On Thursday, the media went collectively insane over Governor Scott Walker’s failure to answer a question about his beliefs on the theory of evolution. A questioner asked Walker earlier this week in London, “Are you comfortable with the idea of evolution? Do you believe in it?” Walker said he would “punt” on the issue, adding, “That’s a question politicians shouldn’t be involved in one way or another. I am going to leave that up to you. I’m here to talk about trade, not to pontificate about evolution.”
This led to blaring headlines throughout the media. Huffington Post said Walker “dodged” the question. The Daily Beast accused Walker of being “bland,” “stupid,” and “moronic.” Talking Points Memo reported that Walker would “rather talk about cheese than foreign policy or evolution.” Bloomberg ran a thorough piece about all the 2016 GOP candidates’ positions on evolution, headlined “Punt, Fumble, or Touchdown? These GOP Candidates Won’t Endorse Evolution.”
Welcome to the 2016 presidential cycle. While ISIS burns Jordanian pilots and beheads American journalists, while the economy teeters on the brink, while Obamacare rolls out, while racial divisions plague America, the media have focused, laserlike, on the issue that matters most: opinions on Charles Darwin.
Just as in 2012, when opinions about condoms trumped opinions about the national debt, so in 2016, Democrat-supporting media will attempt to paint Republicans as religious rubes still fighting the trumped-up Scopes Monkey Trial. Americans will be informed that Scott Walker’s position on the Cambrian explosion matters more than Hillary Clinton’s celebration of more than a million abortions per year in the United States, including 11,000 late-term abortions. Scott Walker and company will be lectured on geology, but nobody will ask Hillary Clinton to take a look at an ultrasound.
Now, every Republican candidate would be well served to explain his personal belief in microevolution – not because the question matters deeply to policy, (It doesn’t.) but because he will be asked the question, and the answer is obvious. There are still significant debates regarding macroevolution in the scientific community – the notion of how species evolve into different species – given that Darwinian evolution suggests graduated equilibrium (constant and gradual evolution over time), rather than punctuated equilibrium (explosions of evolution in short periods of time), and graduated equilibrium does not match the fossil record. Nonetheless, Republicans should not be afraid of stating their personal positions on the science of evolution or the age of the universe as a general matter.
However, there is little doubt that the media are now playing a “gotcha” game, in which Republicans are asked questions that have no bearing on public policy to drive wedges into the conservative base, while Democrats are allowed to ignore serious scientific questions that have real public policy consequences. For example, in 2008, Jim Vandehei of Politico asked Republican candidates if they believed in evolution. That question has no impact on public policy. None. You can believe in evolution and still believe that local communities have a right to decide educational standards; you can believe in fundamentalist creationism and believe that the Department of Education should set broad national policy. But that’s not the point. The point is that Republicans and their supporters are dolts.
At no time during the 2008 Democratic presidential debates were Democrats asked if partial birth abortion extinguishes a human life. Hillary Clinton was asked when she believed life begins and was allowed to get away with this vague line: “I believe that the potential for life begins at conception.” But she wasn’t asked about her position on late-term abortion. When Pastor Rick Warren asked then-Senator Obama in 2008 at what point a baby receives “human rights,” Obama “punted” by stating, “Whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity … is above my pay grade.” There was precisely zero articles in the mainstream media ripping Obama as anti-science.
In 2012, Mitt Romney was asked repeatedly about his beliefs in the science of global warming. Nobody asked Obama about his scientific position on human rights vis-à-vis late-term abortion. The same will be true in 2016.
Republican candidates should be ready for this gambit. And they should be ready to fire back. Scott Walker tweeted today, “Both science & my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God. I believe faith & science are compatible, & go hand in hand.” That’s fine, so far as it goes, but Walker and all Republicans should be prepared to do better. The next time Scott Walker is asked about evolution, he should answer that punctuated equilibrium is supported by the scientific record, then ask whether Hillary Clinton believes in the science of ultrasounds – and if so, why she would have been willing to allow Chelsea to abort her grandchild at nine months. The next time Hillary Clinton gives an answer about her support for science with regards to global warming, someone should ask her why she wanted to waste taxpayer dollars to investigate junk science about vaccines and autism.
The left seeks to seize the moral high ground regarding science versus religion – and the media hope to help them along. Republicans should fight back with both science and morality.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.