Published August 25, 2011
The battle between believers of creationism and those who believe in evolution has made its way onto the presidential campaign trail and exposes differences between candidates.
The latest chasm in the 2012 Republican field began with an exchange between Texas Gov. Rick Perry and a young child in New Hampshire. The boy was urged by an adult to ask Perry "why he doesn’t believe in science."
In his response on the issue of evolution and creation, Perry called evolution a theory with "some gaps in it." He said that school children in Texas are taught about both evolution and creationism. Texas public school curriculum, however, does not officially include any lesson work on creationism.
GOP contender Jon Huntsman quickly tweeted: “To be clear I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”
In its most recent polling on the topic, Gallup found that 40 percent of Americans believe God created humans just as they are today. Another 38 percent said they believe God guided the evolution process. And 16 percent believe human evolution involved pure science.
“When a candidate like Jon Huntsman comes out and says, "Oh, I believe in evolution" then he’s out of sync with his own party,” said Frank Newport, editor in chief of Gallup.
Just 8 percent of Republicans who were polled said they believed in evolution without any other intervention. Newport says it’s an issue that GOP candidates must consider carefully. "To very religious people, it’s a very sensitive issue," he said.
Political analyst Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said Perry’s strategy will play well in conservative early caucus and primary states like Iowa and South Carolina.
“What Perry has done by mentioning creationism is to send this little signal to fundamentalists that says, "I’m one of you,'" Sabato said.
He believes Huntsman is casting a much wider net. When asked about the issue Thursday Huntsman expressed worry that the GOP will come to be viewed as "anti-science."
"You can’t win as the anti-science party, simply can’t win elections," he told Fox News' Neil Cavuto.
Many of the other GOP candidates have taken carefully nuanced positions, saying they believe in both God's involvement and data from the scientific community.