Crucial presidential debates are coming soon. They can be a subtle problem, especially when it comes to evolution. Often reporters ask questions that are designed to do irreparable harm to conservative candidates. That was exactly the intent of the evolution question in the first GOP candidate forum on MSNBC on May 3.
On that occasion, Senator McCain was asked if he believed in evolution. He said he did, explaining that he sees God in the majesty of the Grand Canyon.
Senator McCain is not the first person inspired to thoughts of God by the sight of the Grand Canyon. However, that has nothing to do with biological evolution. That’s okay, because the question wasn’t about biological evolution.
But the trap was set. The other nine candidates were asked to raise their hand if they did not believe in evolution.
Three hands were raised. Seven candidates kept their hands down.
The problem is this: Evolution is not merely a yes or no question. Consider this scenario.
What if the request had been, “Raise your hand if you don’t believe in abortion.”?
Liberal candidates would have argued that the question was unfair and biased. Here’s an easy-to-imagine response from a liberal candidate:
“Well let me explain. Some people believe in abortion on demand, some believe that abortion should never be permitted. Most people don’t fall into either camp. What about someone who is generally pro-life, but believes abortion should be permitted in cases of rape or incest? What about people who believe abortions should be legal early in a pregnancy, yet oppose late-term and partial-birth abortion.
A yes or no question on abortion simplifies the issue. It doesn’t give us a chance to explain our position. When we raise or don’t raise our hand, viewers have no idea of the complexity of the issue. All this does is create confusion, resulting in the exact opposite of what public debates are supposed to achieve.”
Here is what I believe the best answer would have been to the evolution question: “I can’t answer until you expand upon your question. Are you asking about microevolution or macroevolution?”
This keeps conservatives out of the trap. This forces a discussion of the issue. The moderator can only proceed by saying, “Can you explain?”, in which case the candidate should continue:
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