Presidential Debates and Evolution

This one I didn’t expect–during the Republican debate for presidential candidates, they were asked if they “believed in evolution.”

**[Ok, my attempt to put a you tube clip in here was a disaster. See it here]
(the momentary look of terror on McCain’s face when the question is asked is pretty entertaining.)

Now, leaving aside the fact that stating the question that way forces the issue into one of faith (I would have phrased it something like “do you think the overwhelming scientific evidence supports the fact of evolution”), nearly all the candidates said they didn’t think evolution was real.

And the ones that did say they “believed” immediately issued long position statements clarifying that they really meant that they believed sometimes.
In some situations.
But were actually God-Fearin’ Bible types.

Ars Technica had an insightful commentary:
And that’s what I think motivated the question regarding evolution in the presidential debates: it was an attempt to ascertain whether a given candidate was willing to ditch a scientific and rational thought process if it led to conclusions he was personally uncomfortable with (or, more cynically, he believed that the primary voters would be uncomfortable with).

It’s not clear that using science as a proxy for rational thought will wind up having any staying power on the campaign trail. Nor is its use in this manner clearly a good thing; if candidates wind up picking and choosing which science they’re comfortable with on a national stage, it may make more of the public comfortable with following their lead.


Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. I guy I went on a date with said he didn't think it was a big deal if the president didn't believe in evolution (even though he is an atheist)… and he and his friends were shocked that I would not vote for a candidate based solely on that! I was horrified – if you're willing to flout reality in favor of your personal religious beleifs on one issue, you'll be willing to do it for every important issue that faces the nation. Ugh.


  2. For me it would be a case of how much I thought it was sincerity vs pragmatism.


  3. I don't think it matters as much what the motivation is… they're still doing it.


  4. Which of those options is the better one? Honestly? I don't think either one is acceptable.

    If the guy sincerely doesn't believe in evolution, then he's either egregiously misinformed or in denial.

    If the guy is just putting on a show for the voters, then he's an unprincipled coward.

    Whichever it is, that doesn't bode well for his ability to run a major first world country.

  5. After airing that clip, Jon Stewart said, "In case you missed it, raising their hands were Sam Brownback, Tom Tancredo, and Mike Huckabee. They will be missed."


  6. Well it would be nice if you could get elected without having to a least pay lip service to something you dont believe in personally. But in any society large enough, its basically impossible.

    Choosiing between ideological rigor and getting elected is a fact of life in politics, sure you can go too far with that, but in itself its just the way our system works. In that regard I find pragmatism a wee bit more forgivable than actually believing in the particular issue.

  7. i think you note on christianity is a bit unfair.

    Its a religion sure. It has some goods and bads.

    The fact that some wingnuts make it negative does not mean that the religion itslef, whether or not you believe it, is bad. noth9ing is wrong with the golden rule for example.

    By anology, both communists and Nazi's worshiped science.

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