Is Sarah Palin a creationist?
The blog Wired Science is reporting that “McCain’s VP Wants Creationism Taught in School.” As far as I can tell, though, Sarah Palin has only made a few vague statements about creationism. She’s certainly sympathetic, but not in any way that makes her stand out among American social conservatives.
The Wired Science post is based upon an Anchorage Daily News, article, “‘Creation science’ enters the race,” reporting on a debate between Palin and two other candidates for governor of Alaska in 2006.
Palin was answering a question from the moderator near the conclusion of Wednesday night’s televised debate on KAKM Channel 7 when she said, “Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.”
This is the sort of “teach the controversy” rhetoric most often associated with the intelligent design movement. I’m frustrated that the article doesn’t actually include the question put to Palin and her opponents (and that I can’t find a transcript or video elsewhere), because I’d like to know whether the moderator used the word creationism or whether he asked about intelligent design theory.
In any case, there’s more of the quotation right below the article, and it’s relevant.
And you know, I say this too as the daughter of a science teacher. Growing up with being so privileged and blessed to be given a lot of information on, on both sides of the subject—creationism and evolution. It’s been a healthy foundation for me. But don’t be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides.
Palin, then, is not steeped in the literature of the intelligent design movement, which claims to be distinct from creationism. She seems to genuinely think that teaching the controversy would be fair, not merely use the idea as a strategy for bringing creationism into schools. In a followup interview by the newspaper, she said that “I don’t think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum.” On a personal level, Palin explained that “I believe we have a creator” but that “I’m not going to pretend I know how all this came to be.”
Palin’s views about evolution strike me as pretty typical for a conservative American Protestant who hasn’t given a lot of thought or attention to the matter. In this she’s reminiscent of a lot of Republican politicians, but most notably of George W. Bush when he was campaigning in 2000. If she is a creationist she’s not a very committed one, and certainly not a creationist activist.
It looks like I was probably wrong when I said Sarah Palin wasn’t a creationist activist. Salon has an article about retired American Baptist minister Howard Bess, who lives in Palmer, Alaska, near Wasilla. Bess has advocated for gay rights since the 1980s, and published a book entitled Pastor, I Am Gay in 1995 that he says Sarah Palin tried to remove from the local library. Salon also has this to say:
Another valley activist, Philip Munger, says that Palin also helped push the evangelical drive to take over the Mat-Su Borough school board. “She wanted to get people who believed in creationism on the board,” said Munger, a music composer and teacher. “I bumped into her once after my band played at a graduation ceremony at the Assembly of God. I said, ‘Sarah, how can you believe in creationism—your father's a science teacher.’ And she said, ‘We don't have to agree on everything.’
“I pushed her on the earth's creation, whether it was really less than 7,000 years old and whether dinosaurs and humans walked the earth at the same time. And she said yes, she’d seen images somewhere of dinosaur fossils with human footprints in them.”