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Saturday, August 30, 2008

Senator McCain picks a running mate

Senator McCain has announced that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is his choice to be the Republican Party's Vice Presidential nominee.

If his selection is designed to energize the so-called Christian Right and help him get elected, it may be good news for him. Unfortunately, it smells like very bad news for our country.

Here is the good news about Governor Palin. She is a Governor and former Mayor which means that she has executive experience. Criticizing her for limited time in office is hypocritical since, compared to the Democratic Party ticket, she is the expert.

More good news is that she has shown herself willing to challenge vested interests and entrenched bureaucracies. In general, she has succeeded. She has also been willing to stand up to major corporations.

In the neutral column is the fact that she is an Evangelical Christian with some fairly antediluvian positions on social issues. I consider myself to be a Goldwater Republican, which includes social tolerance - as well as a strong defense and fiscal conservatism, but I am willing to respect, and debate, other views.

Also in the neutral column is that Senator McCain's selection of a woman as his running mate could be described as 'too clever by half'. More so, when her experience does not compared to that of, say, Christine Todd Whitman who served two terms as Governor of New Jersey and, also, as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. To be fair, however, the only executive position held by Margaret Thatcher prior to becoming Prime Minister was that of Secretary of Education.

There are, however, two negatives: one relatively minor and the other of major proportions. The minor problem involves some unproven allegations of corruptly attempting to influence the Alaskan State Police to fire her brother-in-law who is involved in an unpleasant custody dispute with Governor Palin's sister.

While relatively trivial, since no firing took place, the incident speaks poorly of the competence of those in Senator McCain's campaign who are responsible for vetting candidates for selection as running mate.

The major problem is that Governor Palin is a creationist and supports the teaching of creationism in public schools.

The first issue is that 'Creationism' is a religious doctrine. While some may consider the First Amendment to the Constitution to be irrelevant, obsolete and quaint when it comes to religious matters, it states: "...Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;". Given the clarity of those words, how can teaching 'Creationism' in public schools be anything other than unconstitutional.

Even more importantly, Governor Palin's believes in a concept that is supported by no evidence. It is impossible to claim, at least with a straight face, that "revealed truth", written in Hebrew by a great poet then translated into beautiful 17th century English poetry in the King James Bible, qualifies as evidence. Further, creationism is contradicted by a vast body of evidence, developed by geologists, astronomers, physicists, biologists and other scientists, so her position suggests that she is in the grip of an irrational delusion that, not so incidentally, is only supported by a minority of the Christian communion.

The Pope, a serious Christian scholar, accepts evolution even if most American Evangelicals do not.

The implication of creationism is that the loving God of the New Testament has deliberately perpetrated a grotesque hoax on everyone. One of Albert Einstein's observations is worth considering: "God is subtle but He is not malicious."

Since Creationists reject science - although perhaps not the technologies, such as electricity and the internal combustion engine, made possible by science - what then of the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey as well as the sciences of cosmology, astronomy, evolutionary biology and ecology? Should we fear for the future of publicly funded scientific research - one of the foundations of our prosperity - if Senator McCain were to die or become disabled in office and she becomes President?

My support for Senator McCain has been greatly lessened by his selection of a religious extremist and his implicit endorsement of her beliefs. One small hope is that, if Senator McCain is elected, the office of the Vice President will - in the words of John Nance Garner (Vice President from 1933 - 1941) - once again become: "not worth a bucket of warm piss."

I wish Senator McCain long life and very good health!

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