Friday, March 6, 2015

Wierd Science




Recently, we have seen several attempts by Republicans to take on science.  The most amusing was the snowball fight Sen. James Inhofe tried to start in Congress over climate change.  I guess he like many other Republicans feels that if you can't see it, it doesn't exist, other than God of course.  Maybe the Senator meant it as a joke to break up the monotony of the session, but this isn't the first time he has resorted to such stunts to drive one of his pathetic points home.  Sen. Inhofe is the Chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee.

Not to be outdone, Dr. Ben Carson believes that homosexuality is learned, basing his empirical studies on prisoners.  This is a world famous neurosurgeon mind you, who also doesn't believe in evolution.  For him it is a matter of faith, being  a Seventh-Day Adventist.  None of it would matter if he wasn't being regarded as a serious contender for the US presidency.  Not surprisingly, it is his remarks on gays that are gaining the most attention, which forced him to issue an apology of sorts.

What had formerly been consigned to the fringe of the Republican Party is now front and center, thanks to the latest religious awakening that occurred in the GOP.  Conservatives not only regard science as "murky" (Dr. Ben's words) but take the Bible as the final word on everything, with Sen. Inhofe quoting chapter and verse on why climate change is a conspiracy, and that only God controls the weather.

You have to go pretty far back in American History to find such a blatant condemnation of science.  Even the Founding Fathers were active practitioners of science, notably Benjamin Franklin, whose experiments and observations on electricity were published by the Royal Society of London.  These are the same Founding Fathers many  religious conservatives believe were practicing evangelicals spreading religion to the masses.

It is really hard to fathom this depth of ignorance, because it is not only science but just about everything associated with Academia that these religious conservatives abhor.  In their addled minds, Academia is ruled by secular liberals determined to divorce God from everything, and so they have mounted a religious crusade to put God back in Academia, which David Barton felt Thomas Jefferson originally envisioned at the University of Virginia.

It doesn't matter that religious-based universities like Oral Roberts University, where Barton studied, not only teach science but have some of the best scientific programs in the country.  These modern-day zealots see science as a direct contradiction of everything they believe in.  There is no more favorite target than Darwin, resulting in a humorous fish battle of automobile decals.  Religious conservatives ignore the fact that Darwin studied Anglican theology and never fully discounted the role of God in the shaping of the world.

Of course, scientists can be their own worst enemies, as Randy Olson pointed out, not finding the humor in this so-called debate currently taking place.  You have to play the game to some degree, engage in friendly exchanges, and most of all make science fun.  This is what Carl Sagan long extolled, and what Neil DeGrasse Tyson demonstrated in last year's reboot of Sagan's famous science television series, Cosmos.

Religious conservatives jumped all over National Geographic for not giving them a chance to rebut Tyson's "claims."  It's not like NatGeo doesn't cater to this religious audience, as seen in Lost Faces of the Bible, where forensic anthropologists literally reconstruct the faces of the Bible.  Apparently, it isn't the same.  The Religious right wing wants the Bible to be seen as an indisputable text, from which all "scientific" inquiries should be taken.  This is why you have Christian anthropologists and flood geologists actively searching for tangible evidence of the events that took place in the Bible, firmly believing they have God on their side.

With this growing religious segment of American society, climate change or evolution or any scientific theory that challenges their view of the Bible literally has a snow ball's chance in hell (or Congress) of being accepted.  God's word is absolute.  I suppose this is why Republican lawmakers only want to fund science that is of "national interest," with guys like Lamar Smith determining what is good science.

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