Santorum Supported Federal Role in Evolution Debate, Compared Belief in Darwinism to Nazism

Rick Santorum last night explained his vote for the No Child Left Behind law of 2001, which was the cornerstone of President Bush's education policy.

"I have to admit, I voted for that, it was against the principles I believed in, but you know, when you're part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team, for the leader, and I made a mistake. You know, politics is a team sports, folks, and sometimes you've got to rally together and do something, and in this case I thought testing and finding out how bad the problem was wasn't a bad idea," Santorum said.

In his response, Santorum argued that the state and federal governments ought to exit education generally. He pointed to his role home schooling his seven children.

But, as Rick Santorum's book, It Takes a Family (2005) makes clear, Santorum was more than happy to attach his own amendment to the bill. After writing at length about the Big Bang Theory and Darwininian evolution, Santorum wrote this, explaining his involvement in making the debate over the teaching of evolution a federal matter:


I authored the only legislation on this matter ever passed by the federal government. My amendment on the teaching of biological origins, which passed the Senate by a vote of 91 to 8, became part of the Conference Report of the No Child Left Behind Education Reform Act of 2001. It has in turn sparked many spirited debates among both state boards of education and local school boards as both review their curricula.

Let me emphatically state that schools should teach everything there is to teach about neo-Darwinian evolution, which is certainly held to be true by most modern biologists. But teaching everything includes teaching the weaknesses and problems as well as the strengths of the theory. Our children should be exposed not just to the historically dominant view of such an important topic, but also the cutting-edge and persistent question: Is there evidence for any kind of design or purpose in nature? This is a scientific question, no doubt, but not necessarily one that can be fairly answered by a cramped, reductionist understanding of science. (It Takes A Family, 399-400, emphasis mine).

Santorum confesses that as a U.S. Senator it might appear odd to talk about evolution, but gives three reasons for doing so:

  1. the "issues [presented by Darwinian evolution] are not too difficult for the average person to understand"
  2. scientists, including Leon Kass, have come to a position similar to Santorum's.
  3. That belief in Darwinism can have real world effects, like Nazism.

His third reason is explained more thoroughly. "[The reason] I have taken up this cause to open up our educational system to evidence of design in nature is because these cosmological ideas have real world moral consequences," Santorum writes. (401)

He goes further, which is worth quoting at length:

When our imaginations are filled with the prospect of a purposeless universe of blind chance and insensible matter and nothing else, is it any wonder that moral respect for the universal and human dignity of every human being is eclipsed? The Nazis build their pseudoethics[sic] with its grim logic on precisely this Nietzschean cosmological view. Aided in no small part by the horrific negative example of the Nazis, Americans have avoided sliding down this slippery slope. But when we look at the movement for biotech "research" that would require the killing of the smallest and most marginal members of the human family for the harvesting of their cells, I wonder if we have merely been momentarily delayed in our slide."

. . .

The Darwinian universe has no room for the unique dignity of the human person, for in that universe we are nothing but the result of purposeless chance; moral consequences are eventually drawn from that. (401-402)

Santorum has asked voters to evaluate his views in his book, which appeared in 2005, before his 2006 defeat for re-election to the U.S. Senate, long before he ever presumably considered running for president. As such, it represents one of the great Rosetta stones to Rick Santorum's politics.

So 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?


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