Last week, during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Rick Perry gave his views on evolution:
It's a theory that's out there. It's got some gaps in it. In Texas we teach both creationism and evolution, because I figure you're smart enough to figure out which one's right.
Should we care? After all, Rick Perry doesn't propose to stand at the front of a middle school classroom, filling children's heads with superstition. If he's elected President, he'll have much larger audience for his views.
Not on evolution, probably. But the conclusions one draws can often give insight into how one makes decisions, whether it's about a scientific topic or otherwise, and that's certainly something we should care about in a President.
Our decisions are typically influenced by a great many factors. We see the world around us; we interpret what we see; we decide what to pay attention to and what to ignore; we have beliefs, desires, and intentions, which often go unexamined. Some of what we can guess about Perry's decision making worries me.
His personal interpretation of Biblical mythology apparently overrides a century and a half of empirical science. (Perry's Proclamation for Days of Prayer for Rain in Texas is also suggestive.) We ordinarily give Presidential candidates a pass on their religious beliefs, because these beliefs are shared by so many other Americans, but it's worthwhile to examine some of them.
Here's an important one: Most evangelical Christians (58%, according to a 2010 Pew survey) believe that Jesus Christ will return to Earth in the next 40 years, by 2050. Perry is an evangelical Christian. I'd be interested to learn whether he shares this belief. Why? It should be obvious, I think. If you're at all concerned about the future, even if it's just your own personal future, you'll make decisions based on what you expect to happen in the long run. (Not the very long run--in the very long run everyone will be dead--but in the shorter long run.) Now imagine that you know, with whatever amount of certainty, that the world will end in the foreseeable future. Within your lifetime, even. Would this affect your decisions? How much would you care about what happens after 2050? Not too damned much, I'd guess.
So I wonder...