Sam Brownback on Evolution

Presidential candidate Sam Brownback gave his take on evolution in today’s New York Times.  Here’s my favorite part:

While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.

Right, Sam.  Anything that contradicts your literal belief in the Judeo-Christian creation story is “atheistic theology”.  Where do I begin?  Perhaps with the, um, truth, that the book of Genesis contains two different versions of the creation narrative.  Which one is it that you believe so fervently?

We could acknowledge the cognitive dissonance between the words “atheistic” and “theology”.  We could discuss the reality that different cultures have different creation stories.  Or we could talk about the dangers inherent in treating the Bible as a history and/or science text — or even the potential for sin in setting up a book as an idol to be worshiped.

Oh, and Sam?  Demanding that science overtly support the existence of God undermines the very essence of faith, which, after all, does not depend on tangible proof.

19 Responses to “Sam Brownback on Evolution”

  1. Brian says:

    I bet he would love this place.

  2. Kathy says:


    I bet you’re right. I’m surprised they didn’t show Adam and Eve riding the dinosaurs to church with their very own KJVs tucked under their arms.

  3. Del says:

    Well now…I was with him, sort of, until he got to the one about every human being created by G-d for a purpose. But really, the rest of it doesn’t sound like “the-Good-Book-says-seven-days-dammit-period!” rhetoric to me, but more like the earnest but facile argument that goes, “I believe God used evolution to create the world.” (said in surprised tone as of one who has just come up with this brilliant theory)

  4. Kathy says:

    I didn’t actually intend for this post to go up with only the link to the story. I was saving it for tomorrow and must have hit “publish” instead of “save and continue editing”. Ah well, that little error just forced me to go ahead and write it.

    My problem with Brownback’s viewpoint is not that he believes God was involved in the process, it’s his insistence that scientific knowledge must support his belief or be discarded as part of an atheist conspiracy.

  5. bill says:

    Del, uh, some of us believe the facile argument that God was behind evolution……

  6. Tricia says:

    Of course, bill, but which god(s)/goddess(es)? There’s more than one to choose from. :-)

  7. Del says:

    I didn’t mean to be offensive – I also have an extremely hard time with the idea that all those amino acids just collided together to create everything we’ve got going on here by happy accident. But putting an anthropomorphic God in charge doesn’t make it all click for me, sorry.

    Kathy, I see what you mean about Brownback sending science to the wall if it doesn’t support his believe in a “divine causality,” but it sounds like he’s objecting more to scientists who insist that their body of knowledge is incompatible with belief in a Creator, than to the theory of evolution itself. And if he’s trying to claim that every biology teacher in America is in that camp, well then I have a problem with him too.

  8. Kathy says:

    Bill, I’m putting words in Del’s mouth here, but I don’t think she’s looking at people like you when she uses the word facile.

    Del, I don’t know where Brownback draws the line, but I fear that in his worldview a scientist wouldn’t have to say that evolutionary theory is inconsistent with belief in a Creator; instead, if enough lay people had a problem with specific scientific information, it would be thrown out of the canon.

    Tricia, I know your tongue was in your cheek, but your point is valid, and this is precisely the reason why presidential candidates need to stick to issues of governance rather than focusing on their particular religious beliefs.

  9. Blue Gal says:

    Brownback? I love that guy. Shows the nation what the Republican party really stands for. I hope he makes it all the way to the convention. Really.

  10. “Every man hears what he wants to hear/ and disregards the rest…”

    The Boxer, Simon and Garfunkel


    “ok, let’s talk about hebrew. and while we’re at it, let’s talk about the complete and utter nonsense attending the debate in america about evolution vs. creationism. i read an article today wherein it was reported that many schools are not teaching evolution because the religious right think that evolution is an unproven theory that is ‘un-christian’.

    this is absurd, and allow me to presumptuously end this nonsense once and for all, ok? creationists believe that god created the world in 7 days(or 6 days and one day thrown in for a well-deserved rest). but most creationists never bother to take the time to learn ancient hebrew, so they’ve egregiously misinterpreted the creation story in genesis.

    i had an old testament scholar explain it me as follows: when we talk about ‘the day of the romans’ we’re not talking about a 24 hour period, but rather an era or an epoch. and in ancient hebrew the word for ‘day’ that appears in genesis is much closer to our word for epoch, or era, just as ‘the day of the romans’ doesn’t mean one 24 hour period. don’t get me wrong, i love the creation story in genesis. it has a quality of simple majesty and restraint that i find very moving. but if you substitute ‘era’ for ‘day’ you see that it actually follows the commonly held understanding of how the universe was created and has evolved.

