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Putting Anti-Evolution Candidates On the Spot 1583

hmccabe writes "YouTube is currently taking submissions for their next debate, in which the Republican candidates will answer questions. This seems like a good opportunity to challenge those candidates who say they do not believe in evolution. But since I am not an expert in the subject, I would be interested in how you all feel the question should be presented. For my own part, I think it is important to present the overwhelming body of evidence on the subject as incontrovertible fact, much the same way DNA evidence is presented during a criminal trial, and ask why the candidate feels they can pick and choose what facts they believe in. Moreover, I am wary of coming across like Christopher Hitchins, so vitriolic the candidate will defend themselves rather than answer the question. Perhaps the most important aspect of posing the question is to inform the viewers who watch the debate that this is really not a matter of opinion, but of science. So my question is: 'Hey geneticists, have you considered addressing evolution in the YouTube debates? Can you do it in 30 seconds?'"
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Putting Anti-Evolution Candidates On the Spot

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:07PM (#20269835)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:08PM (#20269837)
    There's a lot of stuff on there that makes me question whether or not people are evolving.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by letxa2000 ( 215841 )

      Whether or not someone believes in evolution is probably a good question for someone applying for a job as a scientist investigating evolution. I'm not sure it really has anything to do with politics. The only question even somewhat related to evolution that seems applicable is "Will you let your religious beliefs interfere with the way you govern?" That's a more general question that does have relevance.

      What are we going to ask politicians next? Whether or not they believe in string theory? That the

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 17, 2007 @09:09PM (#20270653)
        So you don't consider the ability to use logic and reason important?
      • Belief in evolution is a dividing point between rational people and the 'faithful'. I believe there's no better yes or no question ["Do you believe that humans evolved from much simpler life forms over millions of years?"] for dividing people in the US these days.

        Now, between a rational person and an irrational, person full of faith, I'd probably take the rational one I disagreed with over the irrational one I disagreed with. Because I'd have a chance of reasoning with the rational person. It's hard to change someone's mind when they ignore evidence and logic.
        • I believe there's no better yes or no question ["Do you believe that humans evolved from much simpler life forms over millions of years?"] for dividing people in the US these days.
          I think the better question to ask is the more specific one:

          There are many aspects of the theory of evolution from the principle of natural selection to genetic drift to speciation to common descent. What parts of the theory, if any, do you feel are invalid and why?
          The answer to that question can come in many forms, and allows a person to reveal themselves in much more detail than the more straightforward yes/no question. For example, you might answer that you accept all of the aspects of evolution except for common descent of man. This is a radically different position than answering that you don't understand the differences between these aspects, but are sure that your particular religious text got it right.

          One is a valid, if highly unlikely possibility.

          One is an indicator of simple ignorance.
      • It's plenty relevant. You wouldn't want to elect somebody who holds power over the lives of hundreds of millions of people and trillions of dollars who based major decisions on faith?

        I mean, if he honestly believes the world is only 6000 thousand years old, who knows what other wacky shit he goes to bed with comfortably at night?

        And before you think I'm trolling, I'll ask all of you here this: Would you, or would you not, vote for somebody to believed the biblical rapture was close to happening and that their main priority was laying the groundwork for it to kick off?
      • I'm not sure it really has anything to do with politics...The only question even somewhat related to evolution that seems applicable is "Will you let your religious beliefs interfere with the way you govern?"

        Someone who believes that their ancient "holy book" is a better guide to questions of objective fact than the best scientific knowledge, has a bad relationship with reality, and should not be trusted with authority.

        If someone's religious beliefs interfere with their perception of reality, it will definitely interfere with the way they govern.

        Indeed, maybe the best thing is to broaden the question: "Mr. Candidate, while we all have our own internal spiritual lives, which are very important, we also all share the same objective world. What do you believe is the best way to learn about that objective world: observation and experimentation, or ancient religious texts? And why? (And if ancient religious texts, how do you know which ones?)"

      • by vistic ( 556838 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @09:41PM (#20271067)
        To me it matters because it would demonstrate someone who thinks rationally and has an appreciation for science (after this administration which flat out hates scientists)... it also would demonstrate to me someone who is willing to stand up for what makes sense even when a sizable portion of the population is against it.

        Imagine if an atheist ran for president.

        I want someone... for a change... who represents my view. We don't need to keep electing more-of-the-same candidates who are "willing to listen" to my side of things. It's about time the other sides actually had... well... actual representation in government.
  • Hitchens? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vought ( 160908 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:08PM (#20269839)

    I am wary of coming across like Christopher Hitchins, so vitriolic the candidate will defend themselves rather than answer the question.
    Just don't record your question drunk. That oughta do the trick.
  • Anti-Evolution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Pretendstocare ( 816218 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:11PM (#20269879) Homepage
    Which candidate's are Anti-Evolution exactly?
  • What's the point? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ThosLives ( 686517 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:11PM (#20269885) Journal

    What's the point of bringing it up in an election debate? Aside from educational funding, stance on evolution really isn't even on my radar for politicians.

