Another Republican disses evolution, claims that nobody knows the age of the Earth, and osculates conservative rump

August 19, 2011 • 4:04 am

We already know that Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann supports creationism, claiming falsely that there are “hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design.” Since Republicans have historically been anti-evolution and anti-science, it’s no surprise that conservative Texas Republican governor Rick Perry—probably the current front-runner to challenge Obama in 2012—is also antievolution.  It’s sad, and uniquely American, that important political figures deny the palpable truth about nature to cater to their conservative constituents.

Here’s Perry in a video from two days ago, talking to a young boy and claiming not only that he, Perry, doesn’t know the age of the Earth, but neither does anybody else.  He also claims, falsely, that in Texas both creationism and evolution are taught in science classes, certainly also a lie if he’s referring to public schools, where such teaching violates the First Amendment.  A report of the meeting follows the video:

Here’s the background and transcript from TPM News:

A woman who will probably not be supporting the Texas governor brought her young son along to a campaign event in New Hampshire on Thursday, and had the boy ask Perry his views about science. “How old do you think the earth is?” the boy asked. This was an apparent allusion to how fundamentalist Christians often insist that Earth — and indeed, the whole universe — is about 6,000 years old.

“How old do I think the earth is? You know what, I don’t have any idea,” Perry responded. “I know it’s pretty old. So it goes back a long, long ways. I’m not sure — I’m not sure anybody actually knows completely and absolutely how old the earth is.

Perry then steered the conversation to some questions the boy’s mother had been asking him, about evolution

“Here your mom was asking about evolution. And you know, it’s a theory that is out there — it’s got some gaps in it. In Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools. Because I figure–”

The mother cut back in: “Ask him why he doesn’t believe in science.”

Perry continued: “Because I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”

The mother continued to tell her son, “Ask him why he doesn’t believe in science.” At that point Perry politely ended the conversation, and moved on to the next person in the crowd.

Imagine a presidential candidate claiming that nobody knows how antibiotics work, and that in Texas schools they teach both Western medicine and homeopathy, letting the children sort out the truth.

75 thoughts on “Another Republican disses evolution, claims that nobody knows the age of the Earth, and osculates conservative rump

  1. It’s gotten to the point now where nothing they say induces incredulity in me anymore. They could say they want to round up atheists and put us in concentration camps and their followers wouldn’t bat an eye. It’s time the media quits covering this tripe in the name if Intellectual Honesty.

    1. Please let them keep illuminating these people! Perhaps more and more people will become aware of how ill informed and potentially dangerous these folks can be to the future of the country.

        1. I’m going to go with it being directly related to constant attempts by Republicans to degrade the quality of public education in the US. They’re trying to make the majority of the population less educated and less informed.

  2. Well, Huntsman believes in evolution and global warming.

    But I have as much chance of winning the primaries as he does.

    1. It’s really sad when saying that you accept basic science is enough to get people to refer to you as the “good” candidate.

  3. To add to the mind-blowing ignorance, Huffington Post today headlined “Perry calls evolution a theory”.

    This really is what it must feel like right before those guys heads exploded in “Scanners”.

  4. So basically he’s saying that nobody really knows how old the earth is, but that the kid is smart enough to figure out the right answer. So which one is it? Is it a question too difficult even for scientists? Or a question that even kids can find the answer to? Can’t have it both ways.

    Another, more amusing interpretation: Rick Perry admits he’s dumber than a small child, as he thinks the kid can figure out what he couldn’t.

    1. I also replied to a friend’s Facebook post about this on the same issue.

      Basically, saying he doesn’t know how old the earth is but no one else does either is the same as saying:

      “I don’t know about science, but scientists don’t know about science either!”

  5. You would think that evolution denial is a trivial problem compared to today’s much larger problems. But it is always a touchstone for greater lunacy, because if you can deny one fact in the service of religious ideology, you can deny all facts.

    That is how Governor Perry is also able to call Ben Bernanke a traitor for the Fed’s fiscal policies, and how Governor Perry fosters military insubordination toward the CINC:

    Evolution denial will be the least of our problems if any of these dangerous demagogues ever achieves actual power.

  6. Perry sounds just like Bush with his mistakes about what the status is in Texas. Backmann at least sounds sure of herself but will stick to her Fundamentalist line for the votes of the Southern Baptist Convention and Bible Belt, Sunday Go To Meeting people of all intelligence levels who cannot admit of anything in front of their peers.

