That ridiculous question Republicans get asked

I get asked a lot about media bias, and for the most part my answer is probably unsatisfying to those who think it’s a pervasive feature of newsrooms which are full of editors and reporters plotting to advance the liberal agenda. In short, I think bias is by and large a matter of blind spots, and it’s the reporter’s (and editor’s) job to recognize those blind spots and account for them in the stories they pursue, the people they interview, the questions they ask, and the way they present the information they’ve found. If you are able and willing to recognize your blind spots and account for them, you can produce a reasonably objective piece of journalism. This was my own personal approach when I was a news reporter for the AP.

That said, there are a few perennial stories that are indicative of, at minimum, journalists refusing to acknowledge their blind spots. And one of them — Republican gets asked about some science-y topic! LOLs ensue! — is in the headlines right now.

Scott Walker speaks at Chatham House, London, Feb. 11.

Scott Walker speaks at Chatham House, London, Feb. 11.

I refer of course to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recent refusal, during a think tank Q&A while on a state trade mission to London, to take the bait on that staple of GOP interviews: Do you believe in evolution? He declined to answer, and suddenly this is a story, even though the questioner basically admitted it’s a GOP set-up; he said it’s “almost a tradition now to ask (it of) visiting, particularly Republican, senior Republicans who come to London.”

It’s a ridiculous question to ask, for many reasons. It’s ridiculous because the United States president — the office Walker is widely expected to seek next year — does practically nothing that has to do with anything regarding evolution. In fact, that’s more or less what Walker said: “That’s a question a politician shouldn’t be involved in one way or the other,” he said, “so I’m going to leave that up to you.” Liberals who usually slam politicians for mixing religion and politics are instead slamming Walker for essentially refusing to mix religion and politics. Walker’s staff later clarified that the governor thinks “faith and science are compatible,” an answer that he should have had at the ready in London, but which is unlikely to satisfy many of his critics.

It’s also a ridiculous question because Democrats never get asked any science-related questions that put them in a similarly uncomfortable position. As David Harsanyi points out at The Federalist, if politicians are going to be asked about evolution, why not ask them whether a 20-week-old unborn child is a human being? Other questions he suggested:

  • Do you believe there are too many people on Earth?
  • Is nuclear power the safest energy in the world?
  • Do you believe GMOs are safe?
  • Do your chromosomes have anything to do with determining sex? What role do they play in a person’s gender, if any?

And so on. Some of these questions would put Democratic candidates in the uncomfortable position of choosing between “science” and/or acceptable mainstream opinion on one hand, and key elements of their base on the other. Which would be analogous to the evolution question Republicans get, except that these questions actually relate to legitimate public-policy questions.

There’s also one other key difference: Mainstream opinion actually aligns with key elements of the GOP base on evolution, and against the premise of the question Walker and other Republicans get.

You see, the evolution question is most of all ridiculous because it’s intended to create ridicule, even though this ridicule is laughably misplaced. In June 2012, Gallup reported that 46 percent of Americans subscribe to the creationist belief: that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” That figure includes a plurality of Democrats and independents, a plurality of college graduates, and even a quarter of those who “attend church seldom or never.”

Another 32 percent, including the second-largest number of Democrats and independents as well as college graduates, believe “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God guided the process.”

A mere 15 percent of Americans subscribe to the view that almost certainly represents the premise for the Republicans-on-evolution question: that “Human beings have developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life, but God had no part in this process.”

So, taken together, 78 percent of Americans believe something that would most likely earn them ridicule from the people asking Republicans questions about evolution. Just 15 percent presumably would earn the questioner’s approval. And this tells somehow tells us something is wrong with … Scott Walker?

That, and the ridicule which greeted Walker’s punt — but which did not greet Nancy Pelosi’s refusal to answer the 20-week-old fetus question, or Barack Obama’s dodge of a question about whether unborn children have rights — are quintessential examples of what many people regard as media bias. And in this case, if not many others, they unfortunately appear to be right.

Reader Comments 0

99 comments
GMFA
GMFA

Palin was set up by Couric as know one should ever be asked what newspapers they read! Sometimes I even get confused and say ABC instead of AJC.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

The God deniers arguments don't hold water and their feeble attempts to disparage believers only shows their ignorance.


