Your (American) tax dollars at work

by Greg Mayer

Rep. Paul Broun (R-Georgia) is caught in the following video saying that evolution, embryology, and the big bang are “lies straight from the pit of Hell”. This is sadly no longer astonishing from a Federal officeholder. What is astonishing is that this man is a member of the Science Committee of the House of Representatives, and the chair of an important subcommittee!

He goes on

as a scientist [!!!]…  I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old…. [A]s your congressman I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that.

Alan Boyle of NBC News notes

 The Georgia Republican is already well-known as an outspoken conservative Christian, due in part to his unsuccessful campaign to have 2010 declared “the Year of the Bible.” But the latest comments have taken on an extra dab of controversy because Broun, a medical doctor, calls himself a scientist in the video and chairs the House Science Committee’s panel on investigations and oversight.

Broun believes the Earth began, as Richard Dawkins has put it, after the domestication of the dog. His remarks are astonishing not only for the profound ignorance of science they reveal in a man entrusted with a significant role in shaping the nation’s science policy, but his apparently utter lack of understanding of the foundational governing principles of the United States.

h/t C. Mayer

113 Comments

  1. gluonspring
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    The deer really add something to this video.

    • Sastra
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      I thought those were the deer-caught-in-the-headlight expressions on the faces of Georgia voters.

      • Diego
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        I had the same thought! It really does look like a cervine audience in arena style seating.

    • sigh
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Of course not, this is a lovely room of death! Take care now, Bye Bye then.

      • sigh
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

          Now that is an interesting context. Jim Carrey is an anti-vaxxer so he is ‘a lovely purveyor of death’.

          Like Broun he is anti-science and shouldn’t be referred to in that context.

          But unlike Broun he is a good professional. Should we promote his movies as long as his morals are deadly for others? I don’t think so.

          [Too bad, because his acting in "Truman Show" was outstanding.]

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      I have to differ, it was insane through-and-through before noticing the backdrop of death. But yes, it is a detail worth noticing.

  2. Sastra
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    as a scientist [!!!]… I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old….

    Well, then, I don’t see the problem here. As a scientist, Jerry Coyne doesn’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old, either. He thinks it’s pert near 4.5 billion.

    The layman’s definition of “scientist” can be very, very loose. I had one New Ager tell me that a scientist is defined as “anyone who tries to look at things and figure them out for themselves.” Which is pert near close to the opposite of the actual meaning.

    • Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      I think “but” here changes the meaning to “more than”, as in “I don’t believe the Earth’s more than 9000yo.”

      • Sastra
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        Ya thinkin’? ;)

        • Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          It happens very occasionally. ;)

          But I suppose I should try to contribute meaningfully to the discussion rather than pointing out simple details everybody probably already knows. Here goes:

          It fills me with indignation that people blithely reap all the benefits science provides and then proceed to try to malign it as some kind of huge, evil conspiracy (to achieve what ends I’m not sure) all the while proclaiming their ignorance is just as good as, even preferable to, legitimate science.

          Science has made life easy. You don’t have to know or understand much to get by these days. A minority of intelligent people have made it possible for a majority of people to cruise through life trusting that science will fix their problems. But then they turn around and pull this shit.

          • Pray Hard
            Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

            “(to achieve what ends I’m not sure)”
            Votes, money, power …

            • Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

              Certainly that’s what the right is after.

              I meant I’m not sure what the right thinks the scientific “conspiracy” is meant to achieve.

              Do you think those things are what the right supposes the scientific “conspiracy” is after?

              I’m not convinced they’ve thought about a specific, concrete goal for this conspiracy. I think it’s mostly knee-jerk othering.

              • Posted October 6, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

                “It teaches us how to run public policy and everything in society…” To what ends? So the religious right can control the country. What else? He is preaching to the choir in this video in order to embolden them. That’s all. Isn’t that enough? Sometimes when they come right out and tell us their goals, we ought to believe them.

              • Posted October 6, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

                Yes. As I tried to make clear in my original comment, and tried to further clarify with another comment, the ends I’m not sure about are the imaginary conspiracies ends. I know what the right is after. What do right-wingers think goes on in smoke-filled rooms behind closed doors when scientists get together to conspire?

              • E.A. Blair
                Posted October 6, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

                I think it’s pure projection. They are thinking, “What would we do if we had these data?”

                From there, the obvious conclusion is that “they” are doing what “we” would do. Of course since they don’t know what the data really mean, they get it all cockeyed.

                A Wiccan friend of mine once said, “You know, sometimes I wish we could actually do some of the stuff we’re accused of being able to do. Then I could have some fun.”

              • gluonspring
                Posted October 6, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

                When he says they are lies straight from the pit of Hell, that is not some kind of metaphor. He means it literally. He thinks we are deluded by Satan. The lies are Satans’s, not ours. In his world view we scientists are the dupes, not the perps. Satan’s goal is to keep us from God, and we are his deluded tools to that end.

