Todd Akin joins other Republican chowderheads: claims that evolutionary biology isn’t science

As the election draws nigh, Republicans continue to embarrass themselves—and America—with stupid comments about science. (Note: rarely do you see a Democrat spouting such anti-science gibberish.)

You probably remember Republican congressman Paul Broun (Georgia) who recently pronounced that evolution, embryology, and the Big Bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell.” Broun is a physician, which proves once again that doctors don’t have to know much about science. Here’s his statement, made at a church in Georgia (and dismissed by his spokeswoman as as speech about his personal beliefs that was off the record. (How can something like this be “off the record”?)

“God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior. There’s a lot of scientific data that I found out as a scientist [JAC: note the specious claim that he's a scientist] that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I believe that the Earth is about 9,000 years old. I believe that it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says. And what I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually. How to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all our public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason, as 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.”

Imagine what a reader in Scandinavia, Germany, or France would think of a statement like that! Embryology a lie from the pit of hell, meant to keep us from our Savior? And note the explicit call for theocracy, which is a major reason why we atheists despise many religions. If you think you have a handle on the Absolute Truth, then it’s incumbent on you to impose it on others.

But the biggest embarrassment is this: Broun sits on the House Space, Science and Technology Committee!

But Broun is not the only anti-science Representative who sits that science committee. Another is Todd Akin, a Republican representative from Missouri who is running for the Senate. You remember him as the guy who said in August that a woman who was raped couldn’t get pregnant. The New York Times reported his exact words as broadcast by a St. Louis radio station:

“It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

Well, as reported by ThinkProgress, Akin has problems understanding not just human reproduction, but evolution. Addresssing a Tea Party group on Thursday, Akin said this about evolution:

AKIN: I don’t see it as even a matter of science because I don’t know that you can prove one or the other. That’s one of those things. We can talk about theology and all of those other things but I’m basically concerned about, you’ve got a choice between Claire McCaskill and myself. My job is to make the thing there. If we want to do theoretical stuff, we can do that, but I think I better stay on topic.

Yeah, that “theoretical stuff” is hard! Examiner.com reports a bit more of Akin’s views about evolution:

“I’ve taken a look at both sides of the thing and it seems to me that evolution takes a tremendous amount of faith…To have all of the sudden all the different things that have to be lined up to create something as sophisticated as life, it takes a lot of faith. I don’t see it as even a matter of science because I don’t know that you can prove one or the other.”

First he equates evolution with abiogenesis—the origin of life. Second of all, we don’t have “faith” that life originated from non-life: it’s a working hypothesis that is subject to lots of current research, and for which there’s no credible alternative. Third, there is a mountain of evidence that evolution per se—the genetic change of the first Ur-organism into the millions of species existing today—is true.  Finally, science doesn’t “prove” anything; our notion of truth is a provisional one, always subject to revision or rejection should new data arrive.

But of course Akin doesn’t even understand the simple ideas described in the last paragraph. He’s a jackass (forgive my invective here) who doesn’t belong in politics at all. The sad part is that despite Akin’s stupid comments, many Republicans are still backing him, and though the polls show him a wee bit behind incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, her lead is narrowing. If he wins, the Senate may well be controlled by Republicans in January.

h/t: James

72 Comments

  1. Posted October 14, 2012 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    Broun shows that it is not just fear of death that enamours people to religion, but it is also their needing guidance to get through life. The primitive basis of that is following an alpha male and grovelling, and religion gives plenty of opportunity to do that.

    Your invective probably will be viewed by some as unprofessional and snooty, rather than the expression of passionate concern that it is.

  2. Posted October 14, 2012 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    “the Bible … It teaches us how to run our lives individually. How to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all our public policy and everything in society.”

    Nobody can say that who has actually read the thing* and thought for a moment about what it would mean to implement it in the 20th century.

    * And how is that project coming along?

    • raven
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      If you ask fundies about what they bible says about running a democracy, they go blank because they don’t know.

      1. Democracy isn’t mentioned at all in the bible.

      2. Communism is mentioned with approval.

      3. What the bible does say is

      A. Pay your taxes in two places, one from the godman jesus himself e.g. Romans 13.

      B. Obey the authorities because they were appointed by god. At that time the rulers were all kings and emperors.

      Fundies are ugly but they can be cute sometimes when they try to think.