    If I was going to ask a question, I'd ask "How will you calm the media down from distracting issues like evolution and focus on real issues for which governmental action is appropriate?"

    Now that is a question I want to hear politicians answer!

    • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:14PM (#20269929)
      no, it goes towards their core values, which is VERY influential on issues like which science research to fund. thank guys like this for bans on stem cell research.
      • Libertarian answer (Score:3, Interesting)

        by thule ( 9041 )
        Why is the government on the *federal* level funding science? At most you could argue that it could find science that is directly impacts military standards and equipment for the Navy.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by gardyloo ( 512791 )
          I'm writing this as a beneficiary of Navy funds for my Doctorate thesis project; my roommate and many of my fellow students were beneficiaries of Air Force funding, etc.
          We did research which may have considerable military application in 10 - 20 years. That's probably why we were funded. But what we learned (particularly Xavier Perez-Moreno's project, which was mentioned here on Slashdot about 5 months ago, and which was touted as having impact on optical switches for computers, etc.) w
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Copid ( 137416 )

          Why is the government on the *federal* level funding science? At most you could argue that it could find science that is directly impacts military standards and equipment for the Navy.

          Economist's answer: Research for its own sake is an extremely risky financial endeavor. Individual companies investing in it may hit the jackpot, but they'll more likely than not lose their initial investment. If there's no high-probability reward in sight, a typical firm would have to be crazy to devote a large chunk of

        • Progressive answer (Score:5, Insightful)

          by sam_handelman ( 519767 ) <> on Friday August 17, 2007 @09:19PM (#20270817) Homepage Journal
          Because they do a damn good job of it, that's why.

            The NSF and NIH are far from perfect, and as taxpayers (I'm a scientist, as well) we are entitled to many critical improvements in transparency, but they are vastly more efficient than equivalent systems in Europe (I don't know so much about asia) which are riddled with hidebound cronyism, or than private systems in the US which are extremely wasteful and seldom private anyway (see next paragraph). I really shouldn't need to defend DARPA on slashdot - maybe computers are not your thing though.

            Anyhoo, the reason we have computers, container shipping, automation, tele-operation, intelligent drug design and genetic engineering is because the US Federal government payed the R&D costs. Sometimes they provided outright subsidies, but they also provided an initial customer base without which many of these technologies couldn't have been developed to the point that became viable as consumer-oriented enterprises. Personally, I think that the general public is entitled to some of that money back, once technologies developed at public expense become profitable, but this is penny-pinching on my part: the return on the investment in computer technology, for example, has been absolutely fabulous.

            Now, a lot of this was done through the military system - but what the military *buys* seldom really has much to do with what the military really needs. DARPA, in particular, is in the business of providing a military cover for technology that is in fact being developed for the supposedly-ancillary civilian purposes. They also do research which really does have a military motivation: it's about 50:50.

            If you're some kind of fanatic who believes in the infinite grace of market forces:
          1) You are about as connected to reality as a creationist.
          2) You are proposing that we scrap the most powerful engine of technological and economic growth in human history because it doesn't groove with your ideological fantasy worldview. If you have a big bushy mustache, that's *two* things you have in common with Stalin.
    • by Suicyco ( 88284 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:20PM (#20270003) Homepage
      So, the fact that somebody may or may not be completely insane, and stupid on top of that, means nothing to you?

      Anybody who believes in creationism is unfit to lead in any capacity, because it is a symptom of a mind gone bad. They refuse to listen to reason, lack the ability to think rationally and are incapable of formulating solid factual ideas. They are utter morons and the fact that they believe in creationism is just a sign post to their idiocy, much as if they believed (truly believed) in santa claus, the easter bunny or crop circles.

      I don't want anybody in a leadership capacity who is capable of believing in something so provably false, whatever that may be. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans are just as stupid, so it probably doesn't really matter anyway.

      A politicians stance on evolution is a huge indicator of their state of mind. They are either liars, stupid or both. Which bodes ill for all the decisions they would be making, and their reasoning (as it were) behind those decisions.

      Would you vote for somebody, who was asked simply in a debate if they believed in the Sun, and they said "NO"? That doesn't seem to matter much, unless you look at it from a larger point of view. Obviously, somebody who doesn't believe in the sun is a supreme idiot or is totally insane.
      • Re:What's the point? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:51PM (#20270403) Journal
        Creationism is for neither idiots nor the insane. A lot of Creationists/ID believers are actually fairly intelligent and level headed. Instead, they are delusional. That's a whole other ball of wax compared to stupid or insane. Of course, being stupid or insane tends to favor the delusion a bit better...

