Republicans Believe Obama Is A Muslim And Doubt Evolution

As seen in the previous post, Rick Santorum is mind-numbingly ignorant. The same can be said about Republicans in Mississippi and Alabama (as well as other states not included in this poll). David Weigel passes on these findings from Public Policy Polling:


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These Republicans do show that evolution doesn’t necessarily select for intelligence.

To Hell With Facts–Rick Santorum Wants To Keep Science Out Of Politics

The most remarkable thing about the conservative movement is not their opinions, which most ethical individuals find repulsive, but that they have their own facts, which make most intelligent individuals cringe.

Conservatives have developed their own “news” sources such as Fox and right wing talk radio to protect them from hearing actual facts about the outside world. When the wish to hide the fact that they are promoting views which directly contradict the views of the Founding Fathers on subjects such as separation of church and state, they promote their own revisionist history. They ignore sound economic principles to promote their brand of Voodoo Economics, regardless of how often their economic view fail in the real world. Conservatives especially concentrate on rejecting science when the facts contradict their views, including on creationism, denying geology and cosmology when it contradicts their views on the creation of the earth and the universe, and denying climate change.

I’ve had numerous discussions with conservatives who have openly rejected science, believing scientific evidence can be ignored when it contradicts their religious beliefs, but political leaders are rarely as open in their contempt for science. Rick Santorum is an exception in his open hostility towards science. He opposes keeping religion out of government, but does want to keep science out. According to the Des Moines Register, while discussing controversial subjects such as evolution and global warming, Santorum suggested that “science should get out of politics.”

Yes, it would not serve conservative goals to base public policy upon facts, including facts established by the scientific method. As Steven Colbert  has said, ” reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

Ross Douthout Shows Rejection of Science Is Necessary To Succeed In GOP

Ross Douthat has unintentionally demonstrated that one cannot be a successful Republican candidate without rejecting science (or at least hiding their beliefs)  in a post on why Jon Huntsman’s campaign for the Republican nomination has been unsuccessful. Douthat says that Huntsman has failed because, “He picked high-profile fights on two hot-button issues — evolution and global warming…” He considers this to be “political malpractice at its worst.”

In other words, it is now political suicide in the Republican Party to openly acknowledge acceptance of science. Evolution is firmly established as a factual explanation for the development of complex organisms from simple organisms and is the foundation of modern biology. The science behind global warming is accepted by well over ninety percent of scientists in the field. Despite this, conservatives reject both fields of science. The typical conservative not only rejects,  but is totally ignorant of the evidence for evolution, and considers creationism to be a valid alternative. Conservatives see climate change as a conspiracy and a hoax while creating their own hoax with the bogus claims surrounding “Climategate”  which have been debunked by five separate investigations.

Responses To The Anti-Science Right On Evolution

I sometimes think that the Democratic Party is the most inept political organization in the history of mankind, barely being able to capitalize on an opposing party which is attempting to destroy Social Security and Medicare, and making absolutely no attempt to benefit from the hostility towards science and reason in the right wing. At least sources outside of the Democratic Party are responding to the ignorant rants from GOP leaders such as Rick Perry and those with similar beliefs.

Richard Dawkins writes in The Washington Post: Attention Governor Perry: Evolution is a fact, responding to Perry’s attacks on modern science. Some excerpts (emphasis mine):

A politician’s attitude to evolution is perhaps not directly important in itself. It can have unfortunate consequences on education and science policy but, compared to Perry’s and the Tea Party’s pronouncements on other topics such as economics, taxation, history and sexual politics, their ignorance of evolutionary science might be overlooked. Except that a politician’s attitude to evolution, however peripheral it might seem, is a surprisingly apposite litmus test of more general inadequacy. This is because unlike, say, string theory where scientific opinion is genuinely divided, there is about the fact of evolution no doubt at all. Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science, and he who denies it betrays woeful ignorance and lack of education, which likely extends to other fields as well. Evolution is not some recondite backwater of science, ignorance of which would be pardonable. It is the stunningly simple but elegant explanation of our very existence and the existence of every living creature on the planet. Thanks to Darwin, we now understand why we are here and why we are the way we are. You cannot be ignorant of evolution and be a cultivated and adequate citizen of today.

