I don’t think I’m saying anything wildly controversial when I say that it’s extremely unlikely that Sam Brownback will be our next president. And given his general philosophy of “compassionate conservatism” on steroids, I think that’s probably a good thing.
Still, it’s interesting that Brownback felt the need to take the pages of the NY Times to explain his position on evolution:
If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.
What’s noteworthy here is that these two options hardly exhaust the possibilities. It’s possible, and I believe true, that there has been not only change within species but between species and that this doesn’t imply “an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence.”
It seems that Brownback shares the concern of many religious believers that accepting “macro” evolution would undermine the uniqueness and worth of human beings:
I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.
In fact, I’d be willing to speculate that this, more than worries about literal vs. symbolic interpretations of the Bible, is the source of much religious anxiety about evolution.
Though it may sound plausible on the surface, I’m not sure that this is really a problem. Each individual human being comes into existence by way of natural processes, but that in no way justifies treating their individual worth as somehow diminished. So why should the fact that the species came into being by natural processes diminish the worth of human beings as such? If we can say that God intends my particular existence, even though I came into being through natural processes, then why can’t we say that God intended to bring human beings as a species into existence by means of natural processes?