                There are, of course, elements of pure power grasping and knee-jerk othering as well. They are not anything if not a big bag of contradictions, clinging to every scrap of wealth and luxury and long life they can in the here and now while trying to believe that they’ll have better after they die (let’s just put that off as long as possible). But we should not fail to realize that they serious about the idea that science has been co-opted or corrupted by Satan to serve Satan’s ends. That’s a genuine belief, sincerely held. Behold it and shudder.

          • Posted October 6, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

            Sorry, musical beef, I misunderstood your question. I responded as if you asked what the goal of the religious right was instead of your real question which was what do they think the goals of a supposed scientific conspiracy are. I sometimes read too fast (or my mind comprehends too slowly) and I jumped the gun with the obvious answer to the wrong question. I think most of them think just enough about science to try to discredit anything that contradicts their own dumb creationist ideas. If that means portraying scientists as being involved in a conspiracy then that’s what they’ll do. People love conspiracies. Especially angry lamebrained closed minded god fearing bigots.

    • Douglas E
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      Ya, it’s a suuthrn thang.

    • darrelle
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      “The layman’s definition of “scientist” can be very, very loose.”

      True, and Broun is taking full advantage of that.

      • scottoest
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        I wouldn’t be shocked if he really believes he’s considered a scientist, because of his profession.

      • Dermot C
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

        I think you Americans may be a little bit harsh on this Broun chappie; heavens, he can’t even spell his surname correctly.

        Yet he has, in asserting the earth’s 9,000th birthday, introduced a huge Kuhnian paradigm shift in traditional Creationist geology. What will the 6,000-year-oldists make of this Johnny-come-lately? Splitter? Centrist? Accommodationist? Class traitor?

        Give the guy a break; at a stroke he’s, rather ungallantly, added 3,000 years to Mother Earth. Only another 4,500 million years to go and she’ll be grand to the nth degree. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, or summat like that…

        • darrelle
          Posted October 6, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

          Ooof! Even if I were a god I don’t think I could muster the patience to wait that long.

  3. Douglas E
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Holy Crapoly! I am nearly speechless after listening to one of the densest aggregations of scary nonsense ever! And all of the grunts of affirmation…….argh!

    • Ichthyic
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      all those grunts of affirmation are exactly why he is doing this.

      it’s quite easy to manipulate authoritarian personalities with simplistic hotbutton issues.

      and where do authoritarian personalities typically end up?

      in places where simplistic rhetoric is employed that allows them to feel good about their group, while demonizing outsiders.

      it’s a recipe for winning elections that was noted even before Nixon’s Southern Strategy.

      it’s just that most republicans in office that utilize it are too stupid, or too egocentric, to notice, or care, about the inevitable downside to empowering authoritarians.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        oh, I should also mention that one of the inevitable downsides to empowering authoritarians is they end up in office.

        it’s quite possible Broun really is a product of authoritarian brainwashing; that he is a true believer and not just pushing buttons for election purposes.

        get enough true believers in there, and you’ve got yourself another Reich.

  4. Diane G.
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    “…the profound ignorance of science …”

    Not sure I give these types the benefit of believing they’re simply ignorant. I think of it more as “the nauseating duplicity” they’ll resort to to gain an edge.

  5. Eddie Janssen
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Where does the 9000 come from?
    Josef, one of Jacob’s sons becomes a high official in a pharao’s court. From creation to Jacob is roughly 2000 years according to the Bible. There were no pharao’s in (non-existing) Egypt 5000 B.C.

  6. ploubere
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    Every day I get more and more frightened for my country.

    • Posted October 6, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

      “I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…”

      -Carl Sagan, Demon Haunted World

      • Diane G.
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

        Chillingly apt!

      • Atheist Powerlifter
        Posted October 7, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

        I just read the Carl Sagan quote as wifey and I were watching “Long Island Medium”.

        Her alarming popularity is more disgusting than her charlatan methods.

  7. Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Well, better to have the wacko’s peeing inside the tent, suppose.

    I am a-ok with my stuff coming from the “pit of hell” that is pretty darn kool!

    There is a very weird hunter-gather, manly visual theme in this “church”. Good lord, are there any deer left alive in GA!?

    Notice how all the dead deers are looking at the speaker. Very kool also. Now that’s some theater.

    • Watry
      Posted October 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

      I live five minutes from a whitetail deer reserve (yes, in Georgia). I know you’re being hyperbolic, but there are so many around here they have to allow hunting twice a year or they’ll all starve to death.

      • Watry
        Posted October 7, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

        Either I clicked the wrong reply button or the original comment was edited, so my first comment makes no sense now.

        • Watry
          Posted October 7, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

          I”m an idiot and will shut up now.

  8. Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Live from Logan’s Roadhouse.

  9. darrelle
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Broun is lying his ass off, and he is fully aware of it. I don’t get how so many people can just overlook what that says about a persons character.

