Framing Science

In running for Governor of Alaska in 2006, GOP VP candidate Sarah Palin said she supported teaching alternatives to evolution. When asked during an election debate, she said:

“Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.”

She later attempted to clarify her statement by saying in an interview:

“I don’t think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn’t have to be part of the curriculum.”

She added that, if elected, she would not push the state Board of Education to add such creation-based alternatives to the state’s required curriculum

The daughter of a science teacher, Palin has said that she personally believes in creationism.

“My dad did talk a lot about his theories of evolution,” she said. “He would show us fossils and say, ‘How old do you think these are?’ ”

Asked for her personal views on evolution, Palin said, “I believe we have a creator.”

She would not say whether her belief also allowed her to accept the theory of evolution as fact.

“I’m not going to pretend I know how all this came to be,” she said.

Comments

  1. #1 ponderingfool
    August 29, 2008

    Perfect pick for McCain in a lot of ways I am afraid to say. She has the reputation of fighting the old boys network in her own party in Alaska. Reinforces the notion that McCain is a “reformer”, a “maverick” Republican. The Democrats provided cover over the course of their convention that you don’t need experience, minimizing that attack upon her. Plus if they do attack her in regards that she is not ready they can raise the issue of it being a double standard (i.e. ok for a man not to have experience but not for a woman). Given McCain is going after moderate Clinton supporters who haven’t made up their mind, that is a perfect way to go. McCain can still attack on the issue arguing it is the top of the ticket that experience matters most.

    She is going to play to the base given her creationist leanings as well as being anti-choice. I can see her standing up and talking about abortion stating with the conviction as a parent, “How can anyone believe it is an acceptable choice to end the life of a child with downs syndrome?” as her husband in the background holds their newborn in the background. That will be the frame. That morphs then into how can we let those scientists play with the unborn on embryonic stem cells.

    More importantly she is an Alaskan who is for drilling. As you noted, McCain found a great talking point regarding the economy – oil drilling. She can also hammer home the idea “how can those Democrats in Congress say to us Westerners what we can do with our natural resources?” That will play will to those with a libertarian streak found in many of the western states up for grabs.

  2. #2 Jerry Kosicki
    August 29, 2008

    So now we see that a McCain-Palin administration would be a continuation of the Bush years in yet another area — the anti-science agenda.

    The timing of the announcement seems to have frozen the cable news talkers in place all morning — all they could do was sit around in “breaking-news mode” waiting and speculating about the choice until about 10:30 when the news started to leak out about Palin.

    Nobody seems to have noticed that Gallup’s national tracking poll put the race today at at 49-41 in favor of Obama.

    Obama again strongly endorsed an ambitious renewable energy policy last night. The merits of that vs. more drilling in more places is a debate worth having in terms of their environmental, energy, financial and military implications.

  3. #3 Joe
    August 29, 2008

    There is a good chance, that the Presidential race may be decided by the undecided and uninformed American voter, as happened in 2004. This is the kind of woman/man who gets their political information from sound-bites, visual cues and Fox news.

    I agree with the previous commentator, in that John McCain’s marketing people did a good job selecting a conservative female whose views on social hot-button issues (abortion, environment, gay marriage) would normally put her slightly outside the American mainstream. She also seems to support the teaching of creationism in public schools, another plus for the Fox news intellectuals. She’s a mother, earns compassion points for raising a disabled infant, looks good on TV and that’s all that some voters will care about.
    Let’s hope it’s not up to these voters to decide who will hold the highest elected office in this great country next time around.

  4. #4 jon
    August 29, 2008

    ponderingfool: I think the libertarian streak in Western states is somewhat overstated. There is some of that, but there’s also a strong pro-environment sentiment. McCain has ceded his campaign to oil companies now which undermines claims to be not Bush/Cheney.

    As for experience, Obama’s campaign wasn’t the one using that — McCain’s was. And given his age, people do care a lot more about his successor. Palin’s exposure to national issues is so definitely less than Obama’s: most of her time was spent as mayor of a town of what, 9000 people? And then a year and a half leading a very small state with very regional interests. So he severely hampers the experience attack.

    And yet in that year and a half, Palin has already managed to get an abuse of power investigation stated against her. She’s efficient, certainly. And while that may be clean by Alaskan standard, it’s pretty sad for the rest of the nation.

    As for playing to the base, sure. But it then goes against the idea of McCain as some sort of centrist. He’s been trying to stay quiet about, say, abortion — Palin’s selection certainly won’t help him there. The Down Syndrome thing won’t apply, either. Pro-choicers don’t say you *should* get an abortion. They say it should be the woman’s choice. Palin felt she had the resources to provide proper support for her child, yet she supports denying that choice to others who feel unable to do so? And this is a winning argument for moderates? Hardly.