  3. Marella
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    From Australia it looks like the USA is in a death spiral that it doesn’t seem to see a way out of. The .01% owns almost everything and refuses to pay a reasonable share of taxes. They use religion and divisive politics to con regular people into voting for them, and make sure the education system is so bad that they won’t be able to figure out they’re being conned. It is very sad.

    • BillyJoe
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 1:35 am | Permalink

      The really sad thing is that the people who that system discriminates against are often out there protesting any changes that would actually redress the balance and benefit them.

    • Filippo
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 5:01 am | Permalink

      For the last few years I’ve been contemplating the possibility of departing The Land of the Fee and the Home of The Craven. Australia and New Zealand repeatedly come to mind. As “they” say, “The grass is always greener . . . .”

      You succinctly evaluate the U.S. What is your synoptic evaluation of Australia?

      • Posted October 14, 2012 at 9:03 am | Permalink

        I’ve had similar thoughts over the years, especially in the wake of both Bush selections.

        I’ve resigned myself to sticking it out.

        On the one hand, locally, I’ve got a very good well-sheltered life. Aside from the fact that I’ve basically abandoned the idea of commercial air travel, it’s unlikely for much of the bullshit to personally affect me. Plus, Mom and Dad live not far away.

        And, on the other hand…if there’s to be any hope of pushing back the tide or of putting the pieces back together after it all blows up, we’e going to need people here who care enough about the Enlightenment to see things through.

        Besides. If America explodes or goes full-throttle totalitarian, nowhere that I’d be interested in going would be safe, either.

        If it helps, I don’t think we’ll economically be in a position to be a global threat much longer. Sure, we’ll still have a monster military, but we won’t be able to afford the logistics to do much with it.

        b&

        • aethiest in a foxhol
          Posted October 15, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

          @ Ben and my fellow Americans,

          Demographics are everything. My analysis is this: the fundamentalist evangelicals are losing the demographic race, they just are not reproducing as fast as the non-white and non-religious fundamentalists are. They feel they are losing control of the country, which they are.

          They will either implode as a political force within the next 5-20 years (the sooner the better for us all), or will have to come back to reality in order to attract people to their churches.

          The Republican party made a deal with the devil in the 1960’s by implementing the ‘Southern Strategy’ in order to maintain their waning political power:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_strategy

          The Republican party did the same thing with the evangelicals by embracing the anti-abortion ‘pro-life’ (until you’re born and then you’re on your own, and if you commit a crime its the death penalty for you!) point of view in 1980:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pro-life_movement

          I say again, Demographics!:

          http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL32701.pdf

          The relevant tables start on page 21. ‘White’ as a demographic group is slowly declining. Note that ‘white’ includes Latinos. Latinos as a percentage of ‘white’ is increasing. Latinos are typically not evangelical fundamentalists. Most of them I know from my first girlfriend Lupe to the guys and gals I served with in Iraq to my friends and co-workers here in Dallas are more of the live and let live variety (Catholic lite or agnostic).

          The last demographic, and probably the most important are the younger generations. The youth of all races in the USA are far more socially liberal and tolerant than the preceding generations are. A lot of them even seek out different perspectives, from religion, politics and sexuality. This comes from exposure; its easy to demonize someone as an ‘other’ if you’ve never met one. Its a whole lot harder to demonize someone who you sit beside in class, play video games with, share MP3’s with, or who saves your life in combat. All of a sudden you realize you have more in common than you have differences.

          In summary, I don’t think the USA will explode and take the whole world down with us. I do think that the next few years will be painful as the Republican party and evangelical Christians here in the USA loose control of the political process and have to come to grips with reality. They will kick and spit and scream and punch and cheat with every last bit of strength they have. But the demographics say they are SOL (sh!t out of luck) in the long run.

          My greatest concern is for a handful of religious fundamentalists here in the USA to resort to terrorism like the abortion center bombers. I’m not optimistic about the future, I’m not pessimistic about the future, I’m a realist. It will eventually get better, but it may get worse for a while.

          Its up to logical, rational, practical people like Ben, the WEIT crowd, and myself to help slow the train to crazy town and put it back on the right track.