    This man is lying to people in order to use them as tools to increase his own personal power and wealth. And in doing so most of their lives will become more miserable if he is successful. He wouldn’t care if they all ended as guttersnipes as long as he gets what he wants.

    And yet, even if you showed these people that he is lying to them, for example that he is no scientist and is not a credible source for many of his claims, many of those people would be able to understand and even concede that he is indeed lying to them, and they still won’t care. They will still support him or his ilk over more decent people because of his outward expressions of faith.

    There ought to be rules, backed up by penalties, against office holding and campaigning politicians lying to the public. In this particular case the actionable lie would be his claim of being a scientist. Of course, if there were, and they were reasonably well enforced, Romney would spend the rest of his life behind bars after that first debate.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      I’m no fan of lying politicians (and don’t know anyone who owns up to being one). But your proposed “rules, backed up by penalties” runs face first into the First Amendment — the part that provides “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech[.]”

      Under our “free marketplace” model, the antidote for noxious, lying speech is not prohibition and punishment, but more and better honest and accurate speech — the idea being that, given a decent shot, the latter will out-compete the former. Granted, the system isn’t perfect, but restricting speech is a cure more costly than the disease, in the long run. And in the long run, with the proliferation of fact-checking as an avocation for many (and a vocation for some), and given the increasing opportunities technology affords for more people to respond to malignant speech more quickly and more economically than ever, we have reason for confidence that our marketplace model is succeeding.

      • darrelle
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

        I am aware of all that, pretty much agree with it, and willingly concede that my idea might be a bad one. But I’m going to think about it for a bit before throwing it out.

        For example, we already have some laws against lying in certain contexts. Various perjury and slander laws for example. Medical doctors, lawyers and many other professionals can get themselves into trouble for lying to their clients because our legal system deems such people to have a certain extra responsibility to their clients compared to a normal social context. Similarly I think office holding politicians, and politicians that are actively campaigning for office, have a similar extra responsibility to the public in those circumstances. They do after all have the authority to directly impact lives on a much larger scale, which is in fact the responsibility they seek.

        My idea is for rules that would be strictly limited to verifiable facts, for instance the example I used above. As in what the records unambiguously show to be the case. Things that are not a matter of opinion, but clearly verifiable. I realize this could be very difficult to do well. I also realize that I am no expert on law and that there may already be sufficient laws on the books to cover this kind of thing, but that they are not enforced because the way the system actually works the success rate is just too low to bother trying.

        • Tim
          Posted October 6, 2012 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

          This fundamentalist moron begins his comments with “I’ve come to understand that…”. He may actually believe the lunacy he’s spouting or, as you say, he may be lying when he says what he has “come to understand” Even if the latter is true, good luck proving he doesn’t believe it.

          • darrelle
            Posted October 7, 2012 at 5:55 am | Permalink

            I agree. But, to be clear, I am not talking about beliefs, just verifiable facts.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

          Good luck thrashing through this issue, darrelle. For a number of reasons (including the one that Tim alludes to), I’m convinced there are no bright lines that would allow this Broun clown to be punished without creating a substantial risk that legitimately protected speech would also be chilled.

          Indeed, I’m prepared to tolerate speech even more repugnant than Broun’s — from the demented wailings of the Westboro Baptist Church members harassing the family of slain U.S. Service members at their loved ones’ funerals; to the protesters outside abortion clinics; to the Nazis parading through the streets of Skokie — in order to ensure the protections of the First Amendment for us all.

          Look at it as the cost of doing Free Speech in an open society. It beats the alternative.

          • darrelle
            Posted October 7, 2012 at 5:53 am | Permalink

            I guess I wasn’t clear enough.

            “Indeed, I’m prepared to tolerate speech even more repugnant than Broun’s — from the demented wailings of the Westboro Baptist Church members harassing the family of slain U.S. Service members at their loved ones’ funerals; to the protesters outside abortion clinics; to the Nazis parading through the streets of Skokie -“

            So am I. My beef is with people acting in their capacity as public servants. Government office holders. And I am talking about verifiable facts, not beliefs. Broun is not and never has been a scientist. Obamacare does not cut hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicare. The Republican tax plan would, if implemented, result in lower taxes for the wealthy.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted October 7, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

              Apparently, I was not clear enough either.

              What I’m saying is that the distinctions you’re proposing – between “government office holders/public servants,” on the one hand, and private citizens on the other; between “verifiable facts” and “beliefs” – are too ephemeral in practice to provide the “bright lines”that are a prerequisite to effective law enforcement.

              Would your rules apply to government office holders when they were acting not in their official capacity but as private citizens? (In the video clip, for example, Broun is speaking at a church building, apparently to his co-religionists during a private function.) If office holders are held to a higher standard even when speaking privately, your rules would create serious “Dqual Protection” problems. Your proposed distinction also would result in one set of rules applying, for example, to President Obama, but another to Mitt Romney, who currently holds no government office. (Perhaps the most ironic result of what you propose is that the speech most clearly within the ambit of your rule — statements made by members of Congress within the scope of their official governmental duties — is (even without resort to the First Amendment) completely exempt from punishment, since the “Speech and Debate” clause in Article 1, section 6 of the U.S. Constitution affords members of Congress absolute immunity for such statements.)

