplines who have spent more years working in the field of study than these children have spent breathing. Do you agree with that position?

        Anti-freedom?
        Terry, I seriously resent that one. More than twelve years of my life has been spent defending our freedoms …. including yours.

        I fully support the right of teachers to present any valid scientific theory in a science class.

        First: we don’t have enough time now to adequately teach mainstream science, we certainly don’t have the time to present “fringe” ideas.
        Second: Valid science is determined by the scientific community. Not legislatures. Not school boards. Not courts. Not groups of educators. Not governors. And, most obvious of all….. not children.

        I absolutely support the right of parents to control the religious training of their children. It is made absolutely clear to my students when we discuss evolution or the Big Bang that some of what we will cover may be in conflict with their religious beliefs. There will be no effort to change those beliefs and they are free to walk out of class and say it’s a bunch of “crap” (their word). What is expected is that in class they will be able to tell me what science says and why science says it.

        BTW, few parents know they can have their children be taken out of class and given alternative assignments for material they object to for religious reasons. They can also have thier child take a school approved “distance learning” alternative for an entire class. I’ve had parents do both.

        As for Obama…. I don’t like him any more than you do.

        • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

          And who are the scientific community? Do you now admit that what you call “the scientific community” has a committee of gatekeepers who decide what shall carry the imprimatur of “science” and what shall not?

          Your statement about “not groups of educators, not governors,” etc. is by definition a paternalistic statement. And an arrogant one.

          The problem is that what (or rather, whom) you call “science” “says” that uniformitarianism, abiogenesis, and common descent are true because they (that is, that committee of gatekeepers the existence of which you now admit) do not want to admit that any Intervenor in nature exists, the nature of Whom they cannot elucidate. But you won’t find that on any test. What you will find instead is a pack of lies masquerading as “derived data” or even pretending to be raw data.

          • Geno says:

            No, Terry, there is no such thing as a “committee of gatekeepers” in science. Scientific publications do have a process of “peer review” and the peers vary from paper to paper and publication to publication.

            I guess we’ll have to disagree about what constitutes “arrogance” with regard to one’s qualifications to determine what is, or is not, a valid scientific theory. I happen to think, for example, a political hack who’s only scientific background seems to be completing a degree in “animal science” with a 2.2 gpa isn’t nearly as qualified to determine whether evolution is a valid scientific theory as the molecular biologist who has worked in the field for 20 or 30 years. You can, of course disagree with that if you wish but I feel the “arrogance,” if any, is on the part of those with little or no scientific training presuming to have the qualifications to properly evaluate the validity of scientific theories that they most likely don’t even understand.

            You probably think a plumbing contractor with a political appointment to a state board of education is more qualified than a molecular biologist, paleontologist, or archaeologist who has worked in their field of expertise for a dozen or more years to evaluate the evidence supporting a scientific theory. I think THAT is arrogance.

          • Geno says:

            One more thing….we call them PHYSICAL and NATURAL sciences for a reason. Can you guess what that reason could be?

            They are limited in their scope to physical and/or natural explanations. Supernatural acts and spiritual entities are outside the limitations of these sciences to investigate.

          • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

            That doesn’t excuse them clinging to null hypotheses when every rule of statistics demands the rejection of those null hypotheses.

            Is this why you consistently refused Walt Brown’s debate offers?

          • Geno says:

            Terry asked:
            “Is this why you consistently refused Walt Brown’s debate offers?”

            Be fair here, Terry. Dr. Brown and I have consistently refused each other’s debate offers. Simply stated, he doesn’t want to have a written debate and I don’t want to have a verbal one.

            My reasons for declining Dr. Brown’s verbal debate offers have been fully explained to both Terry and Dr. Brown. Since Terry has chosen to raise the issue, here they are again:

            1) The issues I raise would necessarily include calculations and research that would require additional time, a timed debate is not suitable.
            2) Verbal debates are often decided by “soundbite” not substance. (Example: Reagan’s “there you go again” comment to Carter.)
            3) Dr. Brown offers written exchanges that can be posted on-line between sessions if necessary. (This change in Brown’s telephone debate offer was made after I pointed out (1) to him.)
            a) Few, if any, listeners would bother to look up these exchanges.
            b) If these exchanges can be done, so can the written debate I propose.
            4) Inclusion of (undisclosed) matters not raised by me. This makes it possible for Brown to bring up issue after issue and divert the focus of the debate from my claims.
            5) Dr. Brown states he has participated in “about twenty” of these debates. I have participated in none. This, plus his 19 years of “one month per year presenting full-day seminars” mean he will have a highly polished presentation. (See objection 2)

            From my perspective, I would be under a significant disadvantage in a timed, verbal debate. Just because we would each have approximately equal time and an agreed on moderator doesn’t mean the playing field would be either fair or level.

