Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, very much the flavor of the day among many Republicans to be their nominee for president in 2016, managed to get somewhat embarrassed while visiting London recently, something that seems to have become a not uncommon occurrence among them. I must grant that much of what he was criticized for he had a good cover story for. He went out of his way not to say much of anything substantive in reply to any questions at a Chatham House forum, supposedly on foreign policy, where he mostly wanted to tout Wisconsin products such as cheese. He said that he did not wish to criticize current US foreign policy while on foreign soil, a not unreasonable and traditional position, although many think it was because he knows zip about foreign policy and did not want to get caught making some seriously silly snafu due to his ignorance. As it was, he got in trouble for something else.
That something else was evolution. He was asked if he believes in it, and he replied by saying that he would like to "punt"on that. He was immediately taken to task for that and a lot of publicity about his non-answer on that one got around. He complained about the media attention to this, but obviously he could not claim that he was trying to maintain some formal unity about US foreign policy while on foreign soil with it. He subsequently produced a tweet on the matter that many declared was "just what he should have said in the first place," as if the tweet answered the question.
However, it did not. His tweet said the following: "Both science & my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God. I believe that faith & science are compatible & go hand in hand." Does this answer the question? I do not see it doing so. It looks like a carefully crafted hedge to make it look like he might be on either side of the question, but I must say that the wording tends to tilt to the anti-evolution side. That is because he emphasized specifically the "created by God" point. Sure, saying that he thinks faith and science are "compatible" suggests that he does accept evolution, but he does not come right out and say so. I would certainly accept that one can believe in both God and evolution (heck, one can say that God simply directs or oversees evolution, cannot be disproven). But, he did not say that. Of course, this is the convenience of tweets: they are so short one does not have the time or space to fill things out, along with not facing any obvious pesky followup questions.
I guess what bothers me here is Walker himself, along with how well he seems to be doing. I am from Wisconsin and have been following this college dropout for some time. I cannot think of a single thing he has done that I agree with that was not just something boilerplate that everybody does and agrees with. I shall not list all the stuff he has done that I do not like, because it is a long list, and I suppose I should not be prejudiced against college dropouts for becoming president, but among his latest actions are proposing a 13% cut in the University of Wisconsin system budget, along wiht a proposal that the state fund the building of a Milwaukee Bucks arena. The state is facing a fiscal crisis due to tax cuts aimed mostly at the rich he passed, imitating Brownback in Kansas, opining a la Laffer that this was going to stimulate the economy so much that there would no revenue problems, but in fact Wisconsin is performing more weakly in terms of growth and employment than its neighbors. But when push comes to shove, this lying ignoramus goes after higher education.
So, there is indeed a broader issue here about science and public policy, with the trend of Republicans in particular pushing anti-scientific views on climate and evolution at the top of the worry list (although it must be admitted that some Dems have joined the anti-science team, see liberal anti-vaxxers and some other issues). Clearly Walker wants to try to elide the issue for the moment at the national level and keep his appeal to both the fundamentalist creationist crowd, while keeping the establishment big money people not too scared. But, I, for one do not see any reason to keep the heat off this guy, whom I think comes out of the Joe McCarthy wing of the Wisconsin Republican Party rather than its progressive wing, which dated to the founding of the Republican Party in 1854 in Ripon, Wisconsin, you know, the Abraham Lincoln wing of the party, now all but defunct.
Update: Guess I should confess for any who do not know that I take attacks on the UW system more personally than those on others as I am an alum of the UW-Madison for both undergrad and grad school, as well as currently having a daughter there in grad school in neuroscience. So, I am especially resentful that this hypocrite's anti-higher ed agenda is aimed at my school.