By Tom Still

MADISON – Gov. Scott Walker’s dust-up over Charles Darwin’s
theory of evolution began with what was essentially a non-answer.

When asked about his views of evolution during his recent
visit to London, Walker first responded: “I’m going to punt on that one.” He
quickly added evolutionary theory is a question politicians “shouldn’t be
involved in one way or the other.”

It’s a question reporters love to ask, however, particularly
if the politician is an evangelical Christian who might try to straddle the
line between voters who are evolutionists, creationists or “intelligent design”
adherents somewhere in between.

At least Walker didn’t come across like presidential hopeful
Rick Perry in 2011, when the former Texas governor described evolution as “a
theory that’s out there” and one that’s “got some gaps in it.” Walker also stopped
short of sounding like Michelle Bachmann, another presidential candidate who
once claimed evolution is disputed by “hundreds and hundreds of scientists…”

Bachmann forgot to mention there are nearly 500,000 U.S.
scientists who overwhelmingly view evolution as accepted fact and the basis of
modern biology.

Unless you believe dinosaurs walked the earth only a few
thousand years ago, that genetic adaptations never take place in nature, that
animal and plant species never go extinct and radiocarbon dating is a farce,
the evidence is in: Darwin was right.

A few hours after punting out of bounds, Walker went back on
offense with a Twitter answer he probably should have given in the first

“Both science & my faith dictate my belief that we are
created by God. I believe faith & science are compatible & go hand in
hand,” Walker tweeted.

For moral support Walker might turn to no lesser a religious
authority than Pope Francis I, who last fall surprised some theologians by
saying evolution and the “Big Bang” theory of the birth of the universe are
both true and not incompatible with the church’s views on the origins of the
universe and life.

“The Big Bang, which today we hold to be the origin of the
world, does not contradict the intervention of the divine creator but, rather,
requires it,” Pope Francis said. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with
the notion of creation, but evolution requires the creation of beings that

Just as not all people of faith reject evolution, nor are
all scientists atheists.

When the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press
surveyed members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in
2009, it reported that 51 percent believed in God or some form of higher power.
That’s well short of the general public’s belief in some form of deity or
higher power – about 95 percent do – but nonetheless a sign that many
scientists find faith and science to be compatible.

Over time, prominent scientists who believed in God included
Albert Einstein, who famously said: “Science without religion is lame; religion
without science is blind.”

More recently, National Institutes of Health director
Francis Collins professed his faith despite leading a massive project to read
out the 3.1 billion letters of the human genome, which is mankind’s DNA
instruction book.

“As a believer, I see DNA, the information molecule of all
living things, as God’s language, and the elegance and complexity of our own
bodies and the rest of nature as a reflection of God’s plan,” wrote Collins,
who directed the Human Genome Project before his appointment to lead NIH in

While the pope speaks for the Roman Catholic Church, many
evangelical Protestants have different views about evolution. In a 2013 poll by
the Pew Research Center, white evangelical Protestants were much more likely to
believe that humans have existed in their present form since the dawn of time.
Roughly two-thirds (64 percent) expressed that view, as did half of black Protestants.
By comparison, only 15 percent of white mainline Protestants shared that

If you’re potential candidate Walker, competing in Iowa with
other Republican candidates who hold evangelical credentials, those numbers are
hard to strategically ignore.

Still, too many politicians – particularly some Republicans
— tend to run from science rather than incorporating broadly accepted
knowledge into their belief systems. If religion and science can share some
common ground, so can politics.