Today's Opinions, Tomorrow's Reality 

Flat Earth Fundamentalism

By David G. Young

Washington DC, December 25, 2007 --  

Politicians who reject basic tenets of modernity should be rejected as candidates.

The meteoric rise of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee from an also-ran to the top-tier of the Republican presidential candidates marks a dangerous relapse of the disease of ignorance that has afflicted the Republican Party for the past eight years. For most of 2007, the three frontrunners in the race for the Republican nomination were from the North and West of the country -- Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and Arizona Senator John McCain. None of these three men are members of evangelical churches, and none describe themselves as born-again Christians.

The 2007 resurgence of Yankee Republicans was highly welcome, given the party's decade-long domination by backward-thinking Southern bumpkins like former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, former House Majority Leader Tom Delay, and the adoptive Southerner and born-again Christian President George "Dubya" Bush. The resignation of the former two politicians, and the growing popular disapproval of the lame-duck president, provided the first signs of hope for and end to this dark era of Southern Christian domination of the party.

Now it appears that the Bible-beaters are making a comeback. Huckabee, a religious conservative, leads the polls in Iowa, where the first caucus is held, and is surging to the top nationally among Republican voters. At a first glance, Huckabee's resume makes him look like a caricature of a Southern bumpkin. He is a Baptist minister from one of the poorest Southern states. Until embarking on a public weight-loss campaign in recent years, he was clinically obese. His very name, Huckabee, sounds like a variant of "Hick" or "Huckleberry."

To be fair, Huckabee is far more than he first appears. During a long season of Republican debates, he showed himself to be a highly intelligent, thoughtful and affable candidate. This might be enough to redeem the man, if it were not for his flat-Earth ideas, chief among them his rejection of the core scientific principle of evolution in favor of Biblical creationism.

Huckabee dismisses criticism about his denial of evolution, noting that schools are under local jurisdiction, and as President, he will be in no position to sway affect schools' abilities to teach evolution in science classes. His ideas about evolution, Huckabee says, should therefore have no bearing on his candidacy.

Not so. Plenty of national issues are predicated on acceptance of the principles of evolution. Consider, for example, the spread of deadly multiple drug-resistant bacteria, popularly known as MRSA, from hospitals and nursing homes to schools and athletic centers. The looming health crisis caused by these bacterial strains are precisely based on evolution of bacteria in the face of antibiotics. Appropriate decisions about the federal government's regulation of antibiotics require a president who accepts evolution's responsibility for the creation of these bacteria.

Similarly, evolution is the force behind the HIV virus' increasing resistance to anti-retroviral drugs, and crop-eating insects' development of resistance to pesticides. A president in charge a bureaucracy that regulates these areas must accept the basic tenets of science that affect them.

But while a president's oversight of these regulatory areas provides a sufficient reason to reject Huckabee as a candidate, there is a far more important reason. Simply put, the President of the United States must be accepting of the modern world. Science and technology are important aspects of the American economy. A candidate who embraces such flat-earth ideas like a literal interpretation of the Old Testament's story of the world's creation -- a story that is many thousands of years old -- has no place running the most scientifically and technologically innovative nation in the world.

Huckabee is a smart guy and a man of good character. But it is clear that he values faith over reason. That makes him a fine candidate to be your minister, but an awful choice for President. If the Republican Party expects to have a future, it needs to pick a candidate whose mind isn't stuck in the past.

Related Web Columns:

The Redneck Club, October 23, 2006