          • Posted October 15, 2012 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

            In summary, I don’t think the USA will explode and take the whole world down with us.

            I hope you’re right, and you might be.

            My worry is that…well…the Nazi party was always a minority party, and most of the other really nasty shit throughout history has similarly been done by determined minorities with the indifferent majority getting dragged along.

            b&

    • Posted October 14, 2012 at 5:14 am | Permalink

      It looks that way from Canada too. There isn’t half the religious nutbaggery in Canadian public life that there is in the USA

    • Posted October 14, 2012 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      From Scandinavia it looks equally bizarre.

      I just continually hope that the ones we hear are just a very vocal minority (like posters on MMO forums), and that the vast majority are as sensible as I like to believe.

      • Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, it seems to me that about half the US population think this way.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Actually, it also looks that way from here in the USA.

      • Posted October 14, 2012 at 8:43 am | Permalink

        Yes, sadly it does look the same from here.

    • raven
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      From Australia it looks like the USA is in a death spiral that it doesn’t seem to see a way out of.

      That might be true.

      1. Bush set us back one lost generation.

      2. Romney is probably worse. Make that two lost generations. I won’t be alive for the recovery.

      If Romney wins, I’m just going to give up and work on my hobbies and spend quality time with the cats. I can’t stop 314 million lemmings from running over a cliff.

      PS I’ll add here that it doesn’t have to be that way. The USA is by far the world’s largest economy and spends a huge 1/3 of the world’s science R&D. 30 of the world’s 40 top research universities are in the USA. In terms of fundamentals, we have a huge installed base. It will take time to squander all that but it is certainly a possibility.

      Japan is doing it right now. They were the world’s second largest economy and kicking our ass a few decades ago. They hit the wall and never got up.

      • Posted October 14, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

        75% of the top research institutions may be here, but I wonder:

        a) what percentage of the students are Americans?

        and

        b) what percentage of graduates remain in the USA?

        I live in a reputedly liberal-leaning city in a blue state, and yet observe that right-wing religious nutbags are not just a vocal minority. I make no pretense of prognostication, but I am not optimistic.

        • raven
          Posted October 14, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

          what percentage of the students are Americans?

          It varies. Oddly enough, an American university education is still prized in much of the world.

          I stopped by to visit an old colleague/friend a decade ago at a top research university.

          Well over 50% of the grad students were from mainland China.

          I asked them what was going on here. “That is mostly who we can get.”

        • darrelle
          Posted October 14, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

          The US is really stupid about education, just like healthcare. So many USians proclaim that we are the greatest country on earth, and yet we can’t seem to manage to do the most important things in a reasonably intelligent way.

          It seems so simple. What is the best way to encourage a society to become productive, vibrant and wealthy? Since societies are made up of people, it seems pretty obvious that the best way is to do what works best to empower as many people as possible to be the best that they can be. Two really foundational things to achieve that are to make it easy to maintain everyone’s health, and make it easy to get as much education as wanted/possible.

          In the US everyone who wants to should be able to pursue the education they want as long as they continue to make the grade, without having to worry about whether or not they can pay for it. And we should encourage everyone to do so. If we are such a great country we should be able to figure out how to do that. It is an investment that would pay off huge.

          Look at what the GI Bill did for the US post WWII. It was the thing that empowered the US’s climb to the top in technology and research, and we are still riding that surge. This type of investment has already been proven. The reward/risk ratio is absurdly high.

  4. happyheretic1962
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 1:10 am | Permalink

    I share your pain. Living in Northern Ireland, it’s bad enough that fellow citizens are this ignorant, but we than elect them, handing them a platform to spout this rubbish. I mean ‘faith’ to accept science, has he never heard of an education.

  5. andreschuiteman
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    To paraphrase Wolfgang Pauli, these people are not even incompetent. They are more like cave men who are put in charge of a nuclear power plant.

  6. Griff
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    Eloquent, isn’t he.

  7. Posted October 14, 2012 at 1:47 am | Permalink

    But who decides who sits on the House Space, Science and Technology Committee?

    There seems to be some incompetence there, too.

