Leader Blues

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

EDITORIALS>>Beebe wants it both ways

Attorney General Mike Beebe, doing his best Bill Clinton imitation, tried to have it both ways when the state newspaper asked him about intelligent design, the theory that a supreme being created the universe.

He was widely criticized last week for his response, particularly by those who think that religious exposition has no place in public school classrooms.

Beebeís Republican opponent for governor, Asa Hutchinson, said essentially the same thing as Beebe although he was more concise and even more vague. But Hutchinson got a pass for his waffle and Beebe took a licking. The Arkansas Democrat Gazette chastised Beebe for not having the courage to say what should be done. Hutch-inson escaped.

Neither is a profile in courage, but you can parse both their answers and see that both understand the law and, presumably, will follow it. We may be too charitable with Hutchinson, but that is how we understand him.

The U. S. Supreme Court and every appellate circuit that has addressed it have said that the Biblical account of creation and every offspring of it is religion, not science, and cannot be taught in the science classrooms. Discussions may turn to religious doctrines and social controversies, but creationism cannot be taught as scientific fact or theory because it is a matter of religious faith and not science.

Intelligent design does not mention God, but it posits that life is too complex to have come about without a supreme being. It is an interesting and perhaps even a compelling notion, one that most people of all religious faiths may hold, but it is not proven and is not subject to proof.

So Beebe said he personally believed in intelligent design, did not find it at all in conflict with evolution and would like to see school children exposed to it. He added, however, that the federal courts had held that it violated the Constitution because it was feebly veiled religion. He did not say it, but we may conclude that as governor he would veto a bill that would clearly violate the Constitution.

Hutchinson said he favored teaching intelligent design if it was supported by scientific evidence. It isnít supported by scientific evidence, of course. There will never be scientific evidence to support it or disprove it.

So, we may fairly conclude that Hutchinson, too, would veto a bill that the courts have already said would be unconstitutional. Actually, their oaths will require them to.

Let Messrs Beebe and Hutchinson be coy with this tiresome but touchy issue but demand that they talk about things that a governor actually can do.