Kathleen Parker

In a nation where 91 percent of citizens profess to believe in God, it's a safe bet we won't see an atheist in the White House anytime soon.

But what about a president who doesn't believe in Darwin? And are Darwin and God mutually exclusive?

These are the questions that (still) trouble men's souls. And still cause trouble for presidential candidates forced unfairly to essentially choose between God and science.

In the ``gotcha'' question of the first GOP debate, journalist Jim VandeHei, relaying a citizen's question, asked John McCain: ``Do you believe in evolution?''

A natural response might have been, ``Well, that depends on how you define evolution.'' It would seem that Clintonian nuance is off the boards for now. Instead, McCain gambled and said -- no doubt with fear and trembling in his political heart -- ``Yes.''

Next VandeHei asked: Is there anyone on the stage who doesn't believe in evolution? Three raised their hands -- Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado.

As debate audiences were pondering the meaning of Darwin in the Oval Office, McCain asked permission to elaborate. McCain then added: ``I believe in evolution. But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also.''

Note to George Tenet: Thisis what you call a slam dunk. McCain was able to acknowledge both science and religion -- evolutionary theory and creationism -- and make them mutually inclusive. Some may call that ``fence-straddling'' or ``having it both ways,'' but political observers call it ``


The others weren't so fortunate. Like little boys called to the front of the class for public humiliation, Huckabee, Tancredo and Brownback immediately became targets of ridicule by the educated elite who, though Darwinists all, were presented with a contradiction: If Darwin was right, how did these knuckle-draggers make it to the presidential campaign podium?

The truth is, each man took a calculated risk -- or a courageous stand, depending on one's view. To say ``yes'' would have been to betray evangelical Christian voters, 73 percent of whom believe that human beings were created in their present form in the last 10,000 years or so.

To these folks, ``no'' didn't mean anti-science; it meant pro-God and conveyed a transcendent, non-materialistic view of the world. To secular Darwinists, ``no'' meant either ignorance or pandering to the ignorant -- most likely both.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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