            It is worth note Brown has complained his opponent could “cover up” not having done their “homework” in the debate format I proposed. I have already pointed out to him the exact same thing could be said of his opponent in the standing challenge to a written debate. I see no difference.

          • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

            You ignore the Written Debate offer. The verbal debate is one thing, but Brown does have a written debate offer on the table. In fact, his idea is that the written debate would fill a book! You would have ample time to do your calculations between rounds. As would he.

            So when you say that “Dr. Brown doesn’t want to have a written debate”—with all due respect, you are incorrect. The most charitable suggestion I can make to you is: Check back with him.

          • Geno says:

            I guess I wasn’t clear enough. Brown has specifically told me I’m not “qualified” for his written debate offer…. and Terry knows it because he’s been provided with a complete record of the discussion between Brown and I by both of us.

            Brown is not interested because:
            1) I do not meet the requirement of having a PhD.
            2) It is my position all life on Earth would be destroyed by his model. If that is the case, nothing else about it matters. Brown wants the written debate to encompass his entire book. I’m only interested in defending my assertion his model would sterilize the planet.

          • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

            He wasn’t interested because you were going to argue through circular reasoning. “Your theory does not work under my theory, and therefore your theory must be wrong.”

            Though you yourself don’t have the PhD, he would allow you to go out and recruit a PhD. A written debate is too big to be one-on-one. He was willing to take on a team.

          • Geno says:

            Terry claims:
            He wasn’t interested because you were going to argue through circular reasoning. “Your theory does not work under my theory, and therefore your theory must be wrong.”

            Geno answers:
            Circular? Really? In the case of the “Fire and Brimstone” model I’ve posted to your pages, why not tell me what’s “circular?” Even Brown doesn’t dispute that some material will fail to escape Earth’s gravity. The question is how much. This is a steam-driven process, Terry. I’m allowing for 95% of the material Brown says was launched to space to escape Earth’s gravity and there’s STILL enough heat energy from reentry to boil every drop of water on the planet. Noah and his zoo would be dead a long time before that. Do you really think 95% of that launched material will escape?

            Brown also has half the water in Earth’s oceans being released from underground caverns where it was stored at temperatures above 700F. Have you even considered the latent heat of condensation as that water changes from steam back to liquid? Even Brown realizes you can’t radiate that much energy to space. Or do you two still argue you’re going to get a “refrigeration effect” from 700F steam?

            #####
            Terry points out:
            Though you yourself don’t have the PhD, he would allow you to go out and recruit a PhD

            Geno answers:
            I have no desire or interest in recruiting anyone else. If Brown has no wish to take me on, that’s fine.

            #####
            Terry claims:
            A written debate is too big to be one-on-one

            Geno answers:
            Only if one is going to deal with Brown’s entire work.

            However, if his model sterilizes the planet, nothing else matters…. does it? For example, doesn’t matter how the Grand Canyon or Mid-Atlantic Ridge formed if Noah’s goose is cooked.

            I can show his model will sterilize the planet with a couple pages of calculations (at the most).

            BTW, in Brown’s written debate offer he states:
            “Evolutionists who disagree with these proposed debate procedures but wish to participate can propose their own suggestions for a written, strictly scientific debate.” In keeping with that offer, I have offered two suggestions for alternative formats. Brown has rejected one and ignored the other.

          • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

            Well, of course the written debate has to deal with Brown’s entire work. And with all the mistaken assumptions in Geno’s model.

            And steam? No, not steam. Supercritical water.

  4. Geno says:

    Terry conveniently ignores my point that the remainder of Brown’s work is irrelevant if his model destroys all life on Earth.