    /@

    • mordacious1
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 2:29 am | Permalink

      The Speaker of the House, currently a Republican (Agent Orange), chooses the Chairman and his parties’ seats. The Minority Leader chooses their seats (fewer than the majority).
      This is one committee that the Republicans dump their Bozos who are too incompetent to be placed elsewhere (they don’t realize what a mistake this is, from their POV, it’s perfectly sensible).

  8. Posted October 14, 2012 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    I had to look up “… Chowderheads…” in the title just to confirm it means what I thought ~ & yes it’s a the equivalent of the Scots/English “Numptie”.

    I found that on Urban Dictionary there are a lot of NSFW words/expressions based around the word chowder, but the one that amused me most is clean:-

    Chowderheadism:

    “A mindset amongst residents of coastal Massachusetts (not confined to, but most often seen among Bostonians) that results in cramming people, objects, or explanations into insufficiently small confines, whether they be tangible or not.
    Taking into account the game of baseball and space needed to play it, the design of Fenway Park cleary shows a chowderheadism on the part of the James McLaughlin Construction Company.

    A typical chowderheadism amongst Bostonians is the explanation of David Ortiz’s positive steroid test chalked up to a tainted Dominican protein shake”

    I
    imagine this was coined & written by a NY Yankees fan & not really a popular word. Or am I wrong?

    • Tim
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 4:58 am | Permalink

      Of course, you take your chances with Urban Dictionary. I suspect that chowderhead is now becoming less common, but my mother used to use it quite a bit. (I felt a tinge of nostalgia when I read it.) No matter the term’s origin, it is now just one of a thousand words that are acceptable in polite company and are closely synonymous: moron, idiot, dolt, ibecile, Republican,…

      • Tim
        Posted October 14, 2012 at 6:15 am | Permalink

        Sigh. Typos always occur at the worst possible places: imbecile

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

        If I remember correctly, Calvin and Susie call each other chowderheads rather frequently.

        • Posted October 15, 2012 at 7:27 am | Permalink

          My Merriam Webster Collegiate third edition defines a chowderhead as being the same as a blockhead.

  9. phosphoros99
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 2:58 am | Permalink

    Evolutionary biology is science.

    The interpretation of the facts discovered by the discipline as evidence of “design without a designer” is however, pure fantasy.

    • OlliP
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

      You are welcome to present your evidence for there being a designer. Note that the appearance of design doesn’t count, as evolution by natural selection explains the appearance without invoking a designer. So, please, let’s have some evidence that there is a designer.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 8:51 am | Permalink

      Hey Phos, it’s not clear what you mean by that, if anything.
      Is it that (1) you don’t think evolution produces ‘design’, or
      (2) you think that the design explained by evolution is, at the same time, evidence for a ‘designer’?
      If you expect anyone to share (or even dispute) your opinion, please define terms and make a non-fallacious argument.

  10. terryln
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    Doctors are mechanics. Mechanics that basically work on one model, humans, and specifically male and female.
    So, once a doctor learns it, there’s just the problem of fixing it. So it’s easy to see they aren’t scientists.
    Remember, we are all the product of the Big Bang, and each person or whatever on the planet is the direct result of the way the objects molecules are lined up.
    So, unless you believe in the ghost within, we at stuck with the way we are, no free will.

  11. terryln
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 3:01 am | Permalink

    Doctors are mechanics, always working on the same model.

  12. Posted October 14, 2012 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    Perhaps Broun was the one who instructed Akin on the finer points of human reproduction. It all begins to make sense…

  13. jeffery
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 4:57 am | Permalink

    In a way, it’s a good thing that the Teapublicans think they’re, in the words of Charlie Sheen, “winning”: it causes them to be less guarded about how insane their own personal beliefs are. Neither of these idiots should be anywhere near a committee that makes decisions on matters of science!

    • Posted October 15, 2012 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      god, i wish you could just vote up or down on this blog. Your comment is another reason it’s urgent to toss as many of the Grand Old Dopes as possible out of Congress.

      By the way, I really wouldn’t want Broun as my doctor. They may be just mechanics, but mechanics need a smidgeon of common sense if they are to do their jobs correctly.

  14. jamesgart
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    Evolution is a fact. The Republican brain doesn’t believe in science or reality. In their mind frame, selfishness is their morality.