Yes, there is room for evolution within God's creation.


There is not room for denying a supreme being of which we have not scratched the surface in understanding.


Deniers for example explain the solar system in terms of infinity.  They may then try to explain infinity using the old grains of sand on the beach story which are in their mind infinite.  However, the sand is not infinite, it is instead impossible for us to quantify. The sand "ends" by being on Earth and Earth is a finite object.


Just like there is an end to the sand on Earth, there is an end to the solar system.  Try getting the deniers to explain what's at that end.  They can't.  If they state its infinite, see the grains of sand explanation above.


There is only one answer, that being a supreme being of which we are not capable of understanding its existence.


Now, that supreme being may or may not be the religious God of the Bible and Faiths, but it sure gives comfort to those who believe so and its truly a grievous transgression for someone to try and deny others that faith.

TheRealJDW
TheRealJDW

@Kyle...that "ridiculous question" is only ridiculous if one has no reasonable answer. Point stop, anyone without the critical thinking skills to get past the "world is 10,000" years old fairy tale is not qualtified to get my vote so I want to know.

As for your other questions...ask away...I want to know the answer to them as well.

GB101
GB101

Here is a great example of media bias from our own AJC, today, Feb. 14, 2015.  


http://www.ajc.com/news/news/alpharetta-police-look-for-ga-400-bump-and-rob-sus/nj94T/


The Alpharetta police actually gave a more complete description of the perps.  I found it in another publication.  So the AJC has taken an active step to conceal important information about criminals who are deliberately causing collisions and committing armed robbery.  This is not a blind spot.  The editors' eyes are wide open but they do not want ours to be.

sssinff
sssinff

"46 percent of Americans subscribe to the creationist belief: that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.”


You say this as though it's something to be proud of.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Good for Scott Walker. I'm impressed. Hopefully he won't let himself fall victim to the "gotchas".

I have only to read comments from our liberals to know the target and/or motive of the left-wing media. 

You can count me among the 32 percent, but that's not enough to appease our leftists. They want me to dispose of God, altogether.

I once told AmVet that I suspected his disdain for my faith was because it was something he could never take from me.

jezel
jezel

Kyle...please tell me you believe in evolution.


Notice I did not say..tell me you do not believe in creationism.


How a person answers this question..tells me....well....how evolved their mind is. In 2015 it is disturbing that this topic is being discussed in the AJC....or in any relevant news media. Apparently our country is worse off than I ever imagined.

Joel Edge
Joel Edge

"but which is unlikely to satisfy many of his critics."

That's the whole point. He can't win, by answering it or not answering it. The laughable part (for me) is that these people are still asking these kinds of questions. And I'm guessing they're thinking of themselves as very smart. 

stogiefogey
stogiefogey

The best theory on why some journalists are the way they are is in Tom Wolfe's "Back to Blood".

His idea is that they are the weaklings on the school playground who can't compete with the alpha male types and who "...grow up instinctively realizing that language is like … a sword or a gun. Used skillfully, it has the power to … well, not so much achieve things as to tear things down—including people … including the boys who came out on the strong side...".

honested
honested

So being asked to confirm reality makes republiklans nervous?

Certainly you realize this is not news.

MarkVV
MarkVV

What Kyle seems unable – or unwilling - to admit is that
a. Whether a candidate for a high office accepts or reject a consensus of scientists has an important implication for his/her decisions in the office if elected;
b. That even if non-scientific views were shared equally by supporters of both parties, this is more common among conservative politicians and therefore it is legitimate for reporters to ask such questions somebody like Walker.


SueEllenEwing
SueEllenEwing

Oh, you poor, poor republicans. The nerve of someone asking a question about, eh, anything?  Their response while pouting, "Not fair.  They don't ask the democrats those kinds of questions."  Geez, grow up! 

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Well, the evolution question is leading in a couple of ways, especially if the person answers "yes". 

1) Global Warming evidence relies on scientific evidence that the earth is over 6000 years old. 

2) Will the person answering be using religion as a basis of governing (see Judge Moore in Alabama)

3) Will the person answering be open to new ideas based on scientific discovery, or keep their mind closed because a religious authority says so? 