              Even assuming these problems could be overcome, enforcement of such rules (by the Executive Branch against members of the Legislative Branch) would raise severe Separation-of-Powers issues. (Application of the rules against Executive Branch members would create its own set of enforcement problems, requiring the appointment of special prosecutors/independent counsel.) Enforcement of the rules against state office holders would raise similarly grievous “Federalism” issues. A likely side-effect of enforcing such rules would be the creation of a legion of self-styled religious martyrs, claiming they are being persecuted for their piety, looking to foment unrest among the faithful.

              Endeavoring to draw a bright line between “verifiable facts” and “beliefs” would present a set of equally vexing issues. Much of what occurs during public discourse involves a hybrid of the two. It ill serves the promotion of robust public debate, the necessary condition for a free marketplace of ideas, if government officials are constantly looking over their shoulders, pulling their verbal punches, for fear that their statements might later be interpreted in a manner that subjects them to prosecution and punishment (not to mention the broader chilling effect such potential punishment might have in dissuading otherwise-qualified individuals from seeking public office in the first place.)

              There is a natural inclination to want to silence – and, if not silence, then to punish – those who spread what we deem pernicious falsehoods, particularly when the person spreading them is a government official betraying the public trust. But giving in to that inclination is ultimately counter-productive, undercutting the open society our form of government was meant to foster.

              • darrelle
                Posted October 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

                “Would your rules apply to government office holders when they were acting not in their official capacity but as private citizens?”

                No. I clearly stated that previously.

                “Your proposed distinction also would result in one set of rules applying, for example, to President Obama, but another to Mitt Romney, who currently holds no government office.”

                But he is actively campaigning for public office, which I qualified previously.

                But, you pretty much have me convinced. I don’t know what your experience with the law is, but you seem more knowledgeable than the average person, so let me ask you. Do you think there are any parallels between any existing slander or perjury laws, or any of the various protections that the law provides clients of various professions, and this seemingly not so good idea I brought up here?

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted October 7, 2012 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

                darrelle – I do see parallels between your proposal and both the perjury laws and the professional conduct rules proscribing the making of false statements. (As you’ve more-or-less sussed out, I do practice law. I do not regularly handle First Amendment cases, but free-speech has long been an area of personal interest, dating back to before I attended law school. I wasn’t trying to hide my being a lawyer, notwithstanding the public opprobrium in which we’re sometimes held. But I didn’t advertise it to avoid the false impression I was attempting an argument from authority.)

                Despite the surface parallels, your proposal lacks an essential element when compared to either the perjury laws or the rules of professional conduct. Perjury laws, and other, similar laws prohibiting the obstruction of justice, require proof of the “materiality” of the charged false statement. This “materiality” element requires proof that the charged false statement was capable of influencing the outcome of the pending matter alleged to be at issue – usually a court case, a grand jury investigation, or another type of criminal investigation.

                This is a crucial limiting element that your proposal lacks. For example, Broun’s statements in the video clip regarding evolution and the Big Bang are clearly false, and maybe even knowingly so, but they do not appear to be “material” as that term is generally understood. He does not, so far as we can see, relate them to any matter pending before his science subcommittee, and he seems not be speaking in any official capacity. (There may be a place for a proposal along the lines you suggest, but much narrower, that would cover scientists or other experts hired to conduct studies or investigations for the government. I have in mind here the statements attributed to apparently compromised experts during the so-called “science wars” of the past decade, during the administration of Bush II, primarily dealing with environmental and health & safety issues. Where such experts merely testify before congress, however, no new law or rules are needed, since such testimony is already subject to the penalties for perjury.)

                When compared with the professional conduct rules proscribing false statements, your proposal lacks the following essential element: Those rules are addressed to statements made to persons to whom the professional has a specific duty, arising from the nature of the relationship with that person – in the case of doctors or other medical professionals, the patient; as to lawyers, primarily the relationship with the client (but also with opposing counsel and the court or other tribunal). In each of these instances, because of the nature of the relationship, the professional owes a duty of candor and honest dealing to the person to whom the statement is made.

                Public officials, on the other hand, do not generally have special relationships with individuals that would give rise to such specific duties. As to Congressperson Broun, for example, whatever duty he has in that video, if he has any duty at all, would seem to run to the people in the room to whom he is speaking – the very people whose legs they seem all too happy to have him hump in front of that wall of stuffed animals. It might be argued that a congressman or other official has a special relationship, and therefore owes a duty of honesty, to his or her constituents. But that would seem so broad as to create a situation rife with the possibility of mischief. After all, a substantial portion of the constituents in any district will be loyal to the opposing party. Imagine some poor freshman Democratic congressman being harassed by a bunch of the tea-party types alleging he or she made a false statement.

