Conservative Politicians Abroad Seem More Accepting of Evolution

Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press

By Mark Oppenheimer

On Wednesday, in an interview in London, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a potential Republican presidential candidate, sidestepped the question of whether he believed in evolution.

“I’m going to punt on that one,” he said to an audience at a research organization in London, which he was visiting for a trade mission. “I’m here to talk about trade, not to pontificate on other issues. I love the evolution of trade in Wisconsin.”

Mr. Walker’s response was not all that surprising — evolution is a sensitive issue for the evangelical Christian base of the Republican Party and presidential candidates have had to tread carefully around it.

The theory of evolution may be supported by a consensus of scientists, but none of the likely Republican candidates for 2016 seem to be convinced. Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida said it should not be taught in schools. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas is an outright skeptic. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas will not talk about it. When asked, in 2001, what he thought of the theory, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said, “None of your business.”

After Mr. Walker’s response, the interviewer in London, an incredulous Justin Webb of the BBC, said to the governor: “Any British politician, right or left wing, would laugh and say, ‘Yes, of course evolution is true.’ ”

Unlike the United States, where Republicans and conservative Christians are more likely to deny evolution and climate change, most conservative politicians in other countries, as well as other branches of Christianity, see Darwin more favorably. The BBC reporter’s response to Mr. Walker could serve as a reminder that American evangelicals, and the Republicans who woo them, are the exception, not the rule.


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26 COMMENTS

  1. It seems to be the USA where money trumps brains, evolution is denied, and science education is at a level where Planck’s constants are likely thought to be thought of as settings on a circular saw!

  2. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said, “None of your business”

    If your candidate harbours delusions which will cause them to make major policy errors, religious beliefs are definitely the public’s business. And delusions are a perfectly valid reason for not voting for a candidate.

    Someone who believes god can be counted on to prevent global warming, nuclear war, running out of food, extinction of the world’s food fish etc. is an idiot who cannot be trusted with the reigns of government. He will refuse to do his job, trusting his non-existent deity to take up the slack even when it is clear his god is doing nothing.

  3. The one piece of good news, is many of these candidates are just pretending to reject evolution. They did it because the brain-damaged right wing voters demand tit. The bad news is this pretending fools the voters into thinking famous people think as they do. It just encourages them.

    That is why Christie said “none of your business”. He was trying to have his cake and eat it too, something Christie apparently succeeds often in doing.

  4. Hi All,

    Here is my trouble with evolution….

    We used to have a man wearing silly headgear telling us how the planet was created…..

    Now we have a man in a white coat telling us a different story about how the planet was created…

    The average layman can’t prove or deny either stories. Although, for me personally, the evolution story seems more credible based on my observation abilities.

    Prior to organised religions, we used our observation abilities to figure out lots of things (how to capture wild beast, how to avoid being killed, etc , etc..). Modern age seems to have rubbed us from this ability, and therefore we can’t tell the difference any more.

    I personally don’t believe that the likes of Chris Christie or other conservative politicians are that stupid to deny that evolution happens. However, I do believe that they lack moral principals and will tell you any lie that will get them in office. I agree with @Roedy above, and the sad part is almost everyone knows this, and yet accept it.

    The reason the US is the worst example of superpower is it’s leaders lack moral principals (generally speaking). They are just thugs who will bend every rule for personal gain. Some might say, that’s politics, to which I will say, look around the world today, and you will see politicians with principals that exists today (and the funny thing is, the US is fighting them as hard as they can 🙂 )

  5. How you going this fine night voiceofarabi?

    I agree with your basic synopsis of politicians but I’d add that the general public chooses their politicians so I don’t let them off so easily.

    On your point about evolution and having to take scientists word for it. I somewhat disagree on evolution (much of physics is harder to get to a level of understanding that allows for the same degree of confidence). I agree that as I don’t own a gene sequencer I cannot map the genome of animals around me to test the predictions of such measurements but I have made electrophoresis chambers using margarine containers, agar, aluminium foil and food dye here’s a simple set of instructions. This demonstrates that principle nicely. I can read popular science books, I can engage in selective breeding of plants (I could dogs but I worry about the impacts of dog breeding on many breeds). I can go fossil hunting, I can volunteer to help at fossil sites (some good ones in Queensland where I live even nearby).

    All of this stuff is peer review and anyone who can read and has the Internet can engage at some level. I can replicate Mendel’s pea experiments and similar. And I can go look at actual fossils in museums, I’ve even downloaded CT scans of numerous hominid fossils and converted them over to suitable file formats to print them out on my schools 3D printer where the features are available to see how our species has evolved over the past few million years.

