Texas Governor Rick Perry, one candidate for the Republican nomination in the 2012 US presidential election, made headlines when he failed to toe the evolutionary line at a New Hampshire campaign event. In response to a mother and son who asked him if he believed in evolution, he said, “It’s a theory that’s out there. It’s got some gaps in it. In Texas we teach both creationism and evolution. I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”1
In 2009, the Texas board of education changed the science standards to encourage exploring all sides of evolution, which many interpret as a not-so-subtle allowance for teaching Intelligent Design. While it’s incorrect to say that Texas schools teach creation, this is a common caricature.
While Perry’s comments hardly reflected a stereotypical ‘fundamentalist’ view on creation, it prompted a harsh reply from former Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford, Richard Dawkins, published in The Washington Post:2
“There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office.”
“ … a politician’s attitude to evolution, however peripheral it might seem, is a surprisingly apposite litmus test of more general inadequacy. This is because unlike, say, string theory where scientific opinion is genuinely divided, there is about the fact of evolution no doubt at all. Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science, and he who denies it betrays woeful ignorance and lack of education, which likely extends to other fields as well. Evolution is not some recondite backwater of science, ignorance of which would be pardonable. It is the stunningly simple but elegant explanation of our very existence and the existence of every living creature on the planet. Thanks to Darwin, we now understand why we are here and why we are the way we are. You cannot be ignorant of evolution and be a cultivated and adequate citizen of today.”
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