Donald Trump’s and Mitch McConnell’s candidate for the U.S. Senate from Georgia, football legend Herschel Walker, doesn’t have much of a profile on major issues of public policy, having never run for public office or participated in major public venues other than Celebrity Apprentice. So far, his Senate campaign has been a tightly wrapped package. As the front-runner for the Republican nomination, Walker has declined to debate opponents and has limited public and media appearances to very friendly audiences. But he did make news at one of those softball encounters over the past weekend, an interview with Pastor Chuck Hill of Sugar Creek Church in suburban Atlanta. As an amazed Amanda Terkel of HuffPost reported, Walker waxed philosophical about the theory of evolution:
Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker cast doubt on the theory of evolution in recent remarks, saying the fact that apes and humans coexist disproves accepted science.
“At one time, science said man came from apes, did it not? … If that is true, why are there still apes? Think about it.”
Terkel did, and set the record straight for readers:
Humans did not evolve from the apes that you see at the zoo. Rather, humans and apes have a common (and now extinct) ancestor that lived roughly 10 million years ago. Technically, all humans are apes, but that doesn’t mean that chimpanzees are one step away from becoming people. Walker’s summary of evolution is incorrect, and there’s nothing incompatible about humans coexisting with other apes …
Evolution and Christianity also aren’t necessarily at odds, and a number of prominent Christians have said it is possible to believe in both God and the science of evolution.
This is all true. Roman Catholic and Jewish teachings have for many centuries accepted evolution and other scientific findings and hypotheses as entirely compatible with faith, and few if any mainline Protestants have issues with evolution either. But Walker is running as a representative of the most conservative Evangelical segment of a state in which conservative Evangelicals are very powerful. And among the majority of these folks, who insist the Bible is literally inerrant on all matters it addresses, acceptance of evolution is limited.
Walker’s chin-scratcher on latter-day apes may be preposterous, but it’s relatively nonbelligerent. Former Georgia congressman Paul Broun Jr. (who is attempting a comeback this year in the 10th Congressional District) once publicly called scientific teachings like evolution “lies from the pit of hell” — and that was while serving on the House Science Committee. Broun’s district included the city of Athens, home of the University of Georgia (where Walker won the Heisman Trophy and immortality on the gridiron), and students and faculty there sardonically organized a write-in campaign for Charles Darwin in 2012.
The wisdom on the limitations of science that Walker shared at Sugar Hill was not limited to evolution:
Walker further dismissed scientific progress, saying science “can’t do” the “conception of a baby.”
“They’re still trying to do that, but they can’t, because there has to be a God,” he said.
I guess he was referring to “test-tube babies,” which actually are a real and big thing (usually called in vitro fertilization). But putting that aside, babies are generally conceived by the biological (i.e., “scientific”) process of reproduction, which works whether or not there is a God.
I’m beginning to understand why Walker has limited his speaking appearances. Luckily for him, he needs no real introduction to Georgia voters. But if he hopes to defeat his Democratic opponent, incumbent Raphael Warnock, in November, he should keep in mind that the Reverand Warnock has spoken on religious topics at length every Sunday for many years. Walker would be smart not to compete on that playing field.