    What I find depressing is that many of my fellow citizens don’t have sufficient curiosity to even look in a cursory way at any of the evidence.

    Regards

  6. Well everything I have read (since the age of 14…I am now nearly 50) has supported evolution and all the nay-sayers I have read or listened to have failed in their evidence-less dogma to convince me otherwise!!! (Find a Rabbit skeleton in Jurassic strata (and prove it is as old as the rocks it is found in) and I will have to change my mind!!!)
    TTFN.

  7. I wonder what it’s like living in a country where you’re scared of being goverened by people with a higher level of education than your children?

  8. The question is wrong.
    Don’t ask if they believe in evolution, ask if the understand it.
    Belief is an opinion which needs no facts.

  9. when will American voters understand that an idiot who thinks myths are true is in no way acceptable to be president? the gave us one already in GW Bush and look how well that went, he should have been named Nero.
    the rest of us, those with common sense must laugh these clown out of existence, yet we don’t, we actually protect their right to be “the Idiot-In-Chief”.

  10. Rosbif Feb 18, 2015 at 9:42 am

    The question is wrong.
    Don’t ask if they believe in evolution, ask if the understand it.
    Belief is an opinion which needs no facts.

    Hence “belief” in the pseudo-science of “Theistic Evolution”, whose chief function is to allow priests to tell sheeples “The Church BELIEVES in evolution”!
    (That is “evolution by god-did-it-for His-purposes”!) – because outright denial results, in being pilloried and laughed at – just as Flat-Earthists and geocentricists, are now pilloried and laughed at!
    Even the RCC has eventually agreed, that Galileo was right, – despite them still thinking humans are the central feature of the “their god’s” universe!

  11. Rosbif Feb 18, 2015 at 9:42 am

    The question is wrong.
    Don’t ask if they believe in evolution, ask if the understand it.
    Belief is an opinion which needs no facts.

    Yep! Hence “belief” in the pseudo-science of “Theistic Evolution”, whose chief function is to allow priests to tell sheeples “The Church BELIEVES in evolution”! Oh – and some scientists are believers, so it must be so !!!!! – No need to actually study or understand the science or its methodology!!

    https://richarddawkins.net/2015/02/hey-biblical-literalists-stop-disparaging-darwin/#li-comment-169051

  12. OP;

    When asked, in 2001, what he thought of the theory, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said, “None of your business.”

    I would have thought it was the electorate’s business if a candidate doesn’t accept the findings of science.

  13. Hi Voiceofarabi,

    Here is my trouble with evolution….

    We used to have a man wearing silly headgear telling us how the planet was created…..

    Now we have a man in a white coat telling us a different story about how the planet was created…

    The average layman can’t prove or deny either stories.

    To the best of my knowledge Charles Darwin never wore a white coat.

    But let’s assume for one mad moment that this is important. How could I check this out? Could I try searching the archives. Could I seek out experts who may have gone before me and researched every picture ever taken of Charles Darwin – including the descriptions of the pictures that don’t survive. Could I read the biographies. Could I seek out the museums where his old correspondence and diaries are kept.

    In short: Could I check the facts.

    Evolution is no different. You do not need to take it on faith, you can look it up, study it and check the facts of the underlying evidence for yourself. No white coat needed.

    Peace.

  14. Hi Reckless Monkey… The profile picture is both funny and impressive.. it would make a great tattoo 🙂

    but I’d add that the general public chooses their politicians so I don’t let them off so easily.

    Off course you are correct in your statement, but it is difficult to fight human nature.. a while ago, I was introduced to the “bell curve” concept, and if we to apply it here, then we can come to the conclusion that around 80% of humans are only interested in the two most important issues, which are Food & Sex (no different to any other animal, AKA laymen’s 🙂 )

    And I can go look at actual fossils in museums, I’ve even downloaded CT scans of numerous hominid fossils and converted them over to suitable file formats to print them out on my schools 3D printer where the features are available to see how our species has evolved over the past few million years.

    I am speechless, and I can say I am really jealous.. Queensland is definitely on my agenda of places to visit and explore soon… but I think you have just answered the question in your statement. If schools around the world make all this available to young curious people, the problem of denying evolution will disappear in one generation.

    This might sound a little crazy, but it appears policy makers around the world want people to believe in religion, as I don’t understand why in this day and age a leader of a superpower can come out to the public and say “I was talking to God, and God told me to run for office”. This kind of statement should surely win you a straitjacket..

    it is always pleasure exchanging views with you sir!.. best regards.

  15. Hi Stephen of Wimbledon,

    How could I check this out? Could I try searching the archives. Could I seek out experts who may have gone before me and researched every picture ever taken of Charles Darwin –

    That statement can go both ways, you see, if I seek the “experts” on the other side (people employed by religion establishment, and they are much more in numbers than the experts from science side) they will give me the opposite view, and they will also tell me stuff that I will not be able to prove.

    The point I was making here is, unless you are a scientist and can conduct and understand experiments (even if you don’t wear a white coat), you will have to believe other people’s views and take their word for it. which is very similar to believing in religion.

    Off course evolution happens everyday, and you will have to be blind not to see it… some of us still remember the first mobile phone from Motorola and we can see how it evolved into a neat iPhone today, but on a longer term, we have to put our faith in either a scientist or man of god.. they both carry the same value for a layman. I think one solution was proposed by @Reckless Monkey above that could help greatly starting with the young.

    My point here is not to preach to the convert.. I am merely trying to put the average person’s point of view.

  16. Queensland is definitely on my agenda of places to visit and explore soon…

    If you do be sure to visit North Stradbroke Island just a short barge trip off the coast near Brisbane most tourists miss is it in favour of some of the more touristy spots, don’t miss it, it’s beautiful. As a child I used to wonder the sand dunes and beaches, every few years the winds would change the dune structure revealing 20ft wide Aboriginal Midens of sun bleached shell fish they must have had massive feasts on the beach. There’s also a great pub overlooking the beach.

  17. That’s easy to get out of, and even look folksy. They’d just say “Not really, who does?” The question of whether they believe in the products of the scientific method– which all but the genuinely crazy/true believers will say yes to, even if they fudge the issue. That’s why they claim there’s a debate about it all the time.

  18. Hi Voiceofarabi,

    [SW] How could I check this out? Could I try searching the archives. Could I seek out experts who may have gone before me and researched every picture ever taken of Charles Darwin

    [VoA] That statement can go both ways, you see, if I seek the “experts” on the other side (people employed by religion establishment ….

    In what way expert? Evolution is science. Evolution is a theory that describes the facts that we observe all around us. In what way are religious establishments conducting science? Questions about evolution are scientific questions that require scientific answers – meaning they require answers based on observations that can be repeated and which are irrefutable.

    … (people employed by religion establishment and they are much more in numbers than the experts from science side) …

    There are millions of scientists across the World working in fields associated with biological evolution. There are a few score, maybe as many as a hundred, religiously motivated people who are fraudulently claiming to be working on evolution.

    Note that millions versus a hundred doesn’t make the scientists right – what makes evolution right is that millions of scientists are looking into areas of nature where their collective understanding is based on evolution. In this way they’re making progress in medicine, public health, agriculture, vermin control, mapping the natural world, bio-fuels and other technologies and in many other related fields.

    If any one of those scientists found that evolution didn’t work there’s a Nobel Prize just waiting to be won for the first scientist to publish.

    This is just one way in which we can research the truth of evolution without being a scientist – because science works on, can only function by using, truth.

    The “much more in numbers” that you point to are irrelevant because these people are either priests/imams/shamen, not scientists, or they are frauds who have been exposed. No-one is working on new medicines using the outlandish claims of these people, because they are not true: They are not based on fact, are not based on observations that can be repeated, do not fit with the other scientific theories, also tested daily by real scientists, and are therefore easily refuted.

    … they will give me the opposite view …

    No they won’t. They’ll give you a different view which, as above, is not based on truth or science. They will give you a personal view which, like much free advice, is worth what you paid for it.

    … and they will also tell me stuff that I will not be able to prove.

    It is certainly true that religious establishments employ people to be deliberately confusing or to lie. I don’t see why that would cause anyone seeking truth a problem? You simply have to be skeptical, ask questions, seek evidence, weigh probabilities, apply logic. None of this stuff is hard.

    The point I was making here is, unless you are a scientist and can conduct and understand experiments (even if you don’t wear a white coat) …

    Scientist A is working on the frontiers of science and technology and conducts experiments. Then the professional journals review A’s work and other scientists, repeat those experiments. If other scientists see how the observations made by A are valid they may say nothing. More often, Scientist B will write to the Journal that published A’s work and say something like “I tried something similar, but noted that my observations are different. Did A account for X?”. Or, Scientist C will write in saying “I have been working in the related field of Y and my observations (see my paper W) show that A’s conclusions need to be modified.

    Scientific papers are not hard to write, or to get published and, in many cases, are easy to read and to understand.

    They just have to be good science. Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is a summary of decades of observations made by Darwin and others and is very easy to read.

    … you will have to believe other people’s views and take their word for it. which is very similar to believing in religion.

    No you don’t! as above. This said so often, but I never get tired of repeating it: Science is nothing like religion. With science you can always check.

    Off course evolution happens everyday, and you will have to be blind not to see it… some of us still remember the first mobile phone from Motorola and we can see how it evolved into a neat iPhone today, but on a longer term, we have to put our faith in either a scientist or man of god.

    The ‘evolution’ of the mobile ‘phone uses a different meaning for the word evolution. In mobile ‘phones we’re discussing the gradual development of something through directed efforts. In biological evolution we’re talking about natural, unguided, responses to environmental change.

    They both carry the same value for a layman.

    Not for this layman, and not for anyone who gas studied even a little biology.

    My point here is not to preach to the convert.

    Why not?

    I am merely trying to put the average person’s point of view.

    I’m an average Joe, and I think differently.

    Peace.

  19. I’ll bet I could do it. I do appreciate, in case any journalists are reading, that Q&As are constrained by Media-PR minders and there are always ‘friendly’ members in the Press Corps who will help to cut you off. Still, I can’t help thinking that the Media are often not up to the job of real reporting.

    Jus’ sayin’.

    Peace.

  20. Evolution seems like such low hanging fruit, a very easy organizational and intellectual target and probably a web-hit driver and money maker for sites like these. I think atheist’s are really guilty of playing the numbers and some insincerity, editorial gerrymandering, by regularly hyping this dying subject. I wonder if it wouldn’t die a natural, quiet death (like flat-earthers) were it not for the regular indignation required by members. This site quotes 46% of Americans believing man arrived on earth in his present form less than 10,000 years ago (half that is way too high.) They should really quote their source and if it is regularly confirmed by other sources…. very unscientific. Like the cancer industry, wouldn’t they be in a bit of a bind if numbers were different… couldn’t sell books or charge for speaking engagements. Careers have been resurrected by the evolution argument (see Bill Nye)… maybe on the advice of his publisher. Evolution could make a real comeback if people who hadn’t really thought about it much, were more or less rational in every other aspect of their lives but were suddenly forced to choose. Movements build and these otherwise harmless elements become recruited by a newly activated political force (a very small minority) preaching traditional family and cultural values (sound familiar, Germany, WWII), a message too patriotic to ignore and one possibly to moderate your changing beliefs back to if you hadn’t completed the transition personally as populations do historically . What might have died on its own is now given a new lease on life and several pints of blood by an organic process not under the control of it’s creators.

  21. Rob Feb 22, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    This site quotes 46% of Americans believing man arrived on earth in his present form less than 10,000 years ago (half that is way too high.) They should really quote their source and if it is regularly confirmed by other sources…. very unscientific.

    Your evidence for “half that is too high” is ???

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/hold-creationist-view-human-origins.aspx
    PRINCETON, NJ — Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years. The prevalence of this creationist view of the origin of humans is essentially unchanged from 30 years ago, when Gallup first asked the question. About a third of Americans believe that humans evolved, but with God’s guidance; 15% say humans evolved, but that God had no part in the process.

  22. The first time I parsed Rob’s sentence, I thought he meant that humans had been in their present form less than 5,000 years and that figure was probably still too high.
    This might be in accord with creationists, some of whom believe in a world slightly over 6,000 years old; and those early folk (Adam, Methuselah, etc.) lived for centuries so they’re certainly not humans in their present form.
    😉

    Of course, he was merely expressing incredulity that nearly half the US population believe in fairy tales.

    I remember working with an American project manager (IT). He was pretty good at his job. One lunchtime he caught me reading a science book; can’t remember which one, but the topic was a broad brushstrokes history of man over the last 80000 years or so, ice ages and all, which I briefly summarised for him. He was genuinely disturbed by the existence of this book, and nonplussed by the topic. He mumbled something about Adam and Eve, and then visibly forced himself not to think about it any more, and slipped back into professional conversation mode about a forthcoming meeting.
    In turn I was nonplussed by finding out that this well educated, well travelled, and very competent professional was a creationist. Only by a chance turn of events did I find out.
    (And only by a chance turn of events did his world view get challenged, if only for a few seconds. It seemed obvious from his reaction that he didn’t routinely get exposed to alternative viewpoints on this topic.)

  23. Rob Feb 22, 2015 at 5:42 p and MadEnglishman Feb 23, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    It makes pasted quotes clearer on this site, if you place > at the beginning of quoted line and leave a line space at the end of them, before adding your reply.

    Then have a look at the preview box before posting to check the formatting.

    I hope this helps make discussions clearer.

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