After liberals pitched a fit over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker “punting” on an evolution question, blogger Sean Davis passed an entertaining afternoon by asking some of Walker’s outspoken critics what they think “evolution” means, and which version of evolutionary theory they believe is flawless truth beyond all criticism. As the answers — which could fairly be said to involve a good deal of “punting” — proved, the people hassling Walker generally didn’t know much about evolutionary theory themselves.
Like other forays into politicized science, the Walker flap is about tribalism, not rational debate.
Walker’s critics are sending smoke signals to each other that Walker is Not One of Them — he’s supposedly a member of a hostile tribe of mouth-breathing religious zealots, feared and fought by Western liberals with far more energy than the actual mouth-breathing religious zealots who want to kill them.
Declaring “I believe in evolution!” is a tribal identifier that requires zero knowledge of biology. Most of the people who make this declaration could not tell you the title of Charles Darwin’s book, let alone discuss its contents in detail. Failure to declare “I believe in evolution!” when put on the spot sends a different tribal identification signal.
This is also part of the motivation behind liberals’ savagely attacks on Walker’s education background, which includes a stint in college he did not finish. Given how thoroughly a gang of utterly incompetent but highly-credentialed boobs have wrecked the country over the past six years, and how they’re planning to run a woman who has nothing whatsoever on her resume except credentials — or maybe an academic whose career was marked with numerous attempts to gain advantage by falsely claiming to be an American Indian — one would think liberals would know better than to crank up such an elitist campaign this time around. It’s going to be hilarious watching them try to palm filthy-rich corporatist royalty like Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren off as “populists” against someone with a biography like Walker’s, or Marco Rubio’s, or especially Ben Carson’s.
The perfect distillation of this absurdity was former Gov. Howard Dean, both a medical doctor and a shrieking lunatic, insisting that Walker is “unknowledgeable” and unqualified to run because he didn’t get that all-important college diploma. Yes, clearly America needs more sophisticated guidance from Democrats with advanced degrees, such as Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon.
Credentials have value, which is why everyone lists them on their resumes. Credentials are not the only thing that matters, which is why everyone puts other information on their resumes. Americans have gotten a bellyful over vacuous appeals to authority and “shut up, because I said so” arguments over the past few years. They’ve watched a long string of alleged geniuses fall flat on their faces. They’ve heard a procession of powerful people with formidable academic backgrounds explain why lying is acceptable, and the elite should never be held accountable for the failure of their plans. If the right lessons are taken from the utter collapse of managerial liberalism, there will be deep skepticism of the next central planner who thinks “don’t you realize who I am?” is the only argument he or she will ever need. This might well work to the disadvantage of Republican candidates trying to run from the Senate, or completely outside of politics, because a properly skeptical electorate will want to see hard evidence that presidential aspirants can run a big operation better than Barack Obama. Walker will be among those who can offer such evidence.
Tribalism has its place in society — it can be a lot of fun, as sports fans will happily attest — but it’s a downright horrible way to select political leadership. Like just about everything else, tribalism goes sour when mixed with compulsion, and that’s what political power is all about. Walker’s answer on evolution amounted to dismissing the question as irrelevant to his job, and he’s right, provided he has no intention of using the coercive power of the State to impose his beliefs on the rest of the nation.
Obama, on the other hand, is very happy to use enormous amounts of coercive power to impose his beliefs on the rest of us, including his irrational zealotry for the Church of Global Warming. As Kevin Williamson of National Review points out, Obamacare forces taxpayers to cover a great deal of New Age quackery under the guise of medicine, because such decidedly non-scientific beliefs are fashionable among Obama supporters: “If you’re a coastal progressive type, people who believe that every word of the Bible is literally true in a natural-history sense are creepy and weird, but when Dr. Moonbeam McEarthgoddess promises to manipulate your mystical energy pathways so that your qi cures your osteoarthritis — then, bring on the federal subsidies.”
We don’t need any more of that, thanks. A chief executive who is humble before the potential of the unfettered American people is what we do need. Such humility is in very short supply among the tribes of the Left.
There’s nothing new about the Left trying to disguise its ideology as objective truth and present itself as the Tribe of Science. It’s similar to the way earlier collectivists sought to portray resistance to their demands as a form of insanity — the Soviets, for example, were very big on portraying dissidents as suffering from mental illness, and the American Left took a stab at it, too. Their new mania for “science” and unquestioning deference to academic credentials is another way of accomplishing the same goal — obviously in the case of the Walker evolution flap, as the strong implication from those who found his comments unsatisfactory is that he’s a delusional religious fanatic, or at least unduly sympathetic to them.
Beyond its utility as a means of telling people to shut up, because dissent is stupid and crazy, the Tribe of Science idea provides an intellectual framework for breaking down the notion of unalienable rights, which are profoundly troublesome to those who worship the State. Liberals have a great deal of trouble accepting the notion of “rights that come from God,” not because they’re irreligious, but because they believe the State should give, take, and redistribute rights as its masters see fit. The concept of rights that every man, woman, and child holds in equal measure — from the most deserving pauper, to the most “unfairly” wealthy One Percenter — is infuriating to those who believe equality is something the State imposes, not something it is obliged to respect.
The Left wants us to accept obedience as the essence of sanity and reason. That’s why the tireless defenders of the whimsical, unaffordable, underperforming mess in Washington are so keen to portray everyone else as crazy and stupid.