4) Will the person answering also use this religion as a traditionally "us vs them" mentality? 


20 weeks?  Let science decide this.  If scientific evidence points to enough brain activity to be "human life" then sure. If they don't, then nope.  And please don't make anyone else follow religious rules regarding this question. 

Nuclear Power safest in the world?  Nope. Hydro, Solar and wind likely take the lead. Unaddressed nuclear waste still makes it more dirty.  Once the waste issue is addressed responsibly, then it can be considered the safest. 

GMO's are safe. 

X and Y Chromosomes can identify gender, but evidently there is more to the story.  You cannot simply say that in 100% of cases, X and Y define male or female.  What about when chromosomes get mixed and you get XXY? Where does that leave the question?  In this case, it makes the person asking look ignorant of the whole biological story.


Caius
Caius

We might want to add this to any discussion re human life:

14th Amendment US Constitution: "1: All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

Catch the word "born"?  This is a point that must be addressed in the pro-life vs pro-choice debate.

As Justice Scalia observed in an interview "when we think of persons we usually think of people actually walking around". (quote is from memory) 



RafeHollister
RafeHollister

@Caius So, it is OK to kill foreign folks/non citizens not subject to the Constitution?

AvailableName
AvailableName

I'd kinda like to know if a candidate thinks the world is a few thousand years old.  Tells me something about their reasoning abilities.  


As to the polls you cite, making decisions based on polls of people about their irrational beliefs doesn't make for good governance and says a good bit about how we got ourselves caught up in "my beliefs are every bit as valid as your science" politics in the Republican party.


On the questions you would pose to Democrats, I'm all for it.  Again, their answers or non-answers tell me about how they think.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@AvailableName  I'd kinda like to know if a candidate thinks the world is a few thousand years old.  Tells me something about their reasoning abilities.  


Damn right

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Another beauty 


Republicans take Congress and what do they do. They name this guy to the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.


Well actually the Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that "as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night," my point is, God's still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.


- James Inhofe ( R )


There you have it. Mr Inhofe denies Climate Change because Genesis tells him its not possible. 


If you see Democrats saying stuff like that you let me know and ill be just as critical of them not getting asked these types of questions. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 Which evolution-related policy are you worried a future president might get wrong?


None


But that isn't the point. As mentioned below Climate Change is a very real thing and we should be concerned about it


Now a President who is so Scientifically challenged as to deny Evolution


Don't you think that same individual just might be inclined to not believe in Climate Change as well


Or a host of other issues that could arise ?


I do 

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

@HeadleyLamar  I am concerned. I need to drive to work Monday and it might snow. Beyond that, the climate (nature) pretty much takes its course, and we must learn to adapt.

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

46 plus 32 equals 78 believe in God is enough for me. You 15% are the laughingstocks in this situation. 

RafeHollister
RafeHollister

This gotcha question thing with science is so overblown.  People in the 80's and 90's and early 2000's would have been considered "non believers" and unqualified to be President had they been unwilling to sign on to the saturated fat/cholesterol hysteria promoted by Doctors and scientist of the day.  Total loons they would have been branded. Apparently new studies show little difference in heart health in those who have avoided those dreaded "toxins".  Not everything the food nazi's believe is scientifically based, yet they are considered to be the elite among us.


http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150210050947.htm

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@IReportYouWhine Your correct


The American Conservative Republican party continues to be the only major political party in the world to deny climate change.


Because ya know. Genesis says it cant be.

Moderate_line
Moderate_line

I have long believed the same thing that Kyle states with one added condition. The news is about telling stories which means it relies heavily on anecdotal evidence. It is easy to confirm your bias with anecdotal evidence. You only have to find one example to prove your point. Psychologically everyone has a tendency to accept information that confirms their bias and reject information that contradicts it.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Moderate_line That's true, but it's also something a good reporter recognizes and addresses, most of the time anyway.

Moderate_line
Moderate_line

@Kyle_Wingfield @Moderate_line  I would not disagree with you but how many "bad reporters" openly know and admit they are bad. Chances are if you are a bad reporter you don't know it. 80% of the people believe they are above average driver which means that at least 60% of the below average drivers don't realize it. This is just an example of how people are over confident in their abilities. I would also think that most people are even more over confident in their chosen profession than a general task like driving.


