Republicans, like any party, have always had their share of oddballs. They were ignored as long as the GOP was a minority party.
So when the Republicans swept to control of the state House, I had a question for a member of that new majority, state Rep. Ben Harbin of Evans: Now that Republicans are in power, will any of its off-the-wall types now get more attention and embarrass the party?
Harbin said he didn't know of any offhand. If we listened to some in the media, we'd have our example: state Rep. Ben Bridges.
Bridges is a Republican from Cleveland, Ga., That's the home of Babyland General Hospital, where Cabbage Patch Dolls are made.
To hear the Atlanta media tell it, you'd think Bridges believes real babies come from a cabbage patch.
One TV station says Bridges has introduced a bill that would prohibit teaching "theories," which means students would never hear about gravity. A newspaper writer reminds us of Georgia's embarrassment when State School Superintendent Kathy Cox tried to do away with the word "evolution" in curriculum.
They also note that no other lawmakers have signed Bridges' bill -- a sign that he's a lonely nutjob.
Maybe it's a sign that they haven't read the bill.
Here's the main text of House Bill 179, filed this past week as an addendum to the state curriculum:
"(a) Whenever any theory of the origin of humans or other living things is included in a course of study offered by a local unit of administration, factual scientific evidence supporting or consistent with evolution theory and factual scientific evidence inconsistent with or not supporting the theory shall be included in the course of study.
"(b) The method of instruction described in subsection (a) of this Code section is intended to strengthen the analytical skills of students by requiring the presentation of a broad range of scientific evidence regarding theories of the origin of humans and other living things. ..."
Bridges is proposing that all evidence, pro and con, of origins of life be taught to students. Aside from the fact that state lawmakers really ought to stay out of curriculum decisions, what's wrong with that?
Some folks believe evolution is hogwash. I think they are terribly misguided, but I also know scientific theories are supposed to invite contrary evidence.
The scientific method is its own worst enemy when debated on religion's terms. Religious adherents can't understand the concept of inviting challenges to their beliefs, while science welcomes challenges in the search for ultimate truth. Religion demands that believers fill in the gaps with faith; science demands that the gaps remain empty until evidence emerges to fill them.
It seems odd, then, that scientists accept evolution on faith, while religious people accustomed to unquestioning belief are the ones with all the skepticism.
Bridges clearly wants to invite challenges to the theory of evolution. That's the way science should work anyway, yet the scientific community fears any skepticism about evolution will doom us all to ignorance.
Look, three seconds after I'm dead, I plan to ask God for all the details. I expect him to explain that the Biblical account of creation was his way of telling the story so early readers could grasp it. I believe he lit the fuse that brought on the big bang, and then watched as the infinite processes of his creation grew, expanded -- and, yes, evolved.
That's my theory. I hope God will fill in the gaps for me one day. Until then, I'm perfectly willing to hear everyone else's theories, without fear that either my religious or scientific beliefs will be shaken.
Too bad the scientific and religious communities can't agree to reach the same conclusions.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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