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.