I was a little bit late in learning of Zack Kopplin’s thoughtful, admirable, and logically sound challenge to ultra-right winger Michele Bachmann, who is apparently still considering a run for the Republican nomination in the next presidential election cycle. On top of everything else, Zack’s challenge to creationists is lucid and entertaining, and that isn’t merely the opinion of this blogger: hundreds of interesting comments have been posted.

If you have any interest whatsoever in any of these ongoing discussions or debates, then you should definitely read up on this heat-generating story:

  • Creationism vs. evolution, intelligent design (ID)
  • Religion-based “science” vs. real science
  • What should be taught in public schools
  • Pseudoscience vs. science
  • Fundamentalist religious views vs. truth and reality

This gripping story is a microcosm of the much broader debate between religion and science that’s been going on for centuries.

Zack’s challenge to Michele Bachmann is notable for a couple of reasons. First of all, Zack Kopplin is 17 years old – and he’s obviously a thoughtful, intelligent, and rational young man. Second, Bachmann has been cornered and has so far failed to respond. There could be many reasons for her lack of response; perhaps her advisors have flat-out told her not to respond, that losing a debate with a teenager might make her look even worse to those who aren’t yet familiar with her. Perhaps she knows in her heart that her position is deeply flawed, as I suspect some Religious Rightists do (including a few brave, intellectually honest individuals I know personally).

We have nothing whatsoever against Michele Bachmann as a person, and we strongly support her religious freedom to believe and practice whatever religion she wants. (However, I do wonder whether she truly supports America’s pluralism, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state; it’s a valid question – many figures who publicly represent the hard right would like to do away with the separation of church and state, and even transform the U.S. into a Bible-based society.) But we also think the fundamental beliefs of people who ask for the support of the American people – and far more importantly, harbor the desire to lead the American people – should be thoroughly examined.

It turns out Michele Bachmann is the sort of person who fears science, would choose pseudoscience over the real thing, and would almost certainly close her mind to any possibility not supported by her literal interpretation of the Bible. She is a great example of someone who believes she has the answers to questions she hasn’t even heard yet.

Bottom line: The United States cannot afford to roll back progress by electing hard-core religious fundamentalists into office. Our founding fathers did not intend for our government to take religious fundamentalist positions; our country has functioned quite well as a pluralist society. The U.S. faces many challenges, none of which can be resolved by turning America into a religious state. However, we’d love to see basic spiritual principles such as compassion, tolerance, and acceptance play a more important role in politics.

Resources: Zack Kopplin vs. Michele Bachmann