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Republican Candidates and Evolution: A Sharp Learning Curve Not Yet Negotiated

05/04/2007 07:06 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In the wake of this week's Republican debate, evangelical preacher and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has further elucidated his lack of belief in evolution.

He was one of several 2008 candidates on the nationally televised debate stage who raised their hand when asked if they don't believe in it.

Huckabee now tells the AP that he believes students should be given credit for studying various theories and coming to their own conclusions.

Really? So if my child works through the options and concludes that humans evolved from, say, bowling pins, or space aliens (aka Scientology), that's ok? And the teacher should hand out an extra gold star -- for critical thinking?

If that's the academic height we're scaling, it'll be "Every child left behind" in short order.

Christianity is a religious "faith." The word faith means believing something without knowing the truth of it. There's nothing wrong with "taking things on faith" as they say. We do it every day. We have faith in family and friends, in the car in front of us on the freeway. This isn't magical thinking, it's real love combined with practical, day-to-day living.

In a religious context, the definition of faith generally includes a strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny.

That's fine for personal or spiritual fulfillment, so chosen. It isn't fine, however, to teach that dinosaurs once hung out with our ancestors in the back yard, à la the Flintstones, or that the earth is only 6,000 years old when we know it's more like 4 or 5 billion, with a "b."

We don't have to be theologians to recognize that belief in the Bible is a matter of faith. Thus, the Book of Genesis is decidedly not one of the "various theories" -- alongside evolutionary biology, for God's sake -- to explain the development of life on Earth. One is totally faith-based, the other fact-based.

Yet get this: Gallup polling in 2004 actually showed that 45% of our fellow citizens believe the fictional tale of Adam and Eve in the Garden is literally true. A thin majority of 51% disagree.

This enlightenment gap is embarrassing. It's been a long time since religion and science were legitimate "competitors" for ownership of man's accumulated knowledge. If they were, we'd still be burning witches at the stake.

Such legal quackery faded 300 years ago, while muddled thinking lives on in the 21st Century.

When President Bush said of the battle between evolution and creationism in 2005, "Both sides ought to be properly taught...so people can understand what the debate is about," he revealed that he views religious faith and scientific fact as the same coin. "Both sides," he put it. Heads or tails. (Sort of like conflating 9/11 and Iraq, but I digress.)

Bush is mixing public education with denominational Sunday School. Saudi Arabia, hardly alone in this world, does precisely that as a country. The Kingdom officially educates its youth in Wahhabi schools that demand fealty to fundamentalist Sunni Islam, inherently fomenting intolerance.

Our Founders, on the other hand, wisely crafted a separation of church and state.

The AP story also quotes Huckabee as saying, "'I'm not sure what in the world this {the controversy} has to do with being president of the United States.''

Unfortunately, he might be on to something. Basic intellectual rigor sure hasn't proven a job requirement for the current White House occupant.