In my last post, I talked about P.Z. Myers' reflexive partisanship. But his post raises an important question: how does a Republican presidential candidate handle the question of evolution. Now, if the guy is a scientific ignoramus who doesn't believe in evolution, it's probably not a problem for him: he just tells the truth about his own beliefs.
But you know, I'm betting Mitt Romney -- who seems like the most intelligent of the lot -- knows that evolution was true. I'd bet Nixon did. Reagan, I don't know -- he was more well-read than people give him credit for being, but his areas of interest were history, politics, and economics. Heck, I'll bet McCain even knows the truth about evolution.
I can be iconoclastic -- I can say what I believe about pretty much everything. Because nobody really cares what I believe. But a Republican presidential candidate has to tread a certain line. The fact is that there are people in this country who think that the theory of evolution is the work of Satan himself. Alas, those people vote Republican in large numbers. If a Republican candidate alienates them, well, he gets to watch the inauguration ceremonies on TV.
Just as a candidate who is an atheist has to lie about his or her beliefs in order to be elected, a Republican who fervently believes everything P.Z. Myers says about evolution would have to lie, or at least finesse it. "Teach the controversy" is one way to finesse the issues, for a national candidate. That's a fact of life for any Republican seeking higher office.
But lest our Democratic friends get to feeling TOO superior, there are crackpots on that side too. I mean, there really are some people in the Democratic Party who think that the wrong side won the Cold War, and who would still favor nationalization of industries because they think the government could do a better job. "Markets work" is nearly as proven as "evolution happened," but the Democratic Party contains a nucleus of hard-core anti-market zealots whom any Democratic candidate has to appease.
Both parties have a crazy aunt who shows up for the family reunion. The trick is to placate her and make her think she's getting her way while going ahead and doing the sensible thing.