Feb. 1, 2004: At the Beginning God Created Some Wacky Politicians

One of the questions frequently asked of your intrepid correspondent is, “Where do you find material for your columns?” My standard reply is that as long as one politician is drawing a breath, I will have more subjects to write about than I will have the space to write. I love politicians.

That is why I am so grateful to our Republican State School Superintendent Kathy (with a “K”) Cox — not to be confused with our Democratic Secretary of State Cathy (with a “C”) Cox — for having recently introduced the idea that our high school science curriculum should allow the teaching of evolution without somehow using that particular word. As I understand her proposal, teachers can utter the “e” word in class, but only if they don’t inhale. She says that the term for you-know-what will be replaced by “biological changes over time.” I thought that was how you described puberty.

Please do not be too harsh with Kathy (with a “K”) Cox. Bless her heart; she has bailed me out of a major jam. I was feeling enormous pressure to explain to my Georgia Tech friends why a group of budding young geniuses at my alma mater, the University of Georgia — the oldest state-chartered university in the nation, located in Athens, the Classic City of the South (I just thought I would throw that last part in) — decided to kill, cook and eat a raccoon recently and got themselves into a heap of trouble for their efforts. If one thing confounds my friends at Georgia Tech more than why they can’t beat us at anything, it is why students at the University of Georgia consider raccoon a delicacy. There is a very logical explanation, but I will save it for later, after I have had time to make it up. Right now, let’s deal with why our state school superintendent decided it was improper that our children be exposed to the word “evolution,” but not to national ridicule.

There are several plausible theories. One is that she doesn’t want our brightest and best to realize that they might share the same genetic makeup with anybody who would voluntarily live in Vermont. Another is that she is sucking up to the Baptists, who have long had a “don’t ask, don’t think” policy as regards the “e” word. One Baptist preacher was quoted as saying, “a true Christian cannot believe in evolution.” Take that, you heathen Presbyterians! The preacher failed to mention how he knows this or how he got himself elected to speak on behalf of God, who I thought was the only one empowered to make those kinds of pronouncements.

One prominent Baptist not buying the preacher’s line is Jimmy Carter. The former president wrote a blistering letter to Kathy (with a “K”) Cox, saying he is “embarrassed” at her efforts to “censor and distort the education of Georgia’s students.” Carter reminded Cox that he is “a Christian, a trained engineer and scientist, and a professor at Emory University.” Now I am getting confused. Jimmy Carter is a dyed-in-the-wool Baptist, but he supports the teaching of evolution in our public schools?

If Baptists are convinced that a true Christian cannot believe in evolution, what happens to Jimmy Carter? Does this mean he doesn’t get to go to heaven and will have to spend eternity at George W. Bush’s ranch in Texas? Will being a trained engineer and scientist count for anything with God? Does God even like trained engineers and scientists? Will Jimmy Carter have to become a Methodist? Do Methodists really want or need another liberal weenie Emory professor in their denomination? Will Baptists even allow Methodists in heaven? Wow, this evolution stuff is really complicated! No wonder the school superintendent doesn’t want us talking about it.

I have no idea how this debate will turn out. All I know is that thanks to Kathy (with a “K”) Cox, everybody in the country is laughing their heads off at us and no one seems interested in pursuing the question of why we eat raccoons at the University of Georgia. Now do you see why I love politicians?