Presidential candidates weigh in on evolution debate
By Bruce Morton/CNN
August 27, 1999
Web posted at: 6:52 p.m. EDT (2252 GMT)
WASHINGTON -- Is evolution a political issue?
Should presidential candidates be arguing over whether the planet is 4 billion years old, or whether was it made in six days 10,000 years ago, or if men and dinosaurs coexisted?
It all started when a spokesman for Vice President Al Gore announced that the vice president "favors the teaching of evolution in the public schools," adding the decision should be local and "localities should be free to teach creationism as well."
But Louisiana passed a law to give creationism equal teaching time and the Supreme Court struck it down as endorsing religion.
The Gore spokesman then said Gore supported teaching creationism in certain contexts, such as in a religion class, which has not been ruled unconstitutional.
Gore's boss, President Bill Clinton, agrees that local control of schools is proper.
"I think the president believes the curriculum is by law and by all common practice left to local school boards," White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart said. "I think the president believes, that the local school boards, though, are bound by the law of the land and the Supreme Court has spoken very clearly on this issue."
What do the Republican presidential hopefuls say about evolution?
Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the GOP front-runner, believes both evolution and creationism are valid educational subjects.
"He believes it is a question for states and local school boards to decide but believes both ought to be taught," a spokeswoman said.
Former Red Cross Chair Elizabeth Dole and Arizona Sen. John McCain expressed no preference, simply saying the decision should be local.
Publisher Steve Forbes agreed, and called textbook illustrations about evolution "a massive fraud."
Gary Bauer, head of the Family Research Council, said he does not teach his children that they are "descendant from apes."
Evolutionists don't say that either, of course. They say todays apes and humans have a common ancestor, a species called australopithecus.
Bauer said he does not accept a theory that claims no divine intelligence was involved in man's origination and alleges that life arose spontaneously.
Pope John Paul II announced last year that the Roman Catholic church would not oppose evolution -- it seems to be mostly fundamentalist Protestants who oppose the theory.
But it remains to be seen whether this argument, which never seems to fall completely out of the public discourse, will play a major role in the still-evolving 2000 presidential election landscape.