Megan McArdle becomes the second prominent journalist to agree with me and argue that it doesn’t matter if Scott Walker believes in evolution:
I’m going to rile up a large portion of my readership by saying this, but I’m not sure it matters what the president believes about evolution. To the extent that this is a policy matter, it is a policy matter for state and local school boards, where creationists might decide to de-emphasize this portion of the curriculum in favor of content that doesn’t offend their religious beliefs. Scott Walker is not running for his local school board, and as far as I know, they’re still teaching evolution in Wisconsin classrooms. So his beliefs about evolution are probably not very relevant to his current administration or his political future…
Most of the people who “believe” in evolution don’t have much more scientific foundation for their beliefs than a young-earth creationist does for theirs. I would be slightly surprised to learn that the reporters asking the questions — or, for that matter, President Obama — could deliver more than a few vague sentences about how evolution works, desperately dredged up from the Life Sciences module of their seventh-grade science class.
McArdle’s essay would have been strengthened if she had linked to research by Dan Kahan. But that’s a minor complaint.
Despite the fact that Walker’s actual belief in evolution is meaningless, McArdle insists that not having a good answer is a bad sign: “If your campaign staff lets you get out the front door without solid, well-rehearsed answers to these questions, they are committing political malpractice. And that does tell us something about Walker’s presidential campaign, as well as the man who’s at the head of it.”
I agree. Walker’s punting on the question was a bit lame. While I get the appeal of a soothing “science is compatible with faith” message, you all know I think he should go on offense:
No, I don’t believe in evolution. I actually consider myself a creationist. But tell me something: who cares? Who cares what anyone thinks about evolution? Surely you know that the National Science Foundation proved that creationists are just as capable of scientific thinking as anyone else. So unless you’re anti-science or intolerant, you shouldn’t have any problems with creationists. Listen, if you want to know what I think about issues that actually matter, please ask me. Ask me about the economy. Ask me about health care. Even ask me about vaccines or global warming. But don’t waste my time-and yours–on something as irrelevant as the theory of evolution.
McArdle’s reasoning is flawed. She presumes, based on her ideological perspective, that evolution is strictly a K-12 educational matter, and that K-12 education is truly just a local matter. Common Core and the presence of the Department of Education undercut that pretty significantly. Walker’s meddling with the University of Wisconsin also suggests that he doesn’t see education as a strictly local matter.
Now, if a politician is a creationist, I want to know if he or she wants to make that part of the science curriculum. And if they don’t, I would be skeptical that they are really a creationist. Because why make a point – as a politician – of advertising being a creationist if you didn’t want to spread that philosophy through education policy?