                Bear in mind, too, that professional misconduct gives rise to a civil cause of action, either a suit for malpractice or a disciplinary action (as opposed to the criminal actions for perjury, obstruction of justice, etc.) Accordingly, such actions would trigger the jurisdictional requirements applicable to civil litigation, such as a demonstration of the plaintiff’s legal standing to sue. Similar to the “duty” analysis above, “standing” is generally conferred only on those who have suffered an “injury-in-fact” as a result of the defendant’s purported misconduct. Point being, such a civil legal action cannot automatically be maintained by anyone who simply heard the false statement; the person must also have been harmed by the statement. As in Broun’s video clip, the persons most likely to have “standing,” are probably also the ones least likely to complain, let alone sue.

                Your two-tiered proposal – applying one standard to false statements made by government officials/public servants and another to statements by real people – is in a sense the mirror-image of the law of libel and slander. That law permits actions to be brought by persons who claim they’ve been lied about. (Under U.S. law, the truth is always an absolute defense to such a claim.) Libel and slander laws are also subject to a two-tiered analysis: Ordinary people can bring suit so long as the statement made about them is both false and defamatory (viz., that it causes them harm by tending to subject them to embarrassment, public obloquy, etc.) “Public figures,” on the other hand – which includes not only public officials but also those who are in the public eye (usually by dint of their own activity) – must, in addition to the foregoing, demonstrate that the statement was made with “actual malice” (meaning either with actual knowledge that it was false, or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity).

                As the above suggests, and as is further suggested by the reference to Mitt Romney in your last comment, a major problem with your proposal is that it would put us on a slippery slope in determining who might be subject to its strictures. You say it would apply to anyone “actively campaigning for public office[.]” Does that mean a formal announcement or does it extend also to those at the exploratory-committee stage? How about a Sarah Palin, no longer holding office or conducting a campaigning, but – at least until the Republican nomination was finally settled – running a road-show Hamlet from her mobile Elsinore? Does it apply only to those seeking or holding elective office? Or to appointees, too? To someone who accepts a diplomatic assignment? Both ambassadors and chargé d’affaires? How about spouses, such as First Ladies? If they head up a task force? If they accept an unpaid, ceremonial co-chairmanship of an arts or social committee? We could proceed down the slope to the lowest civil servant mired in the bureaucracy. I’m sure you see the potential problem.

                The effort to hone it to such a fine edge, usually renders such a proposal both difficult and dangerous to handle. It would, as I referenced in my earlier comment, have a chilling effect not just on the deserving, but on the harmless and the well-meaning, as well. Undoubtably, your proposal seeks to achieve a noble goal. And I have little doubt that you and I could reach broad agreement in identifying which public officials most merit punishment for the rank falsehoods they regularly belch up before the public. But, on balance, I fear your proposal would have a deleterious effect on public discourse without providing a counterbalancing public benefit.

                Let me know if you need more convincing. : )

              • darrelle
                Posted October 8, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

                Ken Kukec,

                Thank you for taking the time for such a thorough and informative reply, I appreciate it. I am convinced it is a bad idea. A product of disgust, not so much with the Brouns and Romneys of the political scene, but that our society is currently such that those types are so frequently rewarded with success.

  10. papalinton
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    “His remarks are astonishing not only for the profound ignorance of science they reveal in a man entrusted with a significant role in shaping the nation’s science policy, but his apparently utter lack of understanding of the foundational governing principles of the United States.”

    No. What they portray is schizotypal behaviour and a worrying loss of grip on reality.

  11. Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Only slightly off-topic…I just got a robocall from Mike Huckabee soliciting campaign funds for Representative Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin‘s Senate campaign. In the call, Huckabee said that Akin has apologized for the way he worded his comments and that it’s unfair of those meanie libruls to keep beating up poor Todd for one honest little slip o’ th’ tongue.

    I “pressed 1″ to speak to a staffer to make a contribution, and then hit said staffer with both rhetorical barrels. It blows my mind that anybody could be so without shame to ask for money to elect somebody who thinks rape is legitimate.

    b&

    • MadScientist
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      Weren’t war diallers made illegal years ago?

      • Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        Politicians wrote exceptions for themselves into the law. Aren’t you surprised?

        I’m just wondering what on Earth they were thinking that I might be somebody who would give money to any conservative — let alone Mr. Legitimate Rape!

        b&

        • Diane G.
          Posted October 6, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

          We got a Huckabee for Akin robocall today, too. Wish I’d been as proactive as you.

          • Tim
            Posted October 6, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

            Though I’m not much enamored of Claire McCasKill, Akin convinced me (a Texan) to contribute money to her campaign. If you get any more robocalls, you could do what Ben did and tell ‘em “thanks for reminding me to contribute to McCaskill’s campaign.”

      • Posted October 6, 2012 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        One would hope so – in Australasia you can’t make an emergency services call until the wardialler hangs up, because only a caller can terminate a call. Not a good thing.

