American Taliban and the Attack on Science

Mostly I care about whether governmental policy is based upon facts, but discerning the facts requires intelligence.  In some areas of human endeavor, it involves something we call science.  Generally smart people are better at doing science than stupid people, but there may be the occasional idiot savant.

Political pundits focus on the dualism of America – rich and poor, but this is not the important divide.  The crucial distinction is between the smart and the stupid.

Rick Santorum says that smart people have no place in the Republican party.  Colleges and universities are the adversaries of the stupid.  Stupid people are the base.  See Kristen A. Lee, “Santorum complains to social conservatives about ‘smart people’” (Sept. 17, 2012).  Santorum accuses President Obama of being a snob:  “he wants everybody in America to go to college.” Santorum later backed away from his “What a snob,” remark, when he acknowledged that his comment was “probably not the smartest thing.”  Of course, Santorum was really complimenting himself, and reaffirming his core values.

Shifting gears, just slightly.

Science flourished in the Islamic world until it didn’t.  Most historians appear to accept that the rise of clerics and superstition killed a rich tradition of science in Islam, about the same time that the Reformation and other social changes in Europe allowed science to emerge from the shadows of the Church. The American Taliban would have us align ourselves with the current Islamic hostility to science.

Who are the American Taliban?

Meet Congressman Paul Broun.  Broun serves on the House Science Committee.  According to Wikipedia, the font of all knowledge, Broun has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Georgia, and an M.D. degree from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.  Broun calls himself a scientist.

Last month, at a church-sponsored event in Georgia, Broun declared that “all that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang theory” are “lies straight from the pit of hell.” And these lies are no casual fibs; according to Broun, the lies are part of a conspiracy to “to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.” And Broun really needs a savior.

Broun is also an accomplished geologist:

“You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.”

Broun made his comments to constituents at the Sportsman’s Banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Georgia.  In keeping with the Sportsman theme, members of the Bridge Project having been bird dogging Broun.  Instead of shooting big game; they shot video of Broun’s speech, which they proudly distributed by YouTube, which of course is their right for now.

The House Science Committee apparently has become a safe haven for the American Taliban.  Fellow scientist and Congressman, Todd Akin, also serves on the Committee.  Akin gained fame for his definitive study, which showed that women who experience “legitimate rape” cannot become pregnant because their tubes shut down.

Not all bad science is practiced in the courts.

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