    Also, it’s only supercritical water while it’s under at least 3200 psi of pressure with a temperature over 700F. The instant the pressure drops below that point… like when it reaches the atmosphere, it will begin to boil.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Geno ignores my own point that he has not made and cannot make anything close to a convincing showing on this question of “par-broiled earth.”

      • Geno says:

        Tell ya what, Terry….

        You have an engineering degree….

        I’ve been asking you for months to do a simple “back of the envelope” calculation of Brown’s model. How about you take me on in a written evaluation of the issues I raise with Brown’s model and show all my errors? You can even have Dr. Brown coach you.

  5. […] Goldberg talking about Rick Perry? He never […]

  6. vintango2k says:

    @ Terry

    Scientists are keeping creationists out for one simple reason. They failed. Every hypothesis they’ve put forward has failed the test of peer review or is untestable to begin with. Evolution is the dominant scientific theory until we find some newer more valid model, which creation science has never done and will never do unless the Almighty comes down from on high and says, “Yeah it was all me, I just made it look 99.9999% conclusively that species evolve over time, but I get bored existing for eternity so periodically I like to pull little pranks.”
    Its been proven through observation of speciation in ring species like the Ensatina salamander and more importantly the entire science of genetics is founded upon it. More importantly the science of paternity testing and forensics through DNA evidence is slam dunk proof for common ancestry. When the government recovered an old civil war iron clad that had sunk, they were able to DNA test the corpses on board and they managed to confirm ancestry with several families who descended from those corpses. You see, dear Terry, within our DNA code are Lines and Sines, or markers that show heredity, not only with your parents, but variances in them, can show your relationship with your grandparents, great grandparents, great great grandparents…. your long removed European cousins, your long removed African cousins, your distantly removed chimpanzee cousins, your even more distantly removed gorilla cousins, and so on and so. Modern day phylogenetic science is based off this principle and has usurped traditional taxonomy in every way shape and form, in that, once we discover a new species of animal, we can sequence its DNA and discover its relation to other sequences species.

    To conclude, the fact that Rick Perry, the governor of my state, doesn’t believe in something that his scientific advisers will tell him is proven science is ridiculous, he’s simply just pandering to evangelicals. He might not personally accept it, and that’s worrisome, in that I will not vote for someone who thinks that the sky is red because an old book told him so, when there’s overwhelming evidence to the contrary that it is… in fact… blue.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Peer review? What a joke. I’ve been there. It’s a fix! If your “peers” are not willing to think outside the box, then your “peers” will try to stick you into that same box.

      As to your example of genetic testing of dead US Navy sailors: you took a forward- looking example and cite it to prove a backward-looking process? Don’t even think about it.

      For the record: not one genetic study has ever established an unbroken line of descent from “goo” to “you.” You can place a species in its family, but you cannot show that a single ancestor gave rise to predators (family Felidae or Canidae, for example) and grazers (family Cervidae). For those who don’t know what those families are: they are the Dog Kind, the Cat Kind, and the Deer Kind.

      Life does not have a single tree. It has great orchards of them. The most likely branching-off point is at the family level. (Man is a special case. Nothing is really related to him.) It might even be at the generic level. In either case, a vessel built to the dimensions that Genesis 6 gives, would have ample space for the animals and their foodstuffs. A certain amateur naval engineer named Tim Lovett has shown this. (He titled his work Thinking Outside the Box, by the way.) He has also shown that this vessel would be eminently seaworthy and strike the best balance among stability, structural strength, and seakindliness.

      You have—barely—more of an excuse than Bernie Goldberg had, because you are not (as far as I know) even a semi-professional journalist, as I have become. (Goldberg has the least excuse; he’s a pro, or at least he is supposed to be one.) Now I would urge you to look some of this stuff up. In a few days, I might present some of this research, that I have already written up elsewhere.

  7. will fraser says:

    The commenters above supporting Perry’s criticisms of sceince need to go back to 5th grade. You missed something.
    perry is an ignoramus, much like many of this columns twisted readers.
    Will Dallas Texas

  8. David E. says:

    Anti-evolutionary ideas are not creationism, are not conservative, are not scientific and are not biblical. Creation evolves. It’s time to get over it. :)

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      So you’re coming after me from Chris Ashcraft’s CreationTalk list, are you? Well, now that you have found this site, you might want to hit the Creation category tab and browse some of the articles there. You might learn something.

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