Darwin’s idea is arguably the most powerful ever to occur to a human mind. The power of a scientific theory may be measured as a ratio: the number of facts that it explains divided by the number of assumptions it needs to postulate in order to do the explaining. A theory that assumes most of what it is trying to explain is a bad theory. That is why the creationist or ‘intelligent design’ theory is such a rotten theory.

After an explanation of the importance of evolution, Dawkins concluded:

There are many reasons to vote against Rick Perry. His fatuous stance on the teaching of evolution in schools is perhaps not the first reason that springs to mind. But maybe it is the most telling litmus test of the other reasons, and it seems to apply not just to him but, lamentably, to all the likely contenders for the Republican nomination. The ‘evolution question’ deserves a prominent place in the list of questions put to candidates in interviews and public debates during the course of the coming election.

Bryan Fischer  of The American Family Association claims that defeating Darwinism is so easy a caveman could do it. Fischer then proceeded to write a number of scientific fallacies so dumb that only a caveman should fall for what he writes. I would debunk his claims, but this has already been done by several others, including PZ Myers and Charles Johnson.

Christine O’Donnell’s Ignorance of Science

Last week’s clip from Bill Maher showing how Christine O’Donnell dabbled in witchcraft was amusing but not of much consequence. This week’s clip should be sufficient to demonstrate that Christine O’Donnell is not qualified to be in being in the Senate. Unfortunately her ignorance about evolution is shared by far too many Republicans.

Here’s a portion of the exchange:

O’DONNELL: You know what, evolution is a myth. And even Darwin himself –

MAHER: Evolution is a myth?!? Have you ever looked at a monkey!

O’DONNELL: Well then, why they — why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans?

Evolution, of course, rather than being a myth has been proven to be true and has become the basis of modern biology.

Bill Maher, while far ahead of Christine O’Donnell, has never been the greatest on scientific issues. He knew enough to realize the O’Donnell was wrong, but his response also is not entirely correct. Yes, as he said, evolution is slow, and we could not expect observe this in monkeys.  He missed the point that evolution is not about monkeys evolving into humans. Monkeys and humans have common ancestors. Monkeys and humans are continuing to evolve (at too slow a rate to observe), but modern monkeys are evolving into something totally different from humans.

It also appears that O’Donnell was going to repeat a claim made by some creationists that Darwin ultimately decided against evolution. This claim, as with pretty much all claims made by creationists, is false.

Creationists Were Right In Denying That They Have Evolved

It looks like the flat-earthers on the right wing have been right all along–they have not evolved. Sleeping Under Enon explains:

Creationists have often argued that they did not come from apes, a view usually ridiculed by the scientific community. Recent evidence, however, suggests that they may have actually been right. Scientists think that at the dawn of mankind, when the rest of the human race was busy evolving and adapting to their environment, creationists were refusing to take part in the evolutionary game, and as a result of this are therefore thoroughly unevolved human beings. The DNA of those who deny the glaringly obvious seems to be much more basic in structure. Instead of a double helix make-up like normal human beings, theirs is a single, thread-bare strand of pseudo philosophy. ‘What’s interesting’, says Dr. Spengler, ‘is that their DNA pattern is very unreactive, virtually ignoring everything that’s going on around it’. He went on to say that ‘anything more complicated than a black and white environment becomes too much for this type of organism, forcing it to, evolutionarily speaking, stick its fingers in its ears shouting ‘Blah blah blah, I can’t hear you”.

‘We didn’t believe it when we first checked the fossil records, but thinking about it, it makes sense’ commented Dr. Ray Stantz. ‘You might recall that human DNA shares significantly similar DNA to a banana. Well, creationists are much closer in genetic structure to an inanimate piece of fruit than other humans, it’s simply amazing we didn’t realise this before!’

Perhaps we should have realized this before, but some defenders of evolution are taking this well pointing out “it’s at least a silver lining to learn I don’t share a chromosome with those who watch Fox News’.”

What Would Darwin Say To Today’s Creationists?

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Huffington Post Worse Than Fox In Coverage of Quackery

It is an embarrassment to the “reality-based community” when The Huffington Post is found to be worse than Fox in promoting anti-scientific thought, at least with regards to homeopathy. I would  bet that if other areas of science were included the comparison would be different–such as with climate change. It is hard to predict which would be worse with regards to evolution considering all the material from Deepak Chopra at The Huffington Post.

