Saturday, May 5, 2007

Getting a Little Political -- Part 3

I watched some of the Republican debate the other night. There was a point at which the questioner asked for a show of hands of who does not believe in evolution. Much to my disgust, some hands went up.

I didn't catch whose hands those were, but I checked the New York Times online edition for the transcript, and they reported that the hands that went up belonged to Brownback, Huckabee, and Tancredo.

Assuming that the NYT transcript is correct, and assuming that the question's intent was clearly understood*, and assuming that we're not dealing with a semantic issue of what "believe in" means...these three men should automatically be deemed unelectable.

So here's where the semantic issue comes in:

Does "believe in evolution" mean "accept that evolution is a process that actually occurs"?

or...

Does "believe in evolution" mean "put your faith and trust in evolution"?

If it means the former, then Brownback, Huckabee, and Tancredo are addled. If it means the latter, then that's somewhat acceptable.

Here's where things get tricky: If you ask me whether "I believe in George W. Bush", my answer will be "No! No! NO!"

Does that mean that I am a denier of his existence? No. Certainly not. I believe he exists. I believe he's a dangerous ass. But I don't deny his existence.

So in that sense, I also don't believe in evolution, right? I don't put my faith in it. I don't believe it's working for my betterment. I don't believe it will provide any salvation to me or anyone else. I don't believe it will lead to an Eden here on Earth (or anywhere else). That's just dumb. But it is a process that happens in nature. So in that sense, you bet I believe in evolution. Just as I believe in fire. Just as I believe in gravity. Just as I believe in sexual reproduction among the mammals.

But I think that in common parlance "Do you believe in George W. Bush?" takes on one meaning and "Do you believe in evolution?" takes on another. It's a matter of semantics.

So, do we give them the benefit of the doubt? No way! Particularly not Brownback, who is a known fundamentalist religious nutjob. (For the record, I'm not saying that or casting any other aspersions on anyone's character here or anywhere else as a statement of fact, actionable as slander or libel. For the record, I'm saying it merely as a literary device. Call it parody. Call it satire. Call it what you like, but don't call it slander or libel, please!)

* Reading the transcript, the question seems less clear in its intent than it seemed as a spoken utterance. The questioner stumbled a bit on his phraseology. But having listened to it in real time, I believe the intent of the question was really quite apparent.

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