    • cherrybombsim
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

      Only slightly off-topic; Todd Akin is also a member of the same Science and Technology committee. Under the leadership of Ralph Hall, it has become a hotbed of retrograde thinking.

  12. Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    For the creationist view of “scientist”, see Creation Ministries International’s list of list of scientists alive today who accept the biblical account of creation, annotated. Many are doctors, including vets, and one is a plastic surgeon. This is what passes for scientific expertise amongst creationists.

  13. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    What a damned liar Broun is.

    He is trash talking the most rewarding sustained effort this world has seen, sustained by the best and brightest individuals we have.

    And what has he to offer as alternative? A goat herding manual,* with among the worst moral one can think of (genocide, death punishment, mutilation, torture, slavery, misogyny) suggested as modern moral!

    I bet Broun is using rather than refusing medicine or relativity (GPS).

    * it isn’t that of course. Best I can see from the sparse historic sources is that the religion, a typical greek synchretic pagan religion with earliest texts in greek, surfaces after the hellenic conquest. (The dated Dead Sea scrolls.) Likely an adoption of “superior” culture of the conquers by the conquered, which diverse cult in later centuries split into the jewish et cetera cults.

    It is, if anything, a conquest manual for both sides, how to live with winning and losing.

  14. Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    This brings up a pet peeve of mine. An MD does not a scientist make. Physicians practice medicine, not the scientific method. While I would hope a physician understands the scientific method, and certainly some physicians do research, most physicians do not actually *do* research. And until this man supplies us with his bibliography of peered reviewed papers, I will view him as a incompletely educated technician of human suffering.

    Even an ordinary claim requires ordinary proof.

    • Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      The unifying behavior is adherence to evidence-based knowledge and practice.

      The notion of a “scientific method” is a pop culture one. In fact, the methods for creating, testing, disseminating and practical applications are always changing because they are opportunistic.

      A quick and easy test is whether natural language is mainly used or data for “decision making” and directing behavior.

      What is called “science” is way too diverse to say so and actually refers to evidence and facts usually expressed in math.

  15. MadScientist
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    I couldn’t find anything about Obama in the bible and no direct mention of Romney either. There was something about a beast and apocalypse and all that – I suppose that means Romney so I guess Paul Broun will be voting for Romney.

  16. alias Ernest Major
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    Evolutionary biology and big bang cosmology are presumable against his religion (bibliolatry). But what is his objection to embryology?

    • Douglas E
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      He probably heard a snippet about evo/devo and assumed that developmental biology, like evolution, must be of the devil.

    • Ludo
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      Maybe he believes that babies grow on trees, or are for sale in supermarkets?

    • Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Because embryology is huge evidence for evolution. (As Why Evolution Is True details.)

    • Posted October 7, 2012 at 5:56 am | Permalink

      Might also collide with his beliefs around abortion, too.

  17. Ichthyic
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I just want to know what all those dead deer listening so intently to his presentation think.

    • suwise3
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      …that there must be a hell, because not only are they dead, but they’re forced to listen to him?

      • Ichthyic
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

        good answer.

  18. E.A. Blair
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    When people express disdain for evolution on religious grounds, I wonder why it is that they have no problem with being descended from a pile of dirt but not from a long heritage of actual living things.

  19. Mark Fuller Dillon
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    This is one of the reasons why I find it hard to scoff at muslims as if their religion were the only one still mired in the past. As we all know here, the number of christians who would agree with Broun is shockingly high, and the idea that such a man could somehow gain public office and wield public power is equally shocking… but all too real.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • raven
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      I’ve never been able to tell the difference between fundie xians, fundie Moslems, and fundie Jews.

      There isn’t any.

      They all come from the same source, ancient middle eastern tribal cultures.

      We in the West just don’t let our fundies run around loose any more. Broun and the majority of his district who elected him, know that. They hate it and they hate those who keep them tied up with a leash.

      PS That leash is known as…civilization.

      • Pray Hard
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        19,700+ deadly terrorist attacks by Muslims since 9/11, killing tens or hundreds of thousands and maiming hundreds of thousands, is one small difference.

        • Achrachno
          Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

          American Christians have killed well in excess of 200,000 Muslims in Iraq alone since 9/11. It goes both ways, though the Muslims are getting the worst of it. Their fundamentalism is too complete to allow science to develop in their countries, and these days that’s a fatal disability.

        • raven
          Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

          So how many Moslems has the US killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya since 2000.

          I’m guessing about 1/2 million although no one really knows. It could be higher.

          For extra credit, not that Pray Hard will be able to answer, How many Moslem troops are fighting in Western Europe and the America’s right now? How many navy and air force bases to they have on European and American territories?

