Virginia GOP Candidate Says Evolution Is Wrong Because Chimps Can’t Talk

Photo of E.W. Jackson

This rising GOP politician’s ‘understanding’ of evolution is as wacky — and potentially harmful — as the ‘prosperity gospel’ he preaches. Virginia’s GOP Lieutenant Governor candidate E.W. Jackson. Photo from Politico.

We introduced you to E.W. Jackson, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Virginia, a couple of weeks ago. Since then, he’s been the focus of some scrutiny on the cable news shows, most of it negative (well, except for Fox, of course). Much of the criticism comes in regards to Mr. Jackson’s comments about gays and liberals. It’s fitting, then, that MaddowBlog did a brilliant take-down of Jackson and his co-candidates.

Now a book that Mr. Jackson wrote in 2008, Ten Commandments to an Extraordinary Life, is being scrutinized and, boy, does it contain some humdingers. The stand-out is what Jackson wrote about evolution. Evolution, he wrote, cannot be true because chimps don’t speak like humans do. Like many wingnut ideas, that one needs a few moments to fully digest. Once you get over the initial blast of ignorance you begin to wonder about the color of the sky in Wingerworld. Here’s an excerpt:

“Scientists have made much of the fact that chimpanzees have been trained to use sign language. They take this as proof that primates are our ancestors because they, like us, have “language capacity.” It is amazing the length to which people will go to prove what is so palpably false… There is an unfathomable gulf between humans and all other creatures because creation was designed that way. No amount of time or theorizing will ever bridge that gulf. Only mankind was made to represent the divinity and genius of God himself.”

Chimps don’t speak like we do. Well, that much is true. But, like most anti-evolutionists, Jackson has no understanding of how evolution works. But he has made a fatal flaw in his (lack of) understanding of the whole idea: that we are descended from chimps. That is not the theory – and I’m using “theory” in the scientific sense, which is another common misunderstanding. The theory states that both humans and chimps descended from a common ancestor in the distant past. From there, we followed our respective evolutionary development. Chimps, in their niche, did not need to evolve speech. It’s that simple.

Speech, by the way, is not an exclusively human trait. Many birds can mimic human speech and some even understand what they are saying. Dr. Irene Pepperberg proved this in her work with Alex, an African Grey parrot. I have known many people with parrots, all different kinds, who know that their pets understand what they are saying. I had a Quaker parrot myself who not only could say words, but understand them. When he wanted a treat, he would say, “pepper,” his favorite treat. The point being that other creatures besides humans can speak and understand what they are saying. So much for that idea.

Even more troubling is Jackson’s embracing of “prosperity gospel.” His thoughts on evolution are just nutty; his ideas on prosperity can actually affect the people of Virginia. The idea behind this “gospel” is that you only have to pray hard enough and God will “prosper” you (but apparently not teach you grammar). That, and you must donate large amounts of money to the pastor and his church. You see, the prosperity is really only for the ones who preach it and they seem to be able to convince people that this is legit. But with comments like this from his book

“Money is not evil, nor does it make people evil. Money magnifies the character of an individual. It gives you more opportunity to be who you really are. God is the creator of silver and gold. He has nothing against money, in fact he values it.” (page 172)

… preachers like Jackson manage to get lots of people to give them money. So, I guess it does work — for them. But it could be deadly for the poor of Virginia if someone with this kind of attitude wields any kind of power in that state. Personally, I believe that “prosperity gospel” is a facade for greedy men and women to rob their congregations blind and then duck taxes by claiming to be a church.

Mr. Jackson is more than just a candidate, he is a pastor, too. That makes his ugly comments even worse, as far as I’m concerned (and my actual Christian friends agree). It’s one thing to hold an opinion but when that opinion is presented as fact and supported by nonsense then it becomes harmful. Harmful as in shuffling the blame for being poor onto the victims because they “don’t pray enough” or believe hard enough. It’s despicable and, hopefully, the people of Virginia will get wise to Mr. Jackson’s hateful rhetoric and harmful ideas.