Of Fossils and Freedom

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On May 3, 2007,
MSNBC hosted a debate for the GOP presidential candidates at the
Reagan Library in California. Near the end of the program, moderator
Chris Matthews asked
the candidates, “I’m curious, is there
anybody on the stage that does not agree, believe in evolution?”
Three hands went up, one of them belonging, naturally enough, to
Mike Huckabee. Ron Paul, however, kept his hand down.

At a November
1 meeting of the Spartanburg (SC) GOP Executive Committee, Ron Paul
was asked about this incident. Here’s a
to his reply. Speaking as an evolutionist, Andrew Sullivan,
who has a well-read blog at The Atlantic, wrote
of Paul’s response
, “I want to look away.”

But the truth
is that Sullivan never had the opportunity to look in the first
place. His link went to the page of an atheist writer, whose video
of Paul’s remarks was heavily edited. Here is the full transcript
of Congressman Paul’s remarks, with the deleted sections in brackets:

“Well, at
first I thought it was a very inappropriate question, you know,
for the presidency to be decided on a scientific matter, and I
think it’s a theory, a theory of evolution, and I don’t accept
it, you know, as a theory, but I think [ it probably doesn’t bother
me.   It’s not the most important issue for me
to make the difference in my life to understand the exact origin.  I
think ] the creator that I know created us, everyone of us, and
created the universe, and the precise time and manner, I just
don’t think we’re at the point where anybody has absolute proof
on either side.  [So I just don’t . . . if that were
the only issue, quite frankly, I would think it’s an interesting
discussion, I think it’s a theological discussion, and I think
it’s fine, and we can have our . . . if that were the issue of
the day, I wouldn’t be running for public office.”]

As you can
see, half of Paul’s words were censored.  His real message
was, “We’re fighting for freedom and can’t afford to be split over
a debate about fossils.”  The purpose of the censorship
was obviously to encourage exactly such a split.

With the prospect
of such a split in mind, now might be a good time for all of us
who care about freedom to remember what the Ron Paul Revolution
is all about. Certainly, it’s about stopping a war that has killed
over a million innocent people and has destroyed America’s reputation
throughout the world. Certainly it’s about gaining control of our
national finances before we become impoverished. Yet more important
than the war and the economy, the dominant issue of our age is the
question of whether America will continue to be a free country,
or will it descend into tyranny. As anyone who follows the news
knows, the trends are against liberty.

The worst example
of the deterioration of our rights is in that we now live in a country
where torture is accepted as standard interrogation procedure. In
defiance of the Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual
punishment, the President claims the right to arrest anyone — not
just foreigners — and hold them indefinitely, and torture them as
he pleases. Clearly, the intent of this initiative is not just to
allow FBI agents to beat the truth out of terrorists so as to keep
cities from being vaporized in the next ten minutes, because people
have been tortured for years now though not a single city has ever
come close to vaporization. Clearly, what the President cares about
is not the safety or security of American cities, but that the Unitary
Executive have the supreme power to torture anyone for any reason,
and never have to account for his actions. There is only one purpose
for that policy, and it’s not to catch terrorists. It’s to intimidate
dissidents through the practice of state terror against the citizenry.
To combat a handful of foreign terrorists, the government will create
an army of domestic terrorists, bankrolled by your own taxes, and
given bonuses and promotions based on how well they frighten you
and your fellow citizens into silent compliance with presidential

the trends of the past few years, it’s not hard to imagine a nightmare
vision of America over the course of the next Presidential Administration.
It begins with the issuance of national ID cards and proliferation
of government security cameras everywhere. Then one day a government
agent appears at your door, asking questions which indicate that
your private e-mails and phone calls have been monitored. Then you
make a nervous joke — perhaps about how the government spends too
much time going after innocent protestors and not real terrorists
— and next thing you know, you’re arrested.

Why? They don’t
need to tell you. Habeas corpus has already been suspended. They
don’t even have to tell anyone that you have been arrested. You
are now what is known in totalitarian regimes as a "non-person."
You will learn over the long period of your incarceration, non-persons
don’t have rights. And then one day, they lead you into a room where
screams have been coming from, and inside you see a board and a
jug of water . . . am I being sensationalist here, or am I paraphrasing
sworn testimony made before Congressional Committees?

You would think
that the prospect of imminent tyranny would scare some sense into
libertarians and make them realize that we have to stay united.
For now, though, certain Christian and atheist libertarians would
rather have the pleasure of bashing one another. Internet flame
wars must be powerfully addicting, given
that one of Sullivan’s readers abandons all moderation to write
“Ron Paul’s religious AND constitutional fundamentalisms are anti-historical,
and consequently anti-literate, as all forms of fundamentalism are.”
Hmm, now how did a certain obstetrician get through medical school,
let alone deliver four thousand babies, if he can’t even read? Oh
well, forget facts or logic — what matters is that we have our little
coffee house debate, as heatedly as possible, while outside the
paramilitaries gather and charge their tasers.

I’m not trying
to choose sides here, but I’m puzzled that any atheist libertarian
in America can possibly think that he can combat omnipotent government
without the help of Christians. Polls
show that eighty-five percent of the American people believe in
God, and over fifty-one percent disbelieve the theory of evolution,
so how do atheist libertarians think they’re going to win an election
if they openly mock Christians?

Maybe it’s
time we asked ourselves, “What would Thomas Jefferson do?”

In forming
a coalition between libertarian-minded deists and Christians for
the fateful presidential election of 1800, the secularist Thomas
Jefferson wrote in a
widely publicized letter
: ” . . . for I have sworn upon the
altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over
the mind of man.” He was a literate man who was indeed concerned
with the ideas that people put into their minds — but note, his
stated oath was to fight first for the right of minds to be free.

Though a sincere
Christian, Ron Paul has expressed that sentiment many times now.
It’s something that both Christians and atheists should agree with
as well, for while the debate over origins is important, there won’t
be any debate at all if tyranny comes, for tyranny will shut down
all such metaphysical debates, demanding instead that all worship
be directed to the State. Christians and atheists alike should ask
themselves, whose mind and soul will be saved then?

4, 2008

Schembrie [send him mail]
is a writer who lives in Bellevue, Washington.

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