    It seems like an attempt to be a “maverick” in a rather cynical “dupe-the-rubes” way.

  5. #5 ponderingfool
    August 29, 2008

    They say it should be the woman’s choice. Palin felt she had the resources to provide proper support for her child, yet she supports denying that choice to others who feel unable to do so? And this is a winning argument for moderates? Hardly.
    ****************************

    This isn’t about getting those strongly pro-choice. For one it is to excite the base. Second it is to go after those moderate Democrats/Independents who have concerns about “abortion on demand”. Those are the types McCain is going for. Many Americans are uncomfortable with aborting a fetus because of less than genetically perfect.

    I agree it is about choice and don’t think it should be limited. There are people though who can be swayed. Playing to the worst fears can get those voters. It could be “partial-birth” all over again, a slow eroding of Roe v. Wade.

    As for the investigation that is not what was the sound bite on MSNBC. They were calling Palin a reformer who fought the old boys network. McCain wasn’t exactly clean but still got the maverick/reformer label. It is not about the facts, it is about the frame. Right now the frame is about her standing up to the GOP chair in Alaska. Her standing up to the bridge to nowhere, etc.

    Experience has been slowly morphing into the celebrity frame of Obama by the McCain campaign. They can focus on that without bringing up experience. McCain has gone as far as he could with that, close but not close enough. Clinton did the same thing. McCain’s camp is deciding not to make the election about experience vs. change. He wants it to be about what sort of change do you want. It is a play to win. He is down but not by much. The sitting president is a Republican who has historically low approval ratings, yet McCain is within striking distance. He should be down by more. McCain went with a pick to change the nature of the debate to potentially put himself over the top.

    VP is about reinforcing your message. McCain for the general election needs to be viewed as the McCain of old, the maverick/reformer. Right now the pick of Palin is doing exactly that. On oil drilling McCain thinks he has a winner; she reinforces that. CNN right now is talking about it and the fact she passed a windfall tax on oil. On a plus she motivates the base. It allows McCain to frame it about what type of change do you want. That is more favorable to McCain than trying to battle experience vs. change in a year when people dislike the sitting govenment.

  6. #6 zy
    August 29, 2008

    If the Dems can’t criticize her lack of experience, neither can the Repo’s cut down Obama’s anymore. McCain just negated half of his brilliant “narrative” – woohoo!

    An aside re: the Obama-49 McCain-41 Gallup poll. As we have learned from this campaign, that is what the major media calls a “Dead Heat” because the “Margin of Error” puts it at more like 45-45. Of course if Obama and McCain were even, it would be a slight advantage to McCain, again taking into account the “Margin of Error”. If the results were reversed, say Obama at 42 and McCain at 48 the “Margin of Error” would make it a McCain landslide. Don’t lecture me on statistics, I’m only pointing out how the media frames these polls.

  7. #7 pkafin
    August 29, 2008

    But would you teach creationism is a science class? If the answer is yes, then she is off her rocker.

    Would you teach about it in a humanities class. Perhaps, in that all cultures have creation myths and the Jewish one, which was subsequently appropriated by Christians and Muslims, does have an effect on how the Western world sees itself and its place in the universe.

    But, again, to act like it belongs in a science class, even as part of a debate between scientific concepts, is educational malpractice.

  8. #8 David H.
    August 29, 2008

    Palin’s comments about creationism show she is intellectually unserious about the matter. We may infer she is similarly intellectually uncurious & unserious about other Republican litmus tests.

    She only axed the “bridge to nowhere” after federal funds were withdrawn and it became apparent that Alaska would have to pay for it. Hardly a brave choice. We’ll see if the media get this story right, or just repeat McCain’s talking points about her supposed courage.

    Finally, let me bring up the unpalatable. Is it responsible for a 44-year-old mother of (at the time) four to have another child? Don’t the risks of birth defects rise to a statistically significant degree the older the woman and the more children she’s already had?

  9. #9 Lora
    August 30, 2008

    I think this is a very lame attempt by the McCain camp to go after the PUMA vote. It demonstrates exactly how shallow his thinking is, that he thinks any woman will do in lieu of Hillary for angry women. And if this pitiful excuse for cogitation is what passes for McCain’s policy ideas, then FSM help us all. You couldn’t float a rubber ducky in that man’s thoughts.