  7. This article by Paul Begala:

    I first met Rick Perry in 1985. He was a Democratic freshman state rep, straight off the ranch in Haskell, Texas. He wore his jeans so tight, and, umm, adjusted himself so often that my fellow young legislative aides and I used to call him Crotch. Even among state representatives, even among Texas Aggies (graduates of this cute remedial school we have in Texas), Perry stood out for his modest intellectual gifts. Hell, he got a C in animal breeding. I have goats who got an A in that subject. But lack of brains has never been a hindrance in politics


    Perry has flaws, huge flaws. Not the least of which is that he presided over the execution of one of his constituents, Cameron Todd Willingham, who was probably innocent. But I’m not sure that’s a liability in today’s Tea Party–obsessed GOP. There’s a legend in Lone Star politics that one of Perry’s Republican rivals in Texas tested the Willingham issue in a focus group. One Republican man, the story goes, squinted and said, “Well, I like that. Takes a lot of balls to execute an innocent man.” At that moment, folks say, Perry’s rival knew opposing him was fruitless

    IMO Perry will believe whatever promotes Perry best. He has become wealthy & highly influential taking money from a handful of ‘lobbyists’ – the man is weak, immoral, corrupt & evil

    1. and also ~ just like every presidential hopeful he is already ‘bought & paid for’ ~ he is ‘owned’

      I wonder if it is possible to design democracy to weed out the corrupt ? Unfortunately it’s a magnet for moral vacuums like Perry. His stance on Evolution is only a symptom of something much worse

      1. Here’s a simple design: term limits (serve once and you’re out, at any level) and no more political parties. I am musing about starting a new political party, with only those two “planks”. It’s the “Know Party” (as in the old “Nobody For President!..Nobody is smarter!”). Eventually, the Know Party would become “no party” and you would not even hear the difference.

        Back when communication was slow, education unavailable, the ability to marshall large numbers of exceeding intellectual, learned folk was nigh impossible, we needed seasoned legislators. No longer needed. No seasoning needed, as money poisons everything. Politics is a distasteful business when money makes it all work, or the absence of it…not work. We don’t need massive party pressures, either, aka “logrolling”.

        1. Term limits sound nice in theory, but what’s tended to happen in practice is that the politicians spend half their terms learning the ropes…and they learn them from the special interest groups who wind up becoming the puppetmasters.

          To be effective, you really do need to make a career out of politics, which obviously makes you a career politician. I mean, somebody is going to make a career out of setting public policy, and it’s much better for that person to be chosen by the ballot box than by who’s willing to spend the most money to get close to the elected officials.



    2. It’s not just that he allowed the state to execute a probably innocent man; innocent men who were thought to be guilty have been executed before. What stands out in the Willingham case is that it was known that his conviction was bogus, and that he was probably innocent, long before he was actually executed.

      I really thought last year that the Willingham execution would scandalize the Republicans and send Perry’s time as governor into a tailspin. I am really baffled why that didn’t happen.

      1. Equally baffled ~ especially given that the Perry meddling in the affairs of the Texas Forensic Science Commission has done him no harm. I can only suppose that being ‘hard line’ trumps truth & fairness in Texas & the GOP.

      2. It’s right there in that money quote: “Well, I like that. Takes a lot of balls to execute an innocent man.”

        There are still those who miss the spectacle of public stonings and lynchings. They don’t think of other people as human. They don’t even think, “There, but for the grace of Jesus, go I.” They just want to see people die horrible deaths.

        No, I don’t understand such evil. I’m not sure I want to — it’s more than enough just to know that it’s there, and frighteningly common.


        1. The attitude in question rather suffuses the Bible (both Testaments), too.

          Though surely I don’t have to tell you that.

  8. I’d be careful with labeling someone with the supernatural term “evil”. It is the same term that is used to justify hideous acts of religious zealots.

    1. No. I can use the term ‘evil’ without believing that objective morality exists

      Also Chambers:

      evil adj 1 morally bad or offensive. 2 harmful. 3 colloq very unpleasant • an evil stench. noun 1 wickedness or moral offensiveness, or the source of it. 2 harm, or a cause of harm; a harmful influence. 3 anything bad or unpleasant, eg crime or disease. evilly adverb. evilness noun. speak evil of someone to slander them.
      ETYMOLOGY: Anglo-Saxon yfel

      1. That’s the ought/is fallacy. I was fully aware of the definition (and almost posted it knowing you might). I’m not trying to be caustic, just adamant that the usage removes the oomph we sometimes get by showing how Bush and co. were so warped about reality to use the supernatural term to describe the “axis of evil” in direct response to the very same supernatural beliefs that were the terrorism threats.

        Nonetheless, you can use the term all you like, of course. And I won’t judge you for it. Just was hoping you’d consider my point about it if you do.

