Cartoon Texan Rick Perry was asked this morning if he believed in evolution, and his answer was surprising. Not because he does not, in fact believe in evolution (it's just "a theory that's out there"), but because he admitted that the alternative to teaching evolution in schools is essentially religious indoctrination.
In New Hampshire today, a woman coached her child to ask Perry his views on evolution. Here's what he said:
"It's a theory that's out there," Perry told the child. "It's got some gaps in it. In Texas we teach both Creationism and evolution."
This is interesting for two reasons: 1) Texas does not, in fact, teach creationism, or anything like it. While the Texas State Board of Education did rather famously mandate in 2009 that its science textbooks include information on "alternatives" to evolution, no textbooks containing those alternatives have actually been approved for use as of yet. In fact, just last month the board voted to approve new science materials that exclusively teach evolution.
Secondly, no one seriously—or openly, at least—advocates the teaching of Creationism in public schools anymore. Aware that Creationism is an avowedly theological and fundamentally unscientific precept, Christianist activists have concocted a pseudo-scientific-sounding "theory" called "Intelligent Design" as a sort of stalking horse to sneak their creation myth into the public education curriculum. Creationism is crude Biblical literalism; intelligent design merely takes into account the glory and complexity of the universe and deduces that something created it. Who? Oh, we don't want to get into teaching religion in public schools—that would unconstitutional!
Since teaching Creationism is an obvious non-starter, Christian activists have devoted a great deal of time, money, and energy into pushing the idea that intelligent design is an actual theory, independent of Creationism, with its own scientific pedigree. A federal district court judge in Pennsylvania dealt that notion a severe blow in 2005 when he found an intelligent design-based curriculum unconstitutional because "the evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism." Rick Perry just dealt it a potentially more serious blow by admitting that even intelligent design's most vociferous proponents know it's just Creationism dressed up in a lab coat. Back to the drawing board.
[CNN, photo via Getty Images]