  10. #10 ponderingfool
    August 30, 2008

    Finally, let me bring up the unpalatable. Is it responsible for a 44-year-old mother of (at the time) four to have another child? Don’t the risks of birth defects rise to a statistically significant degree the older the woman and the more children she’s already had?
    *************************

    Yes they do and I agree. That is not what it is getting talked about though. What the talking point is that Palin and her husband were told their child-to-be was going to be a downs baby & that it was never really a choice to them. They were going to have the baby. They are going to go after abortion on demand. Those strongly pro-choice weren’t going to vote for McCain. They are going after those that don’t have strong opinions on it, non-deal breaker types who do have worries about aborting a fetus because the potential child is less than genetically ideal. It plays into fears about abortion. It is a talking point that the brief bio pieces about her are talking about. GOP analyst/opinion-heads have brought it up. If the McCain/Palin campaign can frame it as how is aborting a baby who is not genetically perfect according to scientists/doctors an acceptable choice? It is about slowly eroding Roe v. Wade. It started with partial birth. Now they have their new rallying cry.

    As for being intellectually unserious about creationism, I am afraid to say that does work. Most people do not put much intellectual thought to it.

  11. #11 Chris
    August 30, 2008

    Never seen this blog before. Don’t know what a “professor in the School of Communication” is supposed to be an expert on, but I might have thought that whatever it is would entail being able to correctly summarize short quotations. And yet…

  12. #12 Ray L.
    August 30, 2008

    McCain’s VP choice is not only surprising, it is frightening. The tremendous climate and energy challenges of the 21st century will require robust scientific and technological innovation – not an expansion of fossil fuel exploitation, as Governor Palin supports. Humanity cannot afford a continuation of Bush’s anti-science, pro-oil stance in the next Administration. McCain blew it.

  13. #13 MsInformed
    August 30, 2008

    Here’s what is nuts: she had a baby late in life. I did also. Older mothers are more likely to have babies w/ Downs syndrome. To know for sure that your baby will be born with Downs syndrome, you had to have had an amniocentesis (or equivalent) to look at the chromosome pairs. It cost me more than 900$ 16 years ago.

    But here is Ms. Palin’s logical disconnect for me: if you are not going to abort ‘no way, no how’ no matter what, why have this test? To prepare? It can’t tell you the degree of disability. What are you to prepare for?

    I want to hear what the governor believes about birth control. She has 5 kids from military age to 4 months old.

    That’s not family planning I can belive in.

  14. #14 Brian
    August 31, 2008

    Creationism, or “intelligent design,” can be taught in classrooms, just not in science classrooms. Science involves objectively testing a hypothesis over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over (you get the point) again. Evolution has gone through this process constantly for over a decade.

    Creationism has never had to go through this process for two obvious reasons. There is no way to test it, and the central tenant of the belief is blind faith. Science has no room for such assumptions.

  15. #15 robert
    August 31, 2008

    So far Sarah Palin reminds me of George W. Bush, she seems confident but not curious. She has adopted a faith based view of science known as Creationism.

    Creationism is based on a literal reading of the Bible. Does Sarah Palin believe the Bible is literally true?

    A literal reading of the Bible leads to the “young earth” theory. Does Sarah Palin think the earth is less than 10,000 years old? Should we teach the controversy over the age of the earth?

    A responsible journalist would ask this question of Sarah Palin.

  16. #16 WT Sharpe
    September 1, 2008

    Has she ever heard of a little thing called DNA? The same substance that proves paternity in court cases also shows that we share a common ancestor with the apes. This is the backbone of the biological sciences.

  17. #17 Dave
    September 3, 2008

    “You know, don’t be afraid of information”…

    like teaching sex ed in schools?

  18. #18 Nocturnal Negro
    September 10, 2008

    Evolution is blind faith, not science. Have any of you clowns ever seen an explosion create anything other than chaos. If someone told you that this website just evolved and wasn’t created by someone, you’d swear that they were crazy.
    That’s why I think you’re all crazy.
    Ever notice that it’s only white folks that think that they came from monkeys?
    And why are you people so infatuated with killing babies?
    You people seem to believe that everything happened by chance and random process … including your own logic … So therefore no one�s logic can be trusted and all morality is relative … Huh?

  19. #19 Kalster
    September 28, 2008

    Sarah Palin belongs to a cult that believes in a religous activism called the “Third Wave”, The Assembly of God church denounced this practice as heretical in 1949 and 1990. “Third Wave” believes they are spiritually superior to everyone else and will lead the world in the end times. Oh boy I can’t wait…
    http://www.talk2action.org/story/2008/9/13/1538/09770

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