I would say there are only a few good and bad reporters with most being mediocre.


http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0001457586900047

MarkVV
MarkVV

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted 98-1 to approve a resolution stating that “it is the sense of the Senate that climate change is real and not a hoax.”

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

We know the government lies. Would anyone like to contradict that statement? We also know that some scientists slant the results of their studies to show a bias towards the results they want. Heard about how transfats are actually good for you? That the DDT ban causes more deaths than it prevents?  Coconut oil? Global "warming?"



EdUktr
EdUktr

It's nice you think liberal bias in newsrooms is just some sort of oversight, Kyle. But it makes you look ridiculously naive or too eager to keep your position.

Readers, after all, witnessed the AJC's efforts to unseat Gov. Deal and undermine other state Republicans last November.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@EdUktr "it makes you look ridiculously naive"

I've spent 13+ years working in the newsrooms of three major news organizations. How about you?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@EdUktr Yes, but you're trying to speak to motive, or cause. Which you can only infer based on what you read, subject of course to your own biases.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Dang and I forgot all about Judge Roy Moore.


Another black eye for the GOP


And they wonder why they get asked these types of questions 


Seriously ?

AvailableName
AvailableName

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar I don't know that Judge Moore handled a case involving evolution; but, I do know he's a wing nut on the subject:


"Moore spoke openly about his devotion to creationism, claiming that evolution has 'distorted our way of thinking.' He intimated that evolution and the Constitution are irreconcilable. During his 2010 gubernatorial primary race, Moore ran an attack ad against a Republican opponent pillorying him for 'supporting teaching evolution ... on the school board.'”


From a Slate article in 2013.  


http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/01/roy_moore_re_elected_in_alabama_ten_commandments_supreme_court_chief_justice.html

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Higher levels of education corresponded with a stronger belief that God was not involved with creation, but over 25% of college graduates do believe in creationism, according to the study.


The belief in creationism is also influenced by regional factors. Gallup reports that residents of the South are more likely to hold creationist views than in other places.


Dr. Brian Alters, the president of the National Center for Science Education's board of directors, has emphasized that the consensus of scientific community is decidedly in favor of evolution.


"Overall, the nation has a big problem," he said in 2006. "Approximately half of the U.S. population thinks evolution does (or did) not occur. While 99.9 percent of scientists accept evolution, 40 to 50 percent of college students do not accept evolution and believe it to be 'just' a theory."


Survey data came from telephone interviews between May 8-11, 2014, with a random sample size of 1,028 adults aged 18 or older. The sampling error is ±4 percentage points, with a confidence level of 95%.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/02/creationism-america-survey_n_5434107.html





Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

 President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Congress passed the National Defense Education Act, a funding bill designed to improve science education. The teaching of evolution got a shot in the arm from new textbooks, authored by scientists, made possible by the Act.


http://www.livescience.com/43126-creationism-vs-evolution-6-big-battles.html


Further proof that Eisenhower ( Who taxed the top bracket at 91 percent. We didn't have much debt either ) was by far the greatest Republican of the 20th century. 


My oh my how he wouldn't fit into the party today.

IReportYouWhine
IReportYouWhine

15% of AmeRicans believe that God played no part in their creation, who are the extremists here? Who deserves to be lololol at?

MarkVV
MarkVV

As I mentioned earlier, there is an intelligent answer to any legitimate question that a political candidate may receive, which may include, especially in matters of science, a candid “I do not know.” The main point about Walker’s answer is that he chose not to give an intelligent answer, but a dodge.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

Take the Ebola issue as well.


Republicans ran around like Chicken Little screaming that if Obama didn't seal the borders and stop international travel we will all be dead soon. The Scientists were telling us the exact opposite story


But did the GOP listen.


Nope. 


There is example after example of this behavior and it cant just be ignored. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar 74 is about 1 in 6. Even the 65 Republicans represent less than 1/3 of that caucus. Some definition of "lock step" you've got there.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) says a flight ban is something the president should consider, adding that he already has the authority needed to put such restrictions in place.


LAWMAKERS IN FAVOR OF TRAVEL BAN

House (74 total; 65 Republicans, nine Democrats)


Thank you for making my case.