        1. You think the term ‘evil’ is owned by supernaturalists because they often believe that evil is an agency & not just a description ? Bush & co. may well think that evil is the name of a being, but I don’t have to subscribe to their definition. Same goes for the usage of ‘belief’ & ‘theory’ (I put spiritual beyond the pale though)

          The term ‘Evil’ is useful. I can apply it to Perry without supposing that he had evil injected into him by a spirit.

          Evil doesn’t have to be capitalised ~ see hat I did there ? 🙂

  9. Since Republicans have historically been anti-evolution and anti-science…

    Well, increasingly since Reagan, anyway. But there was a time when it was not always thus. Herbert Hoover consumed statistics for breakfast and acted on them, pushing, for instance, as Harding & Coolidge’s Secy of Commerce, to limit offshore fishing, and also to limit the extent of oil drilling which was depleting underground pressure. When I read his autobiography a few yrs ago, his command of language, straightforward presentation of statistics and absence of reference to any deities vs. the mushmouthed swagger of the guy in the White House at the time were enough to make me want to cry. The popular conception of him as a do-nothing president is greatly undeserved. Post-WWII he became far more conservative, but as far as I’m aware that never extended into trashing science.

    1. I too was surprised by this “historical” allegation. America’s scientific prowess was lauded/cultivated by most political parties throughout history. Evangelists were politically apathetic prior to Roe vs Wade. Most were were avidly for Jimmy Carter. The Republican’s anti-science stand gathered steam with Evangelists switch to Republicans during the Reagan years. But throughout most of history the Republicans have been more progressive on everything from supporting science to women’s right to vote, to have african americans integrate with whites from schools to cinemas (efforts scuttled by southern democrats and Supreme court). The extent to which Republicans have become anti-reason is captured by Seth Shulman, Chris Mooney and Michael Specter of the New Yorker. and it’s just not science. It’s anti-intellectualism across the board, from economics, socioeconomics, health policy to science.

  10. When Perry says evolution…has some gaps in it what he means is “I am a product of the evolutionary process and there is one really big gap for anyone with a brain to see. It’s right here between my two ears.” It’s surprising he didn’t say that no one knows the age of the earth except Adam and he had to leave his diary when he had to get out of the garden.

  11. At least Perry didn’t claim that the earth must be female, because you couldn’t tell how old it was (attributed to Lord Kelvin, after his estimate of the earth’s age was shown to be wrong by many orders of magnitude). That woman deserves a medal or at least a mention in dispatches.

  12. First, you shouldn’t use your child to hide behind, and secondly to say that someone that doesn’t believe evolution is true, doesn’t believe in science is wrong.

    Science is being wrongly defined today. The Bible talks about this. It’s called false science. When we correctly define science we find that science backs up the Bible and proves what the Bible already says, every time.

    1. ORLY?

      The Bible says there was a global flood that covered the highest mountains a few thousand years ago. How do you define science correctly enough to account for that one?

      And that’s ignoring, of course, the opening story about an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry giant, or the closing story about a zombie that liked having his intestines fondled through a gaping chest wound. Or any of the countless other stories inbetween about wizards dueling with their magic wands, sea monsters, dragons, sky castles and all other sorts of nonsense.

      Really, you’ve got it exactly backwards. When it comes right down to it, there’s as much pizza in the Bible as there is science.



      1. Bacinos 6:19 – And he took the pizza, gave thanks and sliced it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

        So there!

        1. Ah, yes — but that’s one of the heresies. Didn’t make the cut, along with the Gospel of Garlic and the four Epistles of Luigi to the Society for the Advancement of Savory Baking.

          Such a shame, too — imagine what the world would be like today if only Christians had adopted the version of the Sermon on Mountains of Olives that read, “But these, mine olives which would not that I should chew them, bring here, crush before me, and drizzle the resulting oil over the top of the pizza after you sprinkle on the oregano and Parmesan.”



    2. So, you’re saying that the bible defines science as that which supports and proves the bible, and everything else is false science? According to the bible? Hard to argue with that. Color me persuaded.

  13. One consequence of Perry’s statements is that he is attempting to redefine science (in this case, biology) to include statements that are not scientific, an approach that I reject. I’m willing to bet that he wouldn’t try to do the same to quantum mechanics and relativity.

  14. Didn’t anyone else have the reaction that this woman shouldn’t be using her child to call out Perry on his beliefs? Of course we know Perry is a moron about science, but that’s not what struck me most about this video. I was appalled by this whispery woman prompting her son to ask questions that he probably didn’t even fully understand himself.

