A Party Of Antiscience

Rick Moran has been running a great series of posts at Right Wing Nut House about the decline of intellectualism in modern conservatism.  And I can think of no more telling symptom of that problem than this tidbit pointed out by David Hume:  it appears that all of the likely Republican Presidential candidate for 2012 are creationists and deny evolution, and favor the “teach the controversy” position:

Bobby Jindal “…has suggested that teaching intelligent design as an alternative to evolution may not be out of place in public schools.”  He put his money where his mouth was on that issue, too, authorizing public school teachers to teach intelligent design and criticism of evolution.

Tim Pawlenty is on record as defending Sarah Palin thusly:  “Intelligent design is something that, in my view, is plausible and credible and something that I personally believe in but, more importantly, from an educational and scientific standpoint, it should be decided by local school boards at the local school district level.”

Former Governor Palin herself has said of the subject:  “Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information.  Healthy debate is so important and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.”

Mike Huckabee, for his part, tries as hard as he can to not answer direct questions about teaching intelligent design, which is what we lawyers call “tap dancing.”  But there’s little doubt that he actively disbelieves in evolution.

Of the prominent Republicans out there right now, only Mitt Romney comes closest to actually embracing science — and with trademark style, he tries to have things both ways:  “I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation. And I believe he used the process of evolution to create the human body.”  Of course, in doing this, he is missing the point of evolution entirely — if God guided evolution, then evolution isn’t natural selection at work, but rather artificial selection, the way a dog breeder creates a daschund out of successive generations of larger hound dogs.

For a guy who is in the middle of reading Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show On Earth, reciting mountains and mountains of evidence — not just fossils — for evolution, this is a bitter pill to swallow indeed.  No likely GOP candidate understands science and most of them subscribe to a “teach the controversy” policy platform.

Teaching the controversy sounds like a politically palatable compromise, but there are plenty of “controversies” we shouldn’t teach in public schools because the “other side” of the “theory” is simply not worthy of credulous presentation — some of which at one time were accepted as the unimpeachable scientific truth and the state of the art of human knowledge.  These include:

  • Intelligent falling
  • The geocentric model of the solar system
  • Alien construction of the Great Pyramids
  • Cryptozoology (that is, Bigfoot, Yeti, the Loch Ness Monster, Chupycabra, etc.)
  • The “stork theory” of human reproduction
  • Human health as the balance of the “four viscous humours” of phlegm, black bile, yellow bile, and blood
  • Santa Claus
  • Jerusalem-centric tricontinental global cartography

There is no need to teach any of these “opposing theories” or subject the “conventional” theories to which they are opposed, because these “opposing theories” are laughably and demonstrably not science.  We should take into account a candidate’s endorsement of teaching mythology in science class when evaluating that candidate’s world view and suitability for office.  Treat a candidate for office who insists that both intelligent design and evolution should be taught in science class the same way you would treat a candidate who insists that the “stork theory” be taught in sex education.

Which portends very poorly for the Republican party indeed.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.