11/11/16, 7:32 pm PST: Some elements of this article along with the title have been updated to more accurately reflect the facts as we know them.
There’s something about Donald Trump’s vice president-elect that seems to have escaped the media narrative: he’s a radical Christian whose belief in “intelligent design” suggests he likely subscribes to the notion of a biblical young earth (around 6,000 years-old according to some, while others will allow for 10,000 years. Other believers in intelligent design will avoid the question of the earth/universe’s age altogether), and he wants this form of religious charlatanry taught in public schools.
Mike Pence‘s belief in a young earth isn’t proven, but his rhetoric is designed to pander to those who do.
When he was confronted on the subject by MSNBC’s Chris Matthews back in 2009, Pence did everything he could to avoid acknowledging the scientific fact of evolution. It was a pathetic display of pandering to the anti-science religious voter.
But during his tenure as a U.S. Congressman, Pence wasn’t so evasive.
During an impassioned speech on the House floor in 2002, Pence regurgitated the ignorant ‘evolution is only a theory’ theme, and declared that “intelligent design” should be taught to children as a scientific alternative with equal weight.
“I believe that God created the known universe, the earth and everything in it, including man,” Pence said. “And I also believe that someday scientists will come to see that only the theory of intelligent design provides even a remotely rational explanation for the known universe.”
“I would simply and humbly ask, can we teach it as such and can we also consider teaching other theories of the origin of species?” Pence continued. “Like the theory that was believed in by every signer of the Declaration of Independence. Every signer of the Declaration of Independence believed that men and women were created and were endowed by that same Creator with certain unalienable rights. The Bible tells us that God created man in his own image, male and female. He created them.”
Writing for Patheos, Michael Stone points out that Pence’s false and misleading claim that creationism is a valid scientific alternative to the theory of evolution is a tactic widely used by evangelicals to undermine the way science is taught in the public school system.
Pence, like many advocates for creationism, is uninformed and uneducated as to what the term “theory” means in a scientific context. For the record, the scientific definition of “theory” is quite different from the everyday use of the word.
As the National Academy of Science notes, the “formal scientific definition of theory is quite different from the everyday meaning of the word. It refers to a comprehensive explanation of some aspect of nature that is supported by a vast body of evidence.
Say what you want about either of the candidates in the 2016 race for president. But it’s undeniable that a religious extremist with dreams of theocracy is near the top of one of the tickets.
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