        • E.A. Blair
          Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

          Furthermore, I have little doubt that if Western governments were as theocratically oriented as their counterparts in the Muslim world we’d see a lot more religious violence in the West. We may not live in societies that are as wholly secular as we’d like them to be, but so far it’s mostly sufficient to curb the excesses. We get the occasional abortion clinic bombing and doctor shooting, but are spared the worst. Whether that would be the case if we had a Pat Robertson as president I cannot speculate. Oh, and there was a theater in Paris that was firebombed during a showing of The Last Temptation of Christ.

          I’d also like to see some documantation on that 19,700+ number. Sources, please?

          • Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

            I’d also like to see some documantation on that 19,700+ number. Sources, please?

            That number, if it’s even remotely based in reality, pretty much has to include roadside IEDs used against American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

            If force directed against an invading army constitutes terrorism…well….

            b&

            • E.A. Blair
              Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

              Which is what prompted me to ask the question.

            • Mark Fuller Dillon
              Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

              >>If force directed against an invading army constitutes terrorism…well…

              Interesting, isn’t it, that when someone on “our” side stands up to invasion, they become “resistance fighters” or “freedom fighters”… but when someone on “their” side does exactly the same thing, they become “insurgents” or “terrorists.”

              O the mysteries of political language.

        • Mark Fuller Dillon
          Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          >>19,700+ deadly terrorist attacks by Muslims since 9/11, killing tens or hundreds of thousands and maiming hundreds of thousands, is one small difference.

          Would you have a source for that figure?

          Would you also be able to tell me how many muslims died during the sanctions against Hussein, during the american invasion of Iraq, during the american occupation?

          How many muslims have been killed since the american invasion of Afghanistan?

          My point, here, is not to excuse terrorists. As far as I’m concerned, murder is murder, whether it’s committed by muslims or christians or american soldiers. But at the very least, if we’re going to think in terms of “we” and “them,” it’s only fair to keep in mind the atrocities that “we” commit in the name of christianity and empire.

        • Tim
          Posted October 6, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

          “A terrorist is someone who has a bomb but doesn’t have an air force.”
          – William Blum

          • Douglas E
            Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

            Tim – I also like Peter Ustinov: “Terrorism is the war of the poor; war is the terrorism of the rich.”

            • JT
              Posted October 7, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

              Except, of course, we know that many terrorists are not poor. None of the 19 responsible for 9/11 were poor; they were all middle-class or better. I would amend Ustinov’s statement to this: terrorism is the war of the poor of means and technology. If they had the equivalent of the western war machine at their disposal, then we’d be fighting an existential war right now instead of an asymmetrical one.

  20. Ichthyic
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I wonder why it is that they have no problem with being descended from a pile of dirt but not from a long heritage of actual living things.

    do you really wonder that? if so, I can help enlighten you:

    because they are authoritarians, and the people they rely on as authority figures haven’t told them to object to the idea they came from dirt.

    if, OTOH, their pastor told them that there indeed was a need to “interpret” what coming from dirt means, biblically, and that they really didn’t (because it would be bad if they did), then that’s what they would believe.

    it’s quite simple really.

    • Tim
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

      You are precisely correct. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but the initial reaction of the Southern Baptist convention to Roe v Wade was quite sympathetic. Only after the Baptist authoritarians joined forces with the Republican authoritarians were the flock told that abortion is baby killing.(“The flock” – how these people can simultaneously bleat about ‘freedom’ all the time and could proudly accept that appellation is beyond me.)

      • Tim
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

        That link was meant to go to p. 12 of Thy Kingdom Come.

      • Ichthyic
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

        yup. exactly. the latest version of the strategy started with Nixon, and “perfected” itself with the neocons of the late 70s/early 80s.

        these people were BIG fans of Leo Strauss.

  21. raven
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    What would an MD know about modern high energy physics and Cosmology and know they are all wrong anyway.

    Yeah, I don’t get the embryology reference either. I’m sure they have some weird reason to hate embryology though.

    They also hate mathematics, set theory especially for equally weird reasons.

    If you look at fundies, they hate all sciences; physics, paleontology, biology, astronomy, archaeology, geology, and history as well. Because they all contradict their 2 pages of iron age mythology.

    These people are just left over from the Dark Age, which they will bring back if they can.

    • Achrachno
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      He probably just didn’t understand or enjoy the embryology class he had to sit through years ago.

      • Mark Fuller Dillon
        Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        “All those things floating in jars — blechhhh.”

    • Posted October 7, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      “They also hate mathematics, set theory especially for equally weird reasons.”

      The most bizarre such thing I have ever come across was a critique of the axiom of choice and the theory of relativity on the grounds that the former was a backdoor attempt by the pro-choice groups and the latter was a concoction designed to promote moral relativism. I have (fortunately) forgotten where exactly I saw thins, but think this was on Conservapedia.

      • Posted October 7, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

        It was indeed Conservapedia, across several articles and confirmed in discussions people attempted to have with Andrew Schlafly. RationalWiki has a writeup.

        This appears to be a bugbear specifically of Andrew Schlafly’s, not fundamentalists in general. e.g. Andrew’s brother Roger is also a fundamentalist Christian, but just happens to have a Ph.D in mathematics and has attempted without success to restrain Andrew’s excesses regarding relativity.