    1. Absolutely. We know the stages kids go through on their way to independent thinking, and this kid is way too young. No matter how much I might agree with his mother politically/scientifically, I deplore her using her kid like that. Actually made Perry look better than he deserved, I thought.

  15. [Perry] also claims, falsely, that in Texas both creationism and evolution are taught in science classes, certainly also a lie if he’s referring to public schools, where such teaching violates the First Amendment.

    Wait, though. It seems much more likely to me that Perry saying that both evolution and creation are taught in science classes in Texas is neither false nor a lie.

    Arguably it’s an exaggeration, if he’s implying that “both” are taught in every Texas school—presumably there are many districts in which only one or the other is taught.

    And certainly it’s disgusting and (yes) illegal for public schools to teach creationism, but the mere factual statement that a number of Texas public schools do so notwithstanding the clear illegality is surely factually correct.

  16. The Republican Primary race is causing me to begin to wonder if the world actually IS going to end in 2012.

  17. Gird up thy loins Americans, for thre will be major battles to fight over this in the coming election campaign, Good luck to you, for all our sakes.

  18. Imagine a presidential candidate claiming that nobody knows how antibiotics work, and that in Texas schools they teach both Western medicine and homeopathy, letting the children sort out the truth.

    I can imagine this all too well — though I have better luck substituting “California” for “Texas.” After all, they’re already teaching both systems to medical students in many academic centers and hospitals as part of a holistic education of ‘integrative’ medicine (see Orac at Respectful Insolence for details on quackademic medicine.) If homeopathy gets into the elementary and secondary public schools it will probably be because it filtered down.

    Ghastly. Ignorance as a legitimate point of view.

  19. I remember Sam Harris describing the USA as a nation in a state of intellectual emergency. That was four years ago, during the Bush era. This twit will take the USA to another level where “intellectual emergency” is insufficient in describing the intellectual meltdown. What is the next level after emergency? That’s where he’s gonna take us.

  20. Everyone reading and commenting on this blog just seems to be a yes man for the blogger.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am a yellow-dog democrat. But, I thought Perry’s statements were surprisingly ambiguous and moderate for a *right wing republican* who holds a state-wide office in Texas…who was caught in an impossible situation created by a parent who didn’t have the nerve to ask the questions herself. So – what were y’all expecting him to say? The oldest rocks on earth are about 3.8 BY old but older rocks on the tectonically dead moon indicate the solar system and the Earth are probably more like 4.5 BY old?

    The fact that he said no one knows how old the Earth is is surprising because a direct reading of scripture says it is ~6000 years old. What d’all think republicans think of this rather vague statement? It clearly denies what is spelled out in the bible.

    1. Simple. Perry knows that he needs other voters besides religious wackos. The man is a politician. So he has to be ambivalent on some issues.

    2. It clearly denies what is spelled out in the bible.

      you know, I’m gonna call that out for both sides.

      nowhere in the bible does it specify how old the earth is. There is no direct reading of scripture that will give you this information.

      Instead, it is a random formula, that changes based on which version of the bible is used, and what assumptions are made by who is doing it, and then basically just counts books as generations backwards.

      it has more holes in it that a colander.

      If you ask ANY creationist to actually show you how to calculate the age of the earth from the bible, the few that will try (the vast majority simply can’t, and just assume it because their favored pastor or creationist website told them so) inevitably end up with grossly different results.

      currently, the ACTUAL PUBLISHED DATES by creationists themselves vary from 5600 yrs to 13000 yrs!

      the 6000 yr date mostly comes from the old work done by Ussher.

      Bottom line is of course, that the bible contains very little (if ANY!) accurate information whatsoever, let alone the age of the fucking earth.

      so, yeah, Im-Perry can claim anything he likes, really, and still call himself whatever the hell he wants. Religious Americans won’t give a fuck so long as he claims he’s against the elites, materialism, and loves Jebus.

      In the end, contradiction and inconsistency is a hallmark of ALL religion, and it’s way worse in something derived like creationism.

