Creationist to Give Invocation at Inauguration is a blog entry at Panda's Thumb. Matt Young notes that President-Elect Barack Obama has chosen Pastor and author Rick Warren to deliver his inaugural invocation. Young identifies Warren as a creationist and quotes Warren as stating the following:
If Darwin was right, which is survival of the fittest[,] then homosexuality would be a recessive gene because it doesn’t reproduce and you would think that over thousands of years that [sic] homosexuality would work itself out of the gene pool.
Young then goes on to add his own take on Obama's decision with respect to Warren:
I’ll grant that appointing a creationist to give the invocation is not exactly the same as appointing him science adviser, but if it represents the “spirit” of Mr. Obama’s administration, then I am not, shall we say, optimistic that Mr. Obama is truly the agent for change that he purports to be. His science appointments, I thought, have mostly been good ones, but I am utterly appalled by his inviting a homophobic creationist to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.
I did not vote for Obama but will defend him when I think he is being wrongly accused. The choice of who it is that should deliver the inaugual invocation is not a matter impacting public policy. Yet Obama's choice has drawn some fire. Young and many PT commenters focused in on two reasons. Warren is both a creationist and one who believes that marriage should be defined as a legal contract between two individuals of the opposite sex. So why would that signify that he should not deliver an invocation? Clearly there is symbolism evident here and Young and others believe it is important enough to raise objections. But what is the symbolism? To Obama the symbolism is one of tolerance and inclusion of those with differing backgrounds and viewpoints. He is spot on in thinking so. He has designated someone who differs with much of his constituency to perform a non-policy act. It is an ideal way of demonstrating that Obama can be both tolerant and inclusive without sacrificing his own principles.
Let's now focus on the labels attached to Warren. First, he is a creationist. Although his inaugural duties are consistent with a creationist outlook and he would have no policy making functions, being a creationist would seemingly disqualify one from participation on any level of government. Does that embody tolerance, freedom, inclusion, fairness, democracy or any number of other ideals linked to liberalism in your view? Perhaps PTers could tell us which one of these values needs to be dispensed with to cope with the threat creationists pose. Or perhaps it is not a threat at all but mere muscle flexing. A we'll show you where Siberia is attitude.
But in fairness Young leveled two charges. So maybe both have to stick before even ceremonial appointments are verboten. The second description of Warren was that he is homophobic. Homophobic means a fear of homosexuality. The use of the term is juvenile. It's the flinging of potty words and accusations. But it plays well to the PT audiences. It says in effect that anyone who opposes redefining marriage and making consequent legal adjustments based on this, does so out of fear of homosexuals; a weird position for a group which prides itself on an empirical approach to science and political tolerance. How is one able to discern the motives of those with whom one has no personal interaction? How do you assign motives without documenting psychoanalytical evidence? Ah, but rationality has nothing to do with misrepresentation and demonization. It's a mindless mob mentality, not a rational analysis.
Warren was taken to task by commenters because he was said to be an ideologue. Yet what is it, if not ideology, which prompts people to bar others from even ceremonial acts within the government based on labels and disagreements? The issues (homosexual marriage and creationist views) do not mitigate against Warren's capacity to perform an invocation.
Pop EP argues that its speculations about our Pleistocene past have led to the discovery of many of the psychological adaptations that control our behavior. Because the approach has worked, it must be on to at least part of the truth about human evolutionary history. Of course, the soundness of this argument turns on the strength of the evidence for Pop EP’s alleged discoveries. That evidence usually consists of standard psychological pencil-and-paper data (such as responses to forced-choice questionnaires), but it sometimes also includes a limited array of behavioral data. As I argue at length in Adapting Minds, however, the evidence is typically inconclusive at best. Pop EP’s favored evolutionary hypotheses are, as philosopher Robert C. Richardson of the University of Cincinnati recently quipped, “speculation disguised as results.” The appearance that the evidence is compelling is created less by the data themselves than by the failure to consider and adequately test viable alternative explanations. Consider a single illustration of this point.
Linking behavioral traits to evolutionary developments in genetics is routine. So when Warren infers that an evolutionary process would be expected to weed out a genetically based attraction to the same sex he is making a claim that is consistent with the logic of an evolutionary process. Of course there are many physical and behavioral traits which exist even in the absence of selective value. Slightly deleterious mutations can persist within a genome and accumulate. Controversial? Hardly. So why the strong reaction to Warren's statement? For one, he is biologically off the mark in expecting an eradication through natural selection. Secondly, his marriage position clearly is very unPC among the PT crowd and poisons the well with respect to anything else he says. Yet the core of Warren's idea is sound. If homosexuality is rooted in genetics then one would expect natural selection to be a sifting force which limits the proliferation of the behavioral trait. Not worth demonizing him for this.