The 2016 Presidential race may not have officially begun, but that hasn't stopped potential frontrunners from beginning their campaigns in earnest. And with the unofficial start of the campaigning comes the official start of journalistic muckraking. Much ado has been made about Scott Walker's "punting" on the issue of evolution while on an economic development junket in London. Bastions of progressive news are running stories explaining how such a backwards way of thinking would negatively impact the policy decisions of a president. One would think that concerns over the economy, or the continued threat of Islamic terrorism, or any of a host of other pressing policy matters would make the radar, but what do I know?
Of course, the intent of the media in asking politicians what they believe about evolution is to relegate candidates who don't conform to the prevailing orthodoxy of "scientism" to a class that includes Neanderthals, boobs and idiots. If a Republican candidate happens to confound the media by claiming that they do believe in evolution, you can bet that the next question will be, "Do you believe in global warming?" The media will keep positing such inane questions to Republican contenders until they finally get their "gotcha" moment – an answer or comment that permits them to classify the candidate as "anti-science."
Of course, the theory of evolution is just that – a theory. Contrary to the impression that secularists would like to project, it is not a matter of "settled science." The theory is not subject to validation through the scientific method. The hypothesis that the universe and mankind are the product of random chance over infinite time simply cannot be tested. But that's beside the point. Random chance and infinite time leading to evolution as the organizing principle of a godless universe is the settled conviction of secularists. To them, the idea that there is an Intelligent Designer who brought these things into being is as preposterous as the suggestion that leprechauns or hobbits really exist. No matter that it takes more "faith" to believe that the order and complexity of the universe are the product of mere chance than it does to believe that an intelligent designer is behind the whole thing. (After all, when one sees a Boeing 757 – a complex, heavier-than-air machine that cruises through the sky at 40,000 feet – it is easier to believe that there is a designer behind the product than that it arose as the result of a tornado blowing through a junkyard.)
Unlike radical secularists, most Americans do not see a conflict between faith and science. For many, theology has been viewed as the Queen of Sciences and the notion that there is a Creator behind the order of the universe has encouraged scientists across the generations to investigate the natural laws that produce that order.
It will be interesting to see how the candidates respond to what will surely be a repeat of the question put to Governor Walker. Will they acknowledge the existence of a Divine Creator, who as our Founding Fathers believed was the author not only of our lives, but our rights as well? Or will they kowtow to the doyens of the politically correct, chattering class who are hell bent on browbeating our political leaders into their secular mold?
One thing is for sure – the President of the United States cannot resolve the tension between those who affirm the existence of God and those who deny his existence. Ontology is more properly the domain of philosophers and theologians. Presidents have to deal with more mundane questions such as how to balance budgets, how to protect the American people from threats to our safety and security, and how to ensure equal opportunity for all.
One thing that is equally certain is that the marketplace of ideas should make room for all points of view on the subject of evolution and creation. It is not the role of government nor should it be the mission of the media, to censor that discussion. On the contrary, a society's ability to engage in civil debate about controversial issues is a critical indicator of how free its people are, and how just its government.
The media would do well to remember that the American president is the leader of the free world, not a professor and not a philosopher. And they should keep in mind that most people take comfort in the notion that their President has enough humility to seek wisdom and direction from Almighty God. They are not doing their readers any favors by distracting from the real issues in favor of ideological sideshows, and they are not doing their profession any favors by conducting blatant smear campaigns against every politician with an R behind his or her name.
As for the Republican candidates, given the antagonism of the media, they would probably be better off just giving straight answers to the provocative questions, directing their comments not at a cynical media, but to an American public that by and large still respects the role that faith plays in the American story.