  22. Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    There is supposed to be no religious test for office. There is, but there is not supposed to be. Atheists cannot for the most part get elected to office.
    Perhaps it’s time that there was a test for fundamentalism. Those people should never be allowed in public office.

    • Posted October 6, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      The relevant text of the Constitution is Article VI, paragraph 3:

      The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.

      As such, the prohibition is against, for example, requiring that one swear allegiance to a particular deity before being granted ballot status or accepting a job as a pubic servant.

      Citizens are welcomed — nay, required — to vote their consciences when electing people to public office. If that means that Jane Doe will only vote for somebody who shares her membership in the Society for Creative Anachronisms, or that John Smith will only vote for somebody who shares his underwear fetish, or that Sue Jones will only vote for somebody with the same color eyes as she has, then that’s each of their own prerogatives.

      And, so, there indeed isn’t any religious test for public office in the United States (with the occasional local oddball exception still on the books that wouldn’t survive even a perfunctory challenge). There are blocs of religious voters who wield great power, yes, but there are also blocs of voters who are, say, fond of firearms or older than 65 or possessing of great wealth, who also wield great power.

      Cheers,

      b&

  23. Dave
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    I went here http://science.house.gov/contact-us/email-us to express my displeasure/astonishment.

    • ploubere
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Dave, I did the same. It won’t make any difference though, the committee is dominated by GOP no-nothings.

  24. Hempenstein
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    And there’s more! His district apparently encompasses Athens, which some years back struck me (to some astonishment) as a rather civilized place. Here’s what the Atlanta Constitution has to say about it.

    And does anyone happen to know if the GA state legislature’s 51st District is close to Broun’s US District?

    • Hempenstein
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      Never mind to the question – GA 51st is outside/close to Atlanta, and their US 10th (Broun’s) is close but not encompassing.

  25. kay
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    Lol 9,000 years old. Even agriculture is older than that! Maybe it would mess with his mind that we were hunter gathering for hundreds of thousands of years longer than that, and then before then- no humans going back almost 4.5 billion years.

  26. Hempenstein
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    This guy, like Michael Behe, at least ought to renounce his degree. Instead, he has the gall to append MD to his name on his website, which is so backward that it’s still inviting people to a reception “tomorrow night” on July 31. Meanwhile, comments on the Washington Post’s coverage suggest he’s running unopposed. Caramba!

    • Craig Godeke
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

      Speaking of Behe, and speaking of “leaders”, here’s another ignoramus using taking to the pulpit to express how he just can’t buy the data science is putting forth:

      http://orrinwoodwardblog.com/2012/10/01/intelligent-design-evolution-molecular-machines/#comment-9316

      A quote:
      “Hence, scientists, like the rest of mankind in their fallen condition, deny the truth set before them. Science, however, by its very definition, is no longer science when it accepts dogma over data. Consequently, what we are watching unfold in the intelligent design/evolution controversy, is less about science and more about philosophical world-views. All of us can benefit by learning from all sides of the controversy. Science, in order to be science, must allow the data to speak for itself, but the data overwhelmingly points to design/programming, which leaves the naturalist in a moral quandary.”

  27. Snuffy Smith
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    I teach high school science. Another teacher wrote a very nice article for our weekly bulletin about the importance of science literacy in the U.S. He gave statistics related to the importance of this issue in the minds of a large majority of US voters. But the voters are schizophrenic and the video highlights the back story. This is what we’re up against; across the country, many of our students go home to this kind of hogwash, undoing the good work of science educators. It’s sad, very sad.

  28. JTrentadue
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    8/10 – Needs more deer.

    • gluonspring
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, it was kind of disappointing when he stepped off to the left to see that the deer wall didn’t go all the way around. You can’t put that many deer on the wall and then stop.

    • Ichthyic
      Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

      huh, here I was looking at that wall and listening to mr. moron drone on with his inanity and thinking…

      tldr

  29. Posted October 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Hi I’m Paul Braun and I’m coockoo.

  30. Douglas E
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    There is a great quote from Chargaff that can be used for many folks, and Broun certainly qualifies: “That in our day, pygmies cast such giant shadows only shows how late in the day it has become.”

  31. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted October 7, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I’m very late to this thread having spent all day at Sacramento Freethought Day.

    The (admittedly obscurantist head-in-the-clouds) Russian mystic Nicholas Berdaev once said the only person who deserved to be in hell was the fellow who invented the concept.

    Effectively saying, hell was an idea born in hell.

  32. Posted October 7, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    Mr Broun’s embrouillage with embryology is strange: maybe he feels embarrassed by the inferred embroilment of the bruon/broun in his name…

  33. Posted October 9, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    as long as there are stupid audience, these people have job

  34. marcusa1971
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

    A person that ignorant isn’t qualified to govern a sand castle (as a member of the government), let alone the most powerful nation on earth.


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