BROWNBACK'S PATHETIC ATTEMPT AT MODERATION. Poor Sam Brownback. Like so many conservative leaders, he has to struggle with appeasing the flat-earth wing of his base while attempting to maintain some intellectual credibility. And for anyone in that position, there is no right answer to the question of whether you believe in evolution. Apparently realizing that denying outright the overwhelming scientific consensus might get him branded as a marginal candidate, Brownback took to the pages of the New York Times op-ed page today to clarify an answer he offered during the Republican presidential debate that he does not believe in evolution.

To someone who doesn't follow the debate closely, Brownback's explanation that he accepts micro-evolution (changes within species) and that he doesn't necessarily believe God created humans in their present form in six days a few thousand years ago, might make it sound like he isn't too crazy on the subject. Don't be fooled, his hair spltiting is the standard among intelligent design advocates. As it's nearly impossible to deny micro-evolution (since within even one person's lifetime you can see some species adapt to their changing climate), they focus instead on denying macro-evolution -- that new species emerge over time. In other words, they deny our common ancestry with apes. And they bring the philosophical question of How-it-all-got-started-and-why into the science classroom, where it doesn't belong.

Having surveyed a bunch of conservative leaders on their beliefs on the topic myself, I'd say Brownback falls somewhere between Tucker Carlson and Pat Buchanan on the question, which is about what you'd expect from someone like Brownback who has one foot planted firmly in the oligarch wing of his party and one just as firmly in the fundamentalist camp.

--Ben Adler

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