Sunday, February 15, 2015

Did Scott Walker Really Answer That Question About Evolution?

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.

Barkley Rosser

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.

9 comments:

Sandwichman said...

I see no inconsistency. Just because humans evolved doesn't mean Scott Walker has to.

ad101867 said...

Walker should've just told the truth: there's no empirical data logically requiring the conclusion that all life-forms descended from an original common ancestor.

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

ad101867,

Well, while indeed Darwin argued that and most evolutionists accept it, that is really a trivial and secondary part of the theory of evolution, which involves species emerging over time through natural selection with mutations occurring. As near as I can tell, this core would not at all be remotely threatened if somehow it turns out that life started separately in several places. Natural selection and mutation would still operate.

The alternative being posed to Walker, particularly by GOP anti-evolutionary activists, is creationism, whether of the sneaky "intelligent" variety or just plain old out and out Biblical fundamentalism with "what happened is what is in Genesis, and that is that." This, or some variation of it, is what Walker was really being asked about, and he, um, punted.

Just in case you are inclined to such stuff, I note that Genesis has two separate accounts of how humans were created. One version has man and woman being created simultaneousliy and equally on the sixth day "in the image of God." Then, God takes a nap on the seventh day, only then later to up and create Adam and then Eve from his rib, all inferior her. What happened to those earlier people? Well, maybe they became the Giants in the Earth, or provided Cain a wife, or...

Peter Dorman said...

Barkley, you mean the Bible had the goods on the Neanderthals?

Jack said...

The best Scott Walker critique is Scott himself talking to The Other David Koch, as played by Ian Murphy. A scam on Walker it is, but it highlights his sycophantic character and his stupidity all in one 20 minute phone conversation.

http://scottwalkerwatch.com/koch-brothers/walkers-punked-phone-call/

rosserjb@jmu.edu said...

What worries me is that this is a stupid man making a political appeal to stupid people that being stupid is a good thing. "Let's stop funding those liberal elites in the universities" (because, hey, bread and circuses, we need to fund the Milwaukee Bucks arena instead).

Even in the days of Joe McCarthy, they did not go after the UW that much. And, in a sign of what was coming, the minute Walker walked in the door as gov he promptly turned down money to build high speed rail between Madison and Milwaukee, something supported by two previous GOP governors, with the high speed rail between Milwaukee and Chicago a reasonably successful operation from what I hear. But, hey, that was something that Obama wanted, and so... let us hear it for stupidity!

David Prince said...

Guys, not to be a kill-joy but you do know that evolution is the equivalent of proclaiming Pinocchio to be a true story? Therefore if someone says they are a 'creationist' we should be able to understand why as it is just as hard to believe in evolution which puts us into an inescapable dilemma! accept God and he will accept us into the kingdom or continue to deny him and we may just find out the hardway that he was the real theory all along

Jack said...

Mr. Prince,
You seem to have over looked the fact that creationism, like all aspects of religion, is based on faith. Nothing need be tangible and observation is secondary to dogma. Evolution, if not a law of science, is based on observations of the environment, a search for facts that can be reasonably established and do not require mere faith in one's beliefs.

Jack said...

Mr. Prince,
One does not believe in evolution. One either accepts the observable data upon which the science of evolution is based, or one rejects those observations. Those observations have taken place over a period of time during which many keen observers of the biological world have contributed their own assessments of such observations and the facts that make it possible to develop the ideas upon which the science of evolution is built.

Creationism, being a sub-category of religious belief, relies on no such observations of the environment. Creationism jumps from dogma to what is described as an "intelligent design" of the biological world. The facts are fitted to the concepts rather than the concepts being a result of the facts.