I sometimes wonder whether the NY Times is intentionally using subtle humor, or whether the editors' shirts are so stuffed that the irony doesn't penetrate. For instance, Sam Brownback's views on evolution are either an epic piece of deadpan sarcasm on the level of Stephen Colbert's address at the 2006 White House Press Correspondents' Association dinner, or an absolutely appalling commentary on the state of scientific understanding and rationality in America. Consider the following quote:
Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology.
And this one:
It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.
And especially this one:
Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.
Now presenting (cue lights and music): Faith Based Science!!! First decide what you want to believe, then look for data supporting your pre-established conclusion, dismissing any contradictory evidence as merely an opposing religious claim. I would ask in amazement what sort of political policy such a decision-making framework would lead to, but I think we've been seeing the effects for the past six year. The real punch-line, however, is the following: this was not a haphazard statement sputtered out unprepared during a press conference or even a debate. This was an official, carefully honed policy statement deliberately submitted to a major news outlet. This is how Senator Brownback WANTS to be seen. At the very least, I'd like to imagine that the people at the Times editorial desk had a good chuckle before sending this to press.