        Delusional people can be much more dangerous because they do have intelligence and behave normally, and are able to apply their delusion to direct and meaningful actions.

        And no, I don't think we should elect a delusional man as our leader, even though we have a history of doing so.
    • by clarkcox3 ( 194009 ) <> on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:58PM (#20270511) Homepage

      What's the point of bringing it up in an election debate? Aside from educational funding, stance on evolution really isn't even on my radar for politicians.
      Because a willingness to believe in magic despite evidence to the contrary is a sign either:
      1. Stupidity - i.e. they are unable to understand the evidence.
      2. Lack of moral fortitude - i.e. they are willing to ignore the truth in order to get money, power, fame, whatever.
  • by Keebler71 ( 520908 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:13PM (#20269911) Journal
    Do you really care what the answer is or do you just want to know how best to ask a question to make the GOP candidates look bad? From the summary it sounds like the latter. Just curious ...
    • by hmccabe ( 465882 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:59PM (#20270519)

      First, let me thank you for posing a good question in an intelligent way. It's why I posed this question to /. instead of someplace else.

      Honestly, it's mostly the latter, but not because they're GOP candidates. Rather I feel the overwhelming problem in politics on both sides is a refusal to look at facts. After 6+ years of the Bush administration, there has been almost constant controversy regarding the administration's refusal to admit things that are painfully obvious to a critical observer. (e.g., Saddam's involvement in 9/11, the WMD justification, etc.) We would not tolerate this of judges or police, but politicians are given a pass. If this is a chance to make someone defend what I feel is an indefensible position, I feel it is important to take it.

      As another poster already said, it's a question of character. When a candidate goes on record saying something like this, it's because they are either pandering for votes, or because they truly deny the mountain of physical evidence that shows how evolution works. I feel that in either case, it shows someone who is unfit to lead this nation.

      As an aside, my personal favorite example of someone who dealt with science in politics correctly was a Republican: Eisenhower. He responded to the Soviets in the space race by increasing the funding for science education, showing the USSR that we were up to the challenge to being more brilliant than them. I would modern presidential hopefuls would demonstrate the same kind of character.

  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:16PM (#20269949)
    It seems to me that a great many American's don't believe that evolution occurred. Confronting a candidate on this issue is more likely to boost support among these people than it is to erode support among people who already know that the target candidate is a throw-back to the 14th century. This might do more to energize the religious right if they get a bee in the bonnet over a perceived attack on their beliefs.

    The pro-evolution camp might win the debate, by lose the election.
  • by kihjin ( 866070 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:17PM (#20269953)
    I honestly don't give two craps whether a person believes or doesn't believe that evolution is concrete fact. What matters to me is whether the belief or lack of belief results in a regressive, narrow minded, receptiveness to scientific research and inquiry.

    Candidates which don't "believe in evolution" may be in the habit to reject other scientific evidence which conflicts with whatever goes on in their minds.
  • bad idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by doctorzizmore ( 999192 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:18PM (#20269977)
    I think it's actually a very bad idea to get into sound-byte debates with creationists, because that is exactly the kind of debate they want. You can't explain the science in 30 seconds, but they can certainly rattle off all their "evidence" in that amount of time. You also run the risk of legitimizing them by getting into a debate in the first place. You don't see geologists getting into debates with crazy people on the street who say the Earth is flat, because it's not something that sane people debate. This is a problem that needs to be attacked at the root (in schools while children are young) and in long-format discussions.
  • The anti-evolutionist sentiment held by most of the Republican candidates is HARDLY the place to start the questioning. I'll give a sample of topics for candidates, so they can respond to questions that actually matter.

    Romney- You once said you want to "double Guantanamo." Why do you condone, rather, endorse one of the darkest spots on America's record? Should we continue to deny them rights in the Geneva Convetnion?

    Giuliani- Are you running as anything but the 9/11 candidate?

    McCain- You've supported continuing the Iraq war voceriferously, when do we call it quits? After 1,000 troops are dead? 10,000? You joked about invading Iran, would you consider it?

    Paul- You oppose abortion. Would you enact legislation to counteract (or severely restrict) Roe v. Wade?

    There's a bunch more candidates, but why pick evolution? It is a fairly unimportant topic (considering the others at hand) and it is unlikely that a President will seriously impact what is taught in the tens of thousands of school districts across the nation (who pick their own cirriculum generally).

  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:22PM (#20270019)
    "How old is the Universe? How old is the Earth? Please answer with numbers."

    Because (believe it or not) there are people who don't know the difference between "the universe", "the Galaxy", and "the Solar System", and there are fundies that actively exploit that ignorance.

    It's easy to screen out the radical fundamentalists. They answer "6000 years" and are at least honest about their base.

