It takes a special type of psychological, intellectual and spiritual constitution to be ruled more by sentiment than reason. This might well be the defining characteristic of the Republican party of the last few decades. And it was on full display in the 2012 election cycle. If one GOP member wasn’t advancing pseudoscientific beliefs on imaginary vaginal anti-pregnancy mechanisms then another was stating the Judeo-Christian god controlled the four winds of Earth. And so it is with Marco Rubio, who modulated his early crackpot pontifications (Democrats are communists) in something of a move toward the center, especially now that he is uniquely placed to attract Latino voters in 2016.
Make no mistake, there is a war currently underway against science and rationalism within the GOP and at least one-half of this country. Climate change, evolution, human reproduction, the Big Bang theory, renewable energy, and the integrity of scientific search have all come under the critical gaze of fringe-dwelling conservative politicians, many of whom are united in their Christian faith.
One could practically write a book on the various absurdities proffered by GOP politicians, especially those with zip codes residing in the southern United States. Below are six particularly egregious offenders of science who, instead of attempting to maintain objective congressional integrity, are on something of a religious crusade in the halls of Congress.
MARCO RUBIO (D-FL)
By now nearly everyone has heard Rubio’s response to the GQ interview question, “How old do you think the Earth is?”
I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States. I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow. I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all. I think parents should be able to teach their kids what their faith says, what science says. Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.
Rubio attempts a shuck and jive in those first few sentences. He defers to “theologians” (a great scientific crowd, to be sure) and then states that one’s understanding of the Earth’s age has nothing to do with the US economy. That may be so, but one’s geological knowledge is of prime concern in the 21st century, when congressmen and presidents influence the direction of science and technology through congressional committees and the budget. If one refuses to grasp the import of science because of religious belief, and cuts vital scientific funding as a result, that is a big problem.
In the above response, Rubio throws a bone to the Creationist crowd, stating, “At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all.” But, see, this is the problem with the Creationist “scientific” approach: a conclusion already exists (drawn from the Bible) without any sort of evidence or, indeed, theoretical evolution whatsoever; which the scientific method encourages, allowing the best theory to prevail until the next best comes along. In fact, the Creationist theory has absolutely zero evidence and cannot be tested. As such, it is not scientific theory and therefore it simply cannot be taught in science classes.
Rubio is right about one thing: parents should be allowed to teach their children what they want. But this does not entitle those very same parents to a pseudoscientific science curriculum at public schools.
RALPH HALL (R-TX)
The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology is chaired by Ralph Hall, a 32-year veteran of the House of Representatives. Hall is a Republican from Texas’s 4th district who was one of the founders of the Blue Dog Coalition in the Democratic party. (He switched parties in 2004). At first glance, Ralph seems rational. He is an enthusiastic supporter of NASA and an advocate for space exploration, in general. But when one considers his stance on climate change, he is very much in line with the science-denying GOP majority. And as committee chair on Science, Space and Technology, he is in firm control of debate on the issues.
Ralph is 89 years old, so perhaps he should be excused for his perspective on climate change. But when Ralph says that global warming is a scam hatched by scientists to fund their research, he has entered the dark realm of religious conservative dementia.
Mr. Hall told The National Journal: “[Researchers] each get $5,000 for every report [linking human activities to climate change] they give out. That’s just my guess. I don’t have any proof of that. But I don’t believe ‘em. I still want to listen to ‘em and believe what I believe I ought to believe.”
Hall added, “I don’t think we can control what God controls.” Translation: Ralph selectively ignores millions of years of evidence detailing human tinkering with God’s divine creation (agriculture, private property, canals, aqueducts, mining, etc.), while in no uncertain terms stating that he holds his beliefs because God (or Christians) forbid him to think otherwise.
