It was very refreshing (and reassuring) to read this reply that Barack Obama made in an interview with the York Daily Record:
Q: York County was recently in the news for a lawsuit involving the teaching of intelligent design. What’s your attitude regarding the teaching of evolution in public schools?
A: “I’m a Christian, and I believe in parents being able to provide children with religious instruction without interference from the state.
But I also believe our schools are there to teach worldly knowledge and science. I believe in evolution, and I believe there’s a difference between science and faith. That doesn’t make faith any less important than science.
It just means they’re two different things. And I think it’s a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don’t hold up to scientific inquiry.”
There are two important points here that, hopefully, reflect the way that Obama really feels about this issue. He says that religion and science are two different things; in essence, Gould’s non-overlapping magisteria. Given the level of religious language he is prone to use (I’m a Christian; while obviously he has to stress it to overcome the accusations that he is Muslim, by using that word proudly it separates him from many liberal Christians who find themselves uncomfortable using that term because of what it means to people who are accustomed to hearing it coming from fundamentalists and right-wing evangelicals), it’s reassuring to see him come out as pro-evolution.
The most important bit though was the last line – I think it’s a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don’t hold up to scientific inquiry. There’s something about that phrasing which says “he’s on our side”. Whether that’s true or not is beside the point – what’s reassuring is that he (or more likely, someone on his staff) bothered to figure out beforehand what the whole Kitzmiller trial was about, and chose to communicate in the language of one side. This doesn’t sound like the language of the average politician – this is the language of someone who has heard the pro-science arguments.