    But the dangerous ones are the ones who "teach the controversy", because "Them crazy scientists can't seem to agree on anything! Some of 'em say everything's 14 billion years old, and some of 'em the world's just 4.6! They can't both be right!"

    Vote only for a politician who is smarter than a fifth-grader; that is, one who knows that "The Universe", is approximately 14 billion years old (I'll take any number between 10B and 15B) is much bigger and older than "The Solar System", which is 4.6 billion years old (hell, I'll take anything between 5 and 4.5).

  • Sure (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bombula ( 670389 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:23PM (#20270037)
    Can you do it in 30 seconds?

    Mr. Candidate, sir, given the overwhelming body of evidence from hundreds of different scientific fields ranging from archeology to physics to zoology, can you explain to us how you can seriously believe that the world was created 2,000 years after the Babylonians invented beer?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Arabani ( 1127547 )
      Easy ... God created the Earth in such a way that it appeared as if the Babylonians had been around for that long! It's all to test our faith, you see.
    • Re:Sure (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CODiNE ( 27417 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @01:32AM (#20273145) Homepage
      Could you cite a link for this? I googled it and could only find beer 3800 year old Babylonian beer. An obscure reference will make you and your buddies feel cool but it won't make your point to the audience.
  • Probably futile (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Paul Johnson ( 33553 ) on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:26PM (#20270089) Homepage
    Much as I'd like to see them put on the spot on this, I don't think you'll succeed:
    • If you say "How do you reconcile with your belief that the earth is only 6,000 years old?" they may say that they are not scientists so they're not qualified to comment on such a detailed question, or they may say that it could be more than 6,000 but God certainly created it, or they may just say "maybe the scientists are wrong about that".
    • If you say "How can you seriously claim the earth is only 6,000 years old when every real scientist disagrees with you?" they will say that not all scientists agree with evolution, and often today's heresy turns into tomorrow's orthodoxy.
    Either way they will then add that science works by the free and open exchange of ideas, and so they support the right of both sides in the debate to put forwards their views. They may also add something about the bible being right about so many other things, it seems odd that it should be wrong just about this.

    These debates may have been the place where ideas were put forwards once, but these days they are more like a boxing match in which each candidate tries to land knockout punches on the others, and a panel of pundits awards them points for style. Fact and logic don't stand a chance.


  • Animal Testing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by david_bonn ( 259998 ) * <davidbonn AT mac DOT com> on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:30PM (#20270147) Homepage Journal
    I'll bite.

    Primate Testing [] in the United States involved the "use" of 60,000 animals in 2004. Such testing is used to help ensure the safety of new drugs and vaccines. If you don't believe evolution is scientifically valid, how can one justify this? Why wouldn't we use flatworms? The FDA, in fact, requires primate testing for many new medical treatments. Should the FDA remove this requirement?

    Seriously, this matters much, much more than what teenagers do or don't learn in hi skool biology class. If the Creationist and ID people are right, then we can save quite a bit of money and quite possibly quite a few human lives by forgoing such testing. Plus thousands of furry animals.

  • Simple Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by asolipsist ( 106599 ) * on Friday August 17, 2007 @08:33PM (#20270201)
    Have you ever gotten a flu shot?
  • I disagree (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sam_handelman ( 519767 ) <> on Friday August 17, 2007 @09:01PM (#20270555) Homepage Journal
    Disclaimer: I'm a molecular biologist who studies bacterial evolution at a molecular level.

      Disclaimer 2: I'm a lifelong democrat and don't care what the Republicans say at this point.

      There are simply so many more important things that we could challenge the republicans on: Why are you all so fucking incompetent? Why are you even more crooked than the Democrats? Have you no shame? I could go on.

      Funding for the sciences is something of an important question - and I'll acknowledge a link between acceptance of objective reality and support for scientific funding. But as a scientist I will happily say that federal support for my work is far lower on the list of priorities than clean and transparent government, sound economic and social policies, better/cleaner funding for general education, and a foreign policy based on something other than bellicosity and greed. If someone wants to challenge the republicans on their failure to deliver any of those things, I might listen.

      But even so, these debates are sheer pablum - I'm sure all the Repubs favor clean government which is why they want no limitations on lobbyists. The odds of getting any of these people to seriously engage on real questions approach nil.
  • Believe? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Saturday August 18, 2007 @07:54AM (#20274917)

    This seems like a good opportunity to challenge those candidates who say they do not believe in evolution.

    It would be nice if people stopped saying "believing in evolution". I do not believe in evolution, because I do not believe in anything. I am however convinced, due to various solid evidences, that evolution is a perfectly valid theory.

    Please, put it any way you want, but don't use that verb, we don't have faith in evolution, we are convinced that it's true because it's reasonable, and therefore, don't ask anyone if they believe in evolution, cause anyone in their right mind should tell you that they don't believe in evolution, no matter what their opinion is.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter