Last week, Wisconsin Governor and likely presidential hopeful Scott Walker embarrassed himself in an interview when he responses to a question about whether or not he accepts evolution by saying, “I’m going to punt on that one as well… That’s a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or the other.”
The New Yorker‘s Adam Gopnik explains the significance of that question — and why it shouldn’t go unasked:
What the question means, and why it matters, is plain: Do you have the courage to embrace an inarguable and obvious truth when it might cost you something to do so? A politician who fails this test is not high-minded or neutral; he or she is just craven, and shouldn’t be trusted with power. This catechism’s purpose — perhaps unfair in its form, but essential in its signal — is to ask, Do you stand with reason and evidence sufficiently to anger people among your allies who don’t?
… Opposition to evolutionary biology is overwhelmingly tied to an investment in some kind of defiantly anti-rational ideology: in our time, to fundamentalist Christian reaction; in dark days past in the Soviet Union, to the Lysenkoist belief in culture-made traits. To oppose Darwinian biology is not to announce yourself neutral or disinterested or even uninterested. It is to announce yourself against the discoveries of science, or so frightened of those who are that you can be swayed from answering honestly.
Damn right. No President has to be a scientist or an expert in a science-related field, but it’s hard to foresee an effective presidency when the leader believe solid science — and the methodology behind it and the research stemming from it — is up for debate. Science, unlike politics, doesn’t care about which group is in the majority. It just continues getting closer to the truth as we know it. To suggest it’s an ideology or a controversial idea is a sign that you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about.