Education Icon Education

Senator McCain’s Take: Don’t Censor Intelligent Design

Casey Luskin

Senator John McCain personally believes in evolution, but he takes a classically liberal view which says that ideas should not be hidden from students–even controversial ideas like intelligent design. Consider this excerpt from a news article on McCain’s take on intelligent design:

Mr. McCain, who delivered his prepared remarks in an even, almost perfunctory manner, was at his best in the question and answer session that followed. Responding to a question about a report that he thinks “intelligent design” should be taught in schools, the senator mocked the idea that American young people were so delicate and impressionable that they needed to be sheltered from the concept, which says God had a hand in creation and which has been challenged by Darwinists as unscientific.

“Shhh, you shouldn’t tell them,” he said, mimicking those who would shield children from the fact that some people believe in intelligent design. The former prisoner of war said he also disagreed with Cold War-era efforts to prevent Marxist-Leninism from being taught in schools, saying it was better for Americans to understand their enemy. He noted that he didn’t say that intelligent design needed to be taught in “science class,” leaving unclear exactly what class he thought it should be taught in. He said he believed local school boards, not the federal government, should determine curricula.

“From a personal standpoint, I believe in evolution,” Mr. McCain said. At the same time, he said, “When I stand on the rim of the Grand Canyon and I see the sun going down, I believe the hand of God was there.”

(“McCain Does Manhattan, By the Issues,” by Ira Stoll, New York Sun, July 18, 2006)

I would prefer that Senator McCain explain what he means by “evolution”–mere “change through time,” or the full-blown Neo-Darwinian claim that all of the complexity of life arose via random mutations coupled with blind natural selection. But what Senator McCain personally thinks about ID is much less important than what he would do as a government official. Senator McCain takes a classically liberal view on education, and the freedom of students to learn. He points out that students should not be sheltered from ideas just because they are controversial. While the article inappropriately claims that intelligent design claims that “God had a hand in creation,” it’s refreshing to hear that classical liberals like McCain still exist.


Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.