  15. Posted October 14, 2012 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    While stupidity and ignorance isn’t owned by republicans, when it comes to their leadership, it appears that such ownership is not only owned but cherished. Especially when it comes to the hatred of science and evolution.

    While I do worry about the congress ans senate, I am deeply concerned about what happens next on the supreme court under a republican administration.

    Seems as if you want to vote “science” one has to vote for the domocrats in this election.

    • Pete Cockerell
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      While I do worry about the congress ans senate

      I think you mean the House and the Senate, don’t you? Between them they compose Congress. Interestingly I seem to remember Bush Jr making the same mistake at a press conference.

      • Posted October 14, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

        It’s a very easy mistrake to make. The proper title for a member of the House of Representatives is, “Congressman.”

        Shrub make a great many errors for which he should have been accountable, including war crimes on an unprecedented scale. I’m more than happy to give him a pass on that sort of a slip o’ th’ tongue.

        b&

  16. S.E. Eberly
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 6:05 am | Permalink

    A petition for the removal of Broun from the Committee on Science can be found at https://www.change.org/petitions/house-science-committee-remove-rep-paul-broun.

  17. Posted October 14, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    My cardiologist in Alabama laughed when I said I study evolutionary biology. He said people’s hearts are all made differently “by God…or by evolution or whatever you believe.” I would’ve let it slide, but then we talked about antibiotic prophylaxis. I told him I’d read the new guidelines from the American Heart Association that cited a lot of data showing that the risks of antibiotic resistance far outweigh any potential (and unproven) benefits of prophylaxis for my condition. He basically said antibiotic resistance is a joke, doesn’t exist, and “you’ve been taking antibiotics since you were a baby, so no point in stopping now,” AND (and I kid not) “it’s a general antibiotic, not specific, so it won’t cause any resistance.” This was several years ago, but I remember it vividly, and I always jump at the chance to tell the story! I use it as a case-in-point justifying why evolution should be a required class for every biology major — especially when a large chunk of those students are pre-med. Luckily I have a good doc here in Louisiana now.

    • Posted October 14, 2012 at 6:24 am | Permalink

      That is a truly scary story!

    • Dave
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      “why evolution should be a required class for every biology major”

      You mean it isn’t already?! That would be like chemistry majors’ never having to learn anything about molecules.

    • raven
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      He basically said antibiotic resistance is a joke, doesn’t exist, and “you’ve been taking antibiotics since you were a baby, so no point in stopping now,”

      That is incompetence and malpractice.

      We see a lot of MRSA out here, methicilin resistant S. aereus. It causes a lot of problems. There are only a few drugs that can treat it and they have their own problems. I’ve seen recently.

      1. One girl ended up in the hospital and almost died from MRSA. A last line drug worked well.

      2. One guy had a case. It took 4 different combo therapies to get rid of it.

      3. One woman with an autoimmune disease was on a nonsteroidal immune suppressant. This worked well for years. Then she came down with MRSA. She can no longer use that therapy. Her autoimmune disease is progressing now.

      Multi-drug resistant TB is common and XMDR-TB is now known. Extreme MDR TB is hard to treat and can be 90% fatal.

      I could go on much longer but these examples make the point.

      The new watchword for antibiotics in medicine is “Antibiotic Stewardship”. We are running out of effective antibiotics and very few new ones are being developed.

    • Posted October 14, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      What do you call the med student who graduates last in their class?

      Doctor.

      *shudder*

      • Posted October 14, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        Yeah, but, if the med school is at all doing its job, it’s long since washed out all the incompetents by that point.

        It’s Zeno’s paradox restated and turned umop-ap!sdn. Don’t graduate the one who’s last in the class…and now the person who had been second-to-last is last. Lather, rinse, repeat, and you don’t graduate anybody.

        b&

  18. Deb Tromb
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    Shouldn’t Broun and Akin be off killing and burning a goat or some such on an altar in their spare bedroom? It is Sunday, and the Holey Scriptures call(s?) for ritual sacrifice–the murder of helpless creatures as a means of thanking god for creating helpless creatures. You can’t cherry-pick which biblical mandates are easily incorporated into a modern lifestyle and which ones make for icky photo-ops, so crank up the grill and get to the Offering of the Burnt. Show us heathens what a TRUE believer really looks like…

  19. Occam
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    Re Paul Broun’s eructations, JAC writes:

    Imagine what a reader in Scandinavia, Germany, or France would think of a statement like that! Embryology a lie from the pit of hell, meant to keep us from our Savior?