  21. Religion is a mealy stew of ignorance and mental illness. Yet, this was putting the guy on the spot, to make him look bad, which it did. Perry had to equivocate on these simple knowledge questions lest he seem inconsistent in his “faith” to his flock. How do you think President Obama would react to questions that expose or dismantle Islam, such as “Was Muhammad a pedophile, in your opinion?” Or,”If you worship in a Christian church, can one conclude that you relegate Allah to the myth or false belief category?” It’s easy to take a cheap shot at peoples’ religion because all religions are obviously false and fall apart with minimal probing.
    That is why it is wrong to poke into the theological mind of the candidates unless one’s goal is to expose religion in general as a fraud, the exception being queries which attempt to ascertain if the candidate would mix his Sunday-school moronities with public policy, such as “Would you pass a law requiring intelligent design to be taught in science class?”
    People are using Perry’s religious creed, (most Americans pretend to have one), to destroy him and put words in his mouth that he did not say, such as “advocate to end Medicare, advocate to end Medicaid, advocate to end Social Security”.
    I’d vote for Perry over Obama on the issues. I’d vote for Romney over President Obama, too. Are you guys going to bash Mormonism? I’m sure it’s pretty easily exposed as well.
    8/20/2011 5:25 AM EDT

      1. Hello
        I don’t think The President is a Muslim per se. Actually I don’t think there is any such thing as a “Muslim”. There are only people frightened into maintaining that they buy that particular line of crap. How many people deep down deny the laws of nature? Many of those that do are in mental hospitals, which are filled with people sick with religious ideation. There are however Islamists (I would italicize that if I could) who dominate much of the world and dictate others’ world-views. In some countries such as Pakistan, those that spurn the faith are subject to harsh punishment. Here we have more subtle ways of making people toe the party line.
        So in this roundabout way, I am saying not that Obama is a “secret Muslim” or an Islamist in any way. However, he walks on eggshells defending, even praising them and their ancient faith. He would never come out and say for example that the Koran is a bunch of hogwash cover to cover, next question.
        My problem with the President is not his religious beliefs but his total lack of scientific vision. His attitude toward NASA is abysmal: assigning them tasks such as outreach to the Muslim world and emasculating the Manned Space Program, no support for the James Webb Space Telescope, ding the bidding of climate change fanatics etc. Imagine if he tried to inspire young people with a real stimulus package aimed at cutting edge space technology. The economy and our country’s spirit would take off like a rocket!
        I try to be generous, but Obama’s Weltanschauung seems like a mish-mash of rubbery deconstructionism and lefty redistributionist set-people-against-each-other disputatiousness. Not Islamism or any other theology.
        Anyway thank you for reading and letting me contribute to this wonderful blog.

        1. Well, while I’ll say I so not agree with your assessment of Obama, I know we could go on and on back and forth with examples of how Obama’s behavior proves he fits our particular view of him (No, I don’t think he’d answer with such shocking ignorance just to please via constituents), but I will say that when a politician portrays a level of scientific ignorance so profoundly elementary that is fixible in mere moments of education aside from the lack of want, and clearly establishes that ignorance as if he is proud of it, then it is certainly worthwhile to spread far and wide. It is my tentative position that the lack of interest in this situation is most likely equal to scientific apathy or distinct ignorance to how and why our populace is so scientifically ignorant.

          And everybody who is disturbed about the fact the woman had her child ask the question, its not a big deal at all. As parents, it is our DUTY to teach our children how to speak up and ask questions, and even though it had the added benifit to provide oomph to her question doesn’t remotely imply a despicable act. I’d do it to. It’s appropriate in the sense of ‘here’s the innocent child YEC’s et. al., are trying to impress a horridly disingenuous curriculum into their understanding of the scientific world around them.” It wasn’t anything like what you see on the flip aide qith kida holding hate signs.

        2. As a European I always have to laugh when Americans call Obama a lefty, a liberal, or a socialist. By our standards the guy is an arch conservative right winger.

          Your right wingers (Republicans) would be equivalent to extremist nutters in fringe parties over here.

          Only in America…

          1. Yeah, I know. But you have to understand that for our culture, your lefties would.never get elected, much less re-elected. WWE take what we cam get. And your point illustrates how some of us liberal lefties in the U.S. have our self righteous heads shoved so far up our own asses that we think we understand politics so well that we think Obama is abolutely worthless if he doesn’t have a strong stance on all our number one issues to the point we want to throw him out and are okay with a right winger getting the presidency who will be far far far hideously worse for us. We self righteous lefties are clueless how to mandate our already lefty president to break even more of the mold.

          2. The people get the politicians they deserve. If left wing politicians who would ensure, for example, that every citizen has access to affordable healthcare don’t stand a chance of being elected, then that means that most of the people don’t give a damn what happens to their fellow citizens. Selfish people will get selfish politicians.

            My advice would be always to vote for the lesser of two evils (i.e. Obama). Let’s stay rational.

    1. “That is why it is wrong to poke into the theological mind of the candidates ”

      when it’s in direct conflict with all we actually know?

      theology and religion should not be buzzwords to protect the ignorant and deceitful.

      sorry, but you’re wrong.

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