Religious Voters Want a Presidential Science Debate

Shawn Lawrence Otto, the co-founder of Sciencedebate.org, writes that a national public opinion poll of 1,005 likely voters found that:

Overwhelming majorities of American voters want the candidates to debate the big science issues facing the country. In fact, overwhelming majorities of religious voters want the candidates to debate these big science issues. For Pete’s sake, even overwhelming majorities of born again religious voters want the candidates to do this, and rank it as even more important than their debating faith and values.

Here are the breakdowns (click on image for larger view):


Tennessee’s Candidates for Governor on ID

At the gubernatorial debate in Tennessee last night, Democratic candidate Mike McWherter and the three Republican candidates, Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ram­sey, and U.S. Representative Zach Wamp, were asked a question about teaching evolution and “intelligent design” in public schools. Michael Cass of The Tennessean live-blogged the debate, and here’s what he reported:

McWherter: There’s a place for talking about evolution in our pub­lic schools. We can blend sci­ence and religion, and the two do not have to con­tra­dict each other.

Ram­sey: We do need to teach intel­li­gent design in schools. “I’m a Christian.”

Wamp: Man is not the cen­ter of the uni­verse: God is. If going to teach evo­lu­tion, it bet­ter be counter-acted by teach­ing of intel­li­gent design.

Haslam: I believe in an intel­li­gent designer. Also believe we can teach sci­ence in schools. “That doesn’t scare me at all.”


Rand Paul Won’t Say How Old He Thinks Earth Is

This video of Rand Paul, Kentucky’s Republican U.S. Senate candidate, has been making the rounds online. It was taken earlier this month at a conference for Christian homeschoolers, where Paul was asked when he became a Christian (which he answers) and how old he thinks the earth is, to which he responds:

I’m gonna pass on the age of the earth. I think I’m just gonna have to pass on that one.

Why not answer? Apparently, Paul doesn’t think the question is relevant, later saying:

I’m not running for minister. I’m more than willing to stand up and say I’m a Christian, but I don’t think I have to go into every detail of what my religious beliefs are. If I were going to be the minister of their church, they’d have a right to ask me that.

But what Paul believes about the age of the earth is hardly a “detail.” For one thing, we know that how people answer that question is a “strong predictor” of what they think and know about evolution. And as Barbara Morrill of the Daily Kos points out:

The voters of Kentucky might want to know if Paul thinks that dinosaurs walked the earth with humans.


Religious Freedom Ambassador (Finally) Named

After months of being criticized for failing to fill the position, President Obama has nominated an Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. Suzan Johnson Cook is a Baptist pastor with little political experience. She has been a chaplain for the New York Police Department, was an adviser on President Clinton’s Domestic Policy Council, and is the founder of something called the Wisdom Worldwide Center. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised her as “an experienced religious leader with a passion for human rights and an impressive record of public service.”
As William Wan and Michelle Boorstein of The Washington Post note:

Cook’s name had been out there for months … so there has been plenty of time for the self-described international religious freedom community to react. Reaction has been pretty uniform—respect for Cook’s work in building a New York City-based mega-ministry and in her interest in public service, but concern for the lack of any expertise in international religious freedom and human rights work, or foreign policy work in general.

Mark Silk, a professor of religion in public life at Trinity College, points out:

Her predecessors as Ambassador-at-Large were, in the Clinton Administration, Robert A. Seiple, who came to the job having served as president for 11 years of World Vision, Inc., the huge Christian relief and development agency. In the Bush administration, it was John V. Hanford, who had spent 14 years working on international religious issues for Sen. Richard Lugar and who also played a critical role in drafting the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, which established the Ambassador-at-Large position.

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