Famed Scientist Richard Dawkins Destroys Rick Perry on Evolution

We all know Texas Governor and GOP Presidential Candidate Rick Perry is full of it with his anti-science agenda, and we've read about his close ties to a cadre of religious extremists who have anointed him for privileging religion over scientific evidence (his "pray for rain" moment being a prime example). 

Still, a smackdown from none other than Richard Dawkins on the subject of those outmoded, dangerous beliefs has a particularly satisfying highbrow but low-blow quality to it. Dawkins, an evolutionary bioligist and outspoken atheist, delivered such a smackdown to Perry in the course of a Q and A in the Washington Post's On Faith column.

Dawkins said that while a candidate's views on evolution are not paramount, they're indicative of his or her ability to understand science and his or her general levels of educational literacy.

He also had harsh words for the valuation of ignorance among the Republican electorate.

Here are somechoice excerpts:

There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today’s Republican party (I disavow the ridiculous ‘GOP’ nickname, because the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt has lately forfeited all claim to be considered ‘grand’) is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today’s Republican Party ‘in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.


A politician’s attitude to evolution is perhaps not directly important in itself. It can have unfortunate consequences on education and science policy but, compared to Perry’s and the Tea Party’s pronouncements on other topics such as economics, taxation, history and sexual politics, their ignorance of evolutionary science might be overlooked. Except that a politician’s attitude to evolution, however peripheral it might seem, is a surprisingly apposite litmus test of more general inadequacy. This is because unlike, say, string theory where scientific opinion is genuinely divided, there is about the fact of evolution no doubt at all. Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science, and he who denies it betrays woeful ignorance and lack of education, which likely extends to other fields as well. Evolution is not some recondite backwater of science, ignorance of which would be pardonable. It is the stunningly simple but elegant explanation of our very existence and the existence of every living creature on the planet. Thanks to Darwin, we now understand why we are here and why we are the way we are. You cannot be ignorant of evolution and be a cultivated and adequate citizen of today.

I'd love to see Dawkins debate Perry on live TV, wouldn't you?

AlterNet / By Sarah Seltzer

Posted at August 27, 2011, 6:36am

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