Andrew Breitbart’s “Big Government” website carries a sleazy, sensationalist and utterly dishonest headline: “Santorum Supported Federal Role in Evolution Debate, Compared Belief in Darwinism to Nazis.” The article that goes with it doesn’t much improve on the title.
Charles C. Johnson quotes from Rick Santorum’s 2005 book It Takes a Family and links to an answer Santorum gave in the Arizona Republican debate this week, expressing ambivalence about the consequences of legislation he voted for, the No Child Left Behind Act, to which he offered a now famous amendment.
Johnson writes, “What, if anything, does it mean that Santorum wanted there to be a federal role in the teaching of Intelligent Design? And what, if anything does it mean that he has compared Darwinism to Nazism?”
But these are grotesque distortions worthy of, well, the Huffington Post. The Santorum Amendment sought to encourage, not require, teaching the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian theory. It said nothing about intelligent design, nothing at all. Here is what it did say:
The Conferees recognize that a quality science education should prepare students to distinguish the data and testable theories of science from religious or philosophical claims that are made in the name of science. Where topics are taught that may generate controversy (such as biological evolution), the curriculum should help students to understand the full range of scientific views that exist, why such topics may generate controversy, and how scientific discoveries can profoundly affect society.
Plenty of scientists who don’t care for ID have acknowledged big scientific problems with Darwinism. The idea that Santorum ever supported a government mandate favoring intelligent design is simply an expression of malicious ignorance.
Quite to the contrary, in its original intent, the purpose of the Santorum Amendent was to counteract liberal attempts to disempower local school boards from determining their own curricula by nationally mandating science tests in each state. Santorum’s amendment sought to defend the role of local governments, not to further empower the federal government.
As to the point about Nazism, Breitbart’s headline makes it sound as if Santorum thinks believers in Darwinian theory are…Nazis! To call this ridiculous is too gentle. It’s simply moronic and the impression of malice, too, is hard to deny. What Santorum said in his book is that strains of Darwinian thinking led historically to a nihilist materialism on which Nazi ideology did indeed draw. Of course he was right about that. This does not, obviously, do anything remotely like equate Darwinism with Nazism.
Rick Santorum might be the best candidate in the current Republican field or he might not be. Like anyone seeking his party’s nomination, he deserves careful and honest scrutiny of his views. Not least from purported conservatives, he deserves better than this.