    for instance: in the beginning everything was dark. then god created a big light(bang). then in the second era god brought forth land in the middle of the waters. and in the third era god brought forth plants on the land. in the fourth era god brought forth the moon, so that the moon shone during the night and the sun shone during the day. in the fifth era god brough forth life in the seas. in the sixth era god brought forth animal life on land. and at the very end god brought forth human beings. so what’s the problem?

    that’s the order of creation in genesis and, lo and behold, it’s also a rough description of the order in which life evolved on earth. water. then land. then plants. then sea creatures. then animals on the land. and at the very very end, humans. so why is this even an issue?

    i mean call me crazy, but it seems pretty clear that science and religion actually seem to agree here. and how is it blasphemous to posit that humans might have evolved from apes(and the bonobos, my favorites. they sing and have sex all the time)?

    christians believe that god made apes, right? why do christians seem to have such a hard time with the messiness of creation? didn’t god make orgasms? and bone marrow? and synapses? and poo? and intestinal flora and fauna? according to the bible, god doesn’t seem to be particularly squeamish or prudish, so why are so many christians?

    fighting science and evolutionary theory doesn’t make you a good christian, i believe. being loving and humble and compassionate and non-judgemental makes you a good christian, right? or is there something i’m missing? do these right wing christians use a new testament with which i’m unfamiliar? ok, goodnight. moby”

  11. Christopher says:

    He sounds like a complete rightwing kook!

  12. Del says:

    Okay, I read this piece again, or tried to. He is saying that we “know” that God, or somebody, created us. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. This goes along with the “everybody was created for a purpose” and “God has a plan for you” kind of thinking that provides such comfort to a large majority of potential Sam voters.

    He also seems to think that full-bore belief in evolution necessarily includes accepting the idea that Man is just an accident. It’s okay to learn about and even believe in the general idea of evolution, as long as you don’t lose sight of the idea that God Made Man. (I guess like, it’s fine for your boy to join the Cub Scouts and go camping a few times, but forget about going all the way to Eagle.)

    So Bill, I have to think that Sam is down with God “using” evolution to create the world and us. But we’re the top of the tree, the end of the line. Hard to believe God couldn’t do any better than this, but there you have it.

    So I’ve come around to your way of thinking: all this is just trying to reassure moderate Republicans (who might be expected to read the NYT)that he isn’t an, er, unsophisticated fundamentalist Christian, while still claiming “the Bible said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

  13. Paul says:

    Jeff makes several excellent points in his post and I enjoyed reading it. Let me throw in another point about the Hebrew: the first chapter of Genesis reads “Bereshit elohim” made the heavens and the earth. “Bereshit” means “in the beginning” and “elohim” means “the gods”. El is the creator god in Hebrew, Caannite, and other Semitic religions. (The Arabic “Allah” refers to the same deity; it litterally means “the god”.) A Hebrew word is made plural by the addition of the suffix “-him” (pronounced “heem”). Therefore, anyone who takes the first chapter of Genesis litterally is by definition a polytheist.

    As someone who is striving to be a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth, I find the debate over creation vs. evolution an astounding waste of time and effort. Discipleship can be expressed in far more productive ways. Frankly, I belive that Yahweh created the universe through the process of evolution, but if he didn’t, so what? What difference could it possibly make? As a disciple, I can say, “God created the heavens and the earth.” The question thst is far more important than how he did it is, “Now what do we do?”

  14. Helen says:

    This forwarding by a friend and taken a homeschool list:

    “During last week’s Republican Debate, three of the ten candidates said they did not believe in evolution, including Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, who added that he would defend his conviction from one edge of the Earth to the other.”

  15. Del says:

    Helen, that cracks me up. Did it really come off a homeschool list? In Alabama? Wow. The homeschool community really is changing.

  16. Kathy says:

    Why, Paul, you polytheist, you! (Just kidding.) It’s amazing what one learns when one takes the Bible seriously enough to study the source documents and the cultural context. Leads one right to the question you ask.

    Helen, that’s a hoot! Reminds me of another comment I saw on the debate — the candidates said they didn’t believe in evolution and then started talking about fossil fuels.

  17. Kiki says:

    All school children (and adults who have never read it) should be required to read Carl Sagan’s “A Candle in the Dark.” This is a great book about science and all the hooie (i.e. Flying saucers, Loch Ness Monster, Sasquatch, etc.) people “believe,” without being totally insensitive to believers and their faith. He was raise by good Jewish folk anyway, and really understands science, people and their foibles and the need for Faith. What a great and wise person he was! I wish he was still around.

  18. Kathy says:

    Kiki, I’ll check that out. It sounds like a good read.

  19. Songbird says:

    I’m late to this party, but I love the e-mail joke!

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