The Questionable Authority

Last week, both PZ Myers and I posted about some anti-evolution candidates running for the school board out here in Hawaii. The state primary election was Saturday, so I thought an update on this election might be a good idea.

There’s good news, not-too-bad news, and bad news.

First, the good news. Out of the small number of candidates who responded to a newspaper question about whether or not they think Intelligent Design should be taught in the science classroom, two candidates running for “At-Large” seats expressed views that did not indicate that they would be good for science education. One, Henry Hoeft, said that, “Should be taught side-by-side with Darwin’s Theory of Evolution,” while the other, Brian Kessler, felt that, “Voters should decide by referendum.” A third candidate, Paul Vierling in the 6th Department, gave an answer that was so noncommittal that it was impossible to figure out where he stood (“Parents, families and community are the best teachers for any belief system.”)

None of these three candidates received enough votes to advance to the general election. Vierling placed 3rd out of the 3 candidates running for the 6th Department seat, Kessler placed 11th out of the 17 running for the three open “At Large” seats, and Hoeft placed 16th out of 17.

Next, the not-too-bad news: three gave answers that clearly opposed teaching ID. Only two of those three (Kris DeRego in the 6th Department and Karen Knudsen in the “At Large” group) will be advancing to the general election. The third, Carolyn Golojuch, came in 12th (out of 17) in the “At Large” primary.

In truth, evolution is not a big deal out here at the moment, and I’m not sure that it was a big factor in the vote totals for any of these candidates. Still, it’s good to see that most of the pro-science candidates made it through the primary, while none of the clearly anti-science candidates did.

Now, finally, for the bad news. We actually have no idea where the vast majority of the candidates who advanced to the general election stand on the issue. Most simply didn’t answer the question when asked by the newspaper, and only a couple more answered when the folks in the other lab in my department contacted them and asked similar questions. That’s not something I’m all that thrilled with. I understand the candidates’ perspective – evolution is a “third rail” type issue, and there’s no way you can answer the question without running a significant risk of pissing someone off. Unless you know that your answer is more likely to gain votes than lose them, there’s little to gain by answering. At the same time, I think science education is an important issue, and I want to know where the candidates stand on it. I don’t think either the no-win nature of questions about evolution or the unwillingness of the candidates to demonstrate the courage and leadership step forward is a particularly good sign.

We’re hoping that the candidates who will be on the ballot in November will be more willing to discuss their position on science education. I’ll post more about that in a couple of weeks.


  1. #1 Adam
    September 26, 2006

    If I were running for some school board and I was asked what do I think of the theory of intelligent design, I’d say it’s nonsense. Would that hurt me in the election? If so, fuck ’em.

  2. #2 Joshua
    September 26, 2006

    I’m really interested in hearing what the stance of the final candidates might be. I don’t vote in Hawaii, but my mom still lives there. So, if nothing else, I could lobby her when the time comes. 😉

    I think, actually, the fact that most of the candidates didn’t respond to the ID question might be a good thing. If they don’t think taking a position in favour will help them in the race, they probably don’t care enough to push the issue later on. It wouldn’t be the first time ID advocates tried the stealth approach, mind, but I don’t think excessive paranoia is too helpful. What is clear to me is that the candidates who came out strongly against ID probably have a good position on science in general.

  3. #3 Stuart Weinstein
    September 29, 2006

    Well Mike,

    Maybe Hawaii’s creationists are spoiling for another blood bath.

    That was a fun night out last time.


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