Clearly, and for reasons passing my understanding, evolution remains, 82 years after the Scopes Monkey Trial, a debatable issue in America. A recent Newsweek poll found that nearly half of American don't believe in evolution. This is troubling and, as someone who travels and lives in other countries, it is embarrassing. Having grown up in Massachusetts, however, this issue never really presented itself. The people I grew up around never proselytized their faith or even mentioned it much. So, when I listen to politicians having to qualify or apologize for their belief in evolution, I die a little inside.
In the recent Republican debate, when asked by my man Chris Matthews who did not believe in evolution, three candidates raised their hands. By itself, this was a sad moment, but then John McCain, who thankfully was among those that did not raise their hands, felt the need to explain further -- assuaging those voting Americans that when he goes hiking in the Grand Canyon he can see the face of God. (The Daily Show recently aired this clip. You have to scroll down) Wow, Senator, that's really great, but why did you feel obligated to tell us this useless piece of information? Because, like all political candidates, Senator McCain felt compelled to let us know that he has religious faith in his life. And this bizarre requisite that we have for our leaders is not just a Republican phenomenon. On the most recent episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, Harold Ford also wanted to add a little amendment to his belief in evolution (watch the very end of this clip. Also, Gary Shandling is terrific throughout the episode).
All Americans complain that our politicians' rhetoric rings false, and in my eyes, this is never more apparent than when they speak of their own faith. In my opinion, religious faith and the practice of it should be an entirely private choice. Like blowjobs or love. When Tom Cruise got up on Oprah's couch and professed his love for Katie Holmes, those that watched felt not only a deep, vicarious embarrassment but also a knee-jerk skepticism -- to feel the need to so publicly and shamelessly announce one's love at best diminishes this love and at worst undermines it by overcompensation. The same is true for me when I watch these politicians openly discuss their faith. Both faith and love are by nature precarious sentiments -- for one who truly possesses them, faith and love are internal struggles not external absolutes. Perhaps, it is with this in mind that Tom Cruise's love and a politicians conspicuous faith ring false, and also why I was most troubled by a recent Time Magazine poll which "reported 66 percent of Americans have no doubts God exists". But I digress from my more immediate critique, that these same leaders feel compelled to apologize for their belief in science.
Let's rephrase the belief in evolution question a bit, just to demonstrate how odd these equivocating answers sound:
Moderator - Senator, do you believe in a theory steeped in empirical data, which has been subjected over centuries to rigorous and skeptical testing?
Senator - Yes...but also the other thing.
...Remember, those of your who are running for political office, that it's only nearly half of the electorate who doesn't believe in evolution. You still got the majority who trust in science. So, rather than bow and curtsy to religious fanatics, maybe try to appeal to them with a decent health care package or prove to them that their country won't forget them after they retire. To run for office and speak about personal religious faith, when there are pressing issues afoot, is a waste of breath, a waste of airtime and, in the end -- like with Tom Cruise's couch stomping -- it only serves to undermine and diminish your actual faith. So, Politicians, all I ask is that after you have proudly stated your belief in science, do like our evolutionary ancestor in the photo above, and shut your mouth.