Democrats Forced To Rely On Finding Dirt As They Are Unable To Present A Coherent Message

The Washington Post describes how the Democrats are digging harder than ever to find dirt on Republican opponents.  This is a clear sign not only that the Democrats face some political difficulties  but that they are badly out-matched by the right wing noise machine in the spin war. It is sad that the party which far more often than not has been right on the issues feels compelled to rely on finding dirt.

The problem with relying on uncovering dirt is that, even if it helps against particular candidates, it does little to build long term support for the party. The Republicans are far smarter, even if  dishonest, in basing their attacks on distorting overall Democratic viewpoints and policies. This hooks their ditto head supporters for years.

The Republicans do have some advantages over the Democrats in the spin war. They dominate far more of the mass media, as they adroitly play the refs with their bogus claims of “liberal bias.” They have a far smaller tent, making it easier to define and defend a narrow set of views. They have a following which is not particularly concerned over whether their claims are reality-based as long as they support their biases. They are also far better at spin than the Democrats.

If the Democrats were willing to actually promote their views and demonstrate the differences with Republicans they would have a far better chance of developing a permanent base of support. They have been successful in building support among the educated which, along with their support among the young, will pay off long term. Short term they need to do a far better job of connecting the dots.

Democrats need to campaign against the flat-earth and anti-science views which dominate the GOP. The fact that the Republicans are full of candidates who believe in creationism, deny climate change, and oppose stem cell research is far more damaging than scandals involving a handful of individual candidates. If you go purely by the polls it might be argued that supporting evolution is not a winning issue in this country. I do believe that if one party had been defending science and reason during all these years the conservatives were screaming about birth certificates and imaginary conspiracies these poll results would be a little different.

Democrats need to point out far more clearly that the Republicans were virtually absent from the major political debate of the recent past. Relying on false claims that health care reform represented a “government take over of health care” while uniformly voting to allow the insurance industry to continue their abuses is a clear sign that the Republicans are not fit to govern.

Democrats need to do a  better job of defending their record on the economy and presenting a coherent philosophy. They need to make it clear they support a market-based economy while showing the need and justification for government action at times. They have generally acted in a pragmatic fashion but, failing to explain their beliefs, they have opened themselves to being falsely defined by the right as supporting “tax and spend” government policy, and even socialism.

A primary difference between the left and the right is support for individual liberty, but the Democrats need to be more consistent. Emphasizing support for individual liberty would be a far better way to frame some of the issues which have harmed Democrats in the culture wars. Some of those who oppose abortion rights and gay marriage might eventually be able to understand support for a woman’s right to control her own body and for any individuals to decide for themselves who they want to marry. A more consistent emphasis on individual liberty would also give the Obama administration a stronger basis for more rapidly reversing the abuses of the Bush administration, with less fear that this would be distorted to mean weakness on national security.

Proving Conservatives Know More About Science Than Liberals

Conservatives are getting excited about a survey which purports to show that conservatives and libertarians know more about economics than liberals. I do have a problem which tries to break everyone down into such groups considering the wide amount of variation in beliefs in people thrown into such categories. There certainly are people on the far left who have as little understanding of economics as conservatives have of science. In general l I’ve found mainstream liberals do gave a better grasp of economics due to the conservative movement being increasingly dominated by those who think they can bend reality to their ideological wishes.

A major problem with the survey is that it is really it is really a test of agreement with conservative economic theories, written under the assumption that their views are correct regardless of how disastrous application of their views has been in the real world. As Jonathan Chait wrote, “The only thing this study demonstrates is the ideological hackery of its authors.”

Using the same technique, one could “prove” that conservatives know more about science than liberals. Here is a sample test written from such a conservative perspective. To make things simple I’ll make this a true or false test, with all answers true from a conservative perspective on science:

1 ) An intelligent designer is responsible for the development of complex organisms.

2 ) Darwinists believe men descended from monkeys.

3 ) Evolution is just a theory–there is no evidence for it.

4 ) The earth is 6000 years old or less.

5 ) The Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood.

6 ) Global warming is a hoax.

7 ) The earth is cooling, not warming.

8 ) Dinosaurs and humans both lived together, like on The Flintstones.

9 ) The earth is the center of the universe.

10) The earth is flat.

Conservatives who answer true to all these questions could claim to understand more about science than liberals who would get these questions “wrong.” This would be as meaningful as their claims of knowing more about economics.