TODD AKIN (R-MO)
Like Ralph Hall, Todd Akin, who recently lost his reelection bid for Missouri’s 2nd congressional district, sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Recently, Todd Akin achieved infamy with his pseudoscientific ruminations on abortion. Akin stated that in instances of rape, ”The female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing [pregnancy] down.” What seems to have been lost in the static of media coverage and Republican-Democrat point-counterpoint, is that Akin is also at odds with science when it comes to the issue of global warming.
In a 2009 House floor speech, Akin railed against the Waxman-Markey bill, a clean, renewable energy initiative, stating: “This whole thing strikes me if it weren’t so serious as being a comedy you know. I mean, we just went from winter to spring. In Missouri when we go from winter to spring, that’s a good climate change. I don’t want to stop that climate change you know.”
‘Tis a good thing Akin is now gone.
PAUL BROUN (R-GA)
Paul Broun, a representative for Georgia’s 10th congressional district, is a member of both the House Committees on Energy and Commerce and Science, Space and Technology. Two incredibly influential federal arenas were rational scientific debate intersects an unenlightened, Dark Ages mentality.
Broun is now famous for characterizing or, rather, confidently stating that evolution, embryology and the Big Bang were “lies straight from the pits of hell.” Perhaps gravity is also the work of the Devil? Or maybe the human genome was a thought planted in our consciousness by Beezlebub?
What is most disturbing about Broun is that he has a medical degree. Broun, however, seems to be so hypnotized by religion’s extraordinary claims of universal truth (without extraordinary evidence), that he is brave enough to claim researchers are creating an elaborate fiction.
More rational Georgians recently hit back at Broun with a Charles Darwin write-in for Georgia’s 10th Congressional District election ballot.
JOHN SHIMKUS (R-IL)
John Shimkus, a fifteen-year veteran of Congress serving Illinois’s 20th congressional district, is member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, is also opposed to established scientific theory on climate change.
Witness Shimkus’s statement on God’s management of our Earthly realm: “The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over.”
Most scientists agree that the Earth will “end” when the Sun goes red giant and toasts the planet. By then human beings will likely be extinct as a species. And if homo sapiens manages to replicate for another 4.5 billion years, they will be forced to leave the planet, as suggested by Stephen Hawking.
Shimkus even had the audacity to attempt to lead the House Energy Committee, stating (without a hint of irony), “I believe I have the credentials within the Committee to bring fairness, without protests from the other side of the aisle, in its operation.”
JOE BARTON (R-TX)
Rep. Joe Barton, who serves Texas’s 6th congressional district and is a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, believes God controls the winds. It’s charming, really.
“Wind is God’s way of balancing heat. Wind is the way you shift heat from areas where it’s hotter to areas where it’s cooler. That’s what wind is. Wouldn’t it be ironic if in the interest of global warming we mandated massive switches to energy, which is a finite resource, which slows the winds down, which causes the temperature to go up? Now, I’m not saying that’s going to happen, Mr. Chairman, but that is definitely something on the massive scale. I mean, it does make some sense. You stop something, you can’t transfer that heat, and the heat goes up. It’s just something to think about.”
Right. We should definitely consider whether we will upset God’s efforts in wind management, overpowering his infinite omnipotence.
JACK KINGSTON (R-GA)
Serving Georgia’s 1st congressional district, Jack Kingston is not a member of any important committees involving science debate, though to his credit he has been a vocal supporter of alternative energy. Kingston is in search of the missing link and is a climate change skeptic. (One wonders why then he’s so supportive of alternative energy.) This is a man who sits on the House Committee on Education, which as good a place as any to insert creationist pseudoscientific propaganda.
“I believe I came from God not from monkeys,” said Kingston when he was a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher. “I don’t believe a creature crawled out of the sea and became human… where’s the missing link? I just want to know where it is.” Well, if a creature crawled out of the sea and suddenly transformed into a human, it would be just as fantastical as a Jewish carpenter walking on water.
Listen to Kingston in conversation on Focal Point with Brian Fisher. It’s wondrously imaginative pseudoscience. The pièce de résistance of the Fisher interview is the following: “There’s no question to me that evolution is not based on sound science at all.”