    Well, from a European’s perspective, this is precisely what drew me to WEIT, after years of shaking my head in silence and utter dismay at the rising levels of reactionary bullshit.

    • OlliP
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      From a Scandi perspective, it looks not only bizarrely stupid, but also incredibly scary. It looks like the stupidest people on earth are close to gaining control of the largest weapons arsenal on the planet. And already have the power to ruin the lives of billions of people for generations to come with reckless environmental policy.

      • darrelle
        Posted October 14, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        Not to mention the reckless (hell, insane is more accurate) economic and foreign policies.

    • prochoice
      Posted October 16, 2012 at 2:41 am | Permalink

      From a German point of view, there is some ongoing costcutting in the school sector, AND this morning THAT:

      http://web.de/magazine/beruf/bildung/16436580-achterbahn-mathe-arbeit.html

      It is an article about a move from the Chistian (!)party that pupils should be allowed to go to such fun parks for outdoor day.
      It does NOT specify who is to pay (the comments speculate, and for good reason, that it is to exclude the poor), nor is there any mention that some of those fun parks have a flintstone approach already.
      After much fuss about girls of muslim parents I do fear that this is the next anti-evolution-and-get-rid-of-stat-schools trick.

  20. Sastra
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    To have all of the sudden all the different things that have to be lined up to create something as sophisticated as life, it takes a lot of faith.

    Given Akin’s understanding of what the theory of evolution says, his conclusion here isn’t really unreasonable. It would take something close to a miracle for atoms and molecules to suddenly come swooshing together in just the right places to form something like, say, a duck. One minute there’s nothing, and then — wham! all the different parts of the duck line up like lego blocks and now we’ve got … a duck. Naw, I don’t got enough faith to believe that neither. Evolution don’t make no sense, sure ’nuff.

    The religious and spiritual are often eager to move empirical conclusions out of the category of ‘reason’ and into the category of ‘faith.’ That’s because doing so takes all the work out — and lets you get on with the little personal narrative going on in your head. It turns a ‘conclusion’ into a ‘choice.’ And you choose A over B — or B over A — according to which set of values you hold.

    Bad guys pick one side; good guys pick the other. We’ve left the whole mess involving facts and evaluation and uncertainty behind and entered the more simple, familiar territory of character development. What type of person, are you? Where do your tribal loyalties lie? What side do you want to be on? What kind of person do you want to be? Where are you on the cosmic storyline?

    • brujofeo
      Posted October 15, 2012 at 12:49 am | Permalink

      Mirabile dictu, Sastra.

  21. Posted October 14, 2012 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Akins is a symptom and not the problem. Politicians and marketers,sales people only say silly things because it generate a response in the audience.

    Second the claim of not science is the same one made by anyone using terms like reductionism and materialism. They are saying that the claims and predictions of science are just ideological claims and not facts.

    So materialist and reductionism qua science is no more fact based than Buddhism. Maybe less since the validity of ideologies is based on numbers of believers not anything factual.

    Akins and philosophers are using the same dishonest attack strategies.

  22. Jim Thomerson
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    As someone said, “A free people get the government they deserve.” Unfortunately, this seems to be the case in the USA.

    • Dave
      Posted October 14, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Yeah, and we in the minorities get the government “they” deserve as well!

  23. marksolock
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  24. Steve in Oakland
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    The religious reliance guys like Akin and lyin’ Ryan spout is frightening. [Did you hear Paul Ryan in the debate with Joe Biden say that his “Roman Catholic faith” guides his political decisions.

  25. Pete Cockerell
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Of course it helps that if you’re a member of the nouveau riche in China with enough money and connections, you can buy a transcript that will give you a fighting chance of getting into a decent American school, regardless of your actual ability.

    • Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know what the Chinese mainland students are like now, but when I was a physics grad student, the University of Texas’ the first mainland Chinese students were in my cohort. They were awesomely intelligent and dedicated students, among the very brightest in the department. This in spite of their having spent years of their lives living in misery in rural Chinese backwaters picking vegetables 12 hrs a day, under Mao’s Cultural Revolution.

      • Pete Cockerell
        Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, my wife is a case in point. She was “sent down” to Sichuan with her dad (an EE professor at Tsinghua) when she was three, in 1971, and stayed there, separated from her sister and mother in Beijing until the end of the Cultural Revolution, in 1976. Eventually, after much hard work, she got a scholarship to Rutgers to do an MS in mechanical engineering.

        I’m sure there are still many Chinese students who get to the US in similar circumstances (without the sent-down part), but there also also plenty who take shortcuts.

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

    “To have all of the sudden all the different things that have to be lined up to create something as sophisticated as life, it takes a lot of faith.”

    This is fairly typical of ignorant believers. To equate hundreds of millions, or even billions, of years with “all of the sudden”. Even if they happen to be one of the ones that doesn’t believe that the earth is only 6,000 years old (or is it 9,000 now?), they have no grasp of the significance of time at those scales for processes like evolution. It doesn’t make any sense to them. The lenses in their religion goggles are too thick.

  27. MrHeteronormative
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    “As the election draws nigh, Republicans continue to embarrass themselves—and America—with stupid comments about science. (Note: rarely do you see a Democrat spouting such anti-science gibberish.)”

    No. They’re normally spouting much more insidious and vile gibberish. Like implementing de-facto racism and sexism (quotas, affirmative action, etc) whilst patting themselves on the back at their wonderfulness at apparently being against these things.

    Or maybe one could say that Obama attributing job losses to automation (an idea that his economic advisers tried to correct him on, not that he budged) is a level of economic ignorance comparable to that of the biological ignorance you rail against here?

    So we have religious ideologues who deny science for emotional reasons versus Marxist ideologues who deny the reality of human nature for emotional reasons. Who damages society more? The latter. Their tale of murder and misery lies heavy on history. If only we’d learn.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted October 15, 2012 at 3:45 am | Permalink

      Yeah, Democrats are all Marxist ideologues. No wait, what?

      Hang on, what century is it where you live?

  28. Kevin
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    Note: rarely do you see a Democrat spouting such anti-science gibberish

    Who needs to if the biologists stay silent when you deny that life begins at conception?

  29. David Johnson
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    I live in Missouri and I have been canvassing for Claire McCaskill’s reelection campaign. If you also live in Missouri and you want to help defeat Todd Akin’s Senate bid, please contact the local office of the Missouri Democratic Party and volunteer. There are lots of important tasks to be done between now and election day.

  30. Steve in Oakland
    Posted October 17, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Antiscience Beliefs ca Jeopardize U.S. Democracy: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=antiscience-beliefs-jeopardize-us-democracy&WT.mc_id=SA_WR_20121017

  31. Er
    Posted November 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    We must not forget Jewish fundsmentalists. http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/755394/jewish/Does-the-Theory-of-Evolution-Jibe-with-Judaism.htm

    This claims that

    the belief that evolution has been somehow scientifically proven. This is simply not the case. While Darwin’s theories and their modern counterparts may have proven a useful paradigm for certain studies, they cannot at all stand the rigor through which a theory must be put in the academic world in order to be accepted as “proven.” Their sole claim to acceptance is the human mind’s endemic fear of saying, “We don’t understand.”

    And that While I’m at it, please allow me to point out that “natural” and “selection” are mutually incompatible terms. Natural implies blind necessity dictated by the consistent patterns of nature. Selection implies intelligence. I won’t be the first to point out that this term is an oxymoron. What I propose, however, is that the choice of such a term indicates that scientists subliminally recognize that there must be an intelligence at work here. Which is my point: It’s much more intuitive to believe that the primal substance of the universe is not matter, but intelligence.

    • Posted November 7, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      You seriously need to read Jerry’s book, which shares its title with that of this Web site. It most compellingly demonstrates just how worng what you just wrote actually is.

      b&

    • Pete Cockerell
      Posted November 7, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      I think you have a quote failure here. The last two paragraphs of your post seem to be quoting from the article at the link. I assume these don’t reflect your own views.


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