A recent article on MSNBC drew attention to a long-recognized issue these days: conservatives are conservatives in faith and political issues alike, and it is rather odd. This phenomena is pretty obvious to anyone watching the news over the past five years.
First, let me be clear that I have no quarrels at all with one’s faith. You are welcome to your religion and your values and your moral compass, so long as you recognize that I am also welcome to mine (see here). But if you are running for a public office, your decisions–assuming you win–have the potential to effect me. That means that, especially if you can’t tell the difference between a quark and ablation, you should probably not try to act as if you know more in those areas than someone who, in fact, holds several degrees in the subject. I think of it like this; you go see a doctor because you trust that they know what they are doing. You recognize that they went to school for a long time, paid a lot of money, and had a rough internship in order to be able to figure out your problems. It just so happens that scientists, like doctors, also go to school for a very long time, pay loads of money, and have hands-on experience for years gather and collecting and sorting data using all sorts of expensive gadgets and equipment and instruments to figure out problems too.
When it comes to climate change, the data collected and sorted so incredibly proves that the world is heating up, and may be the results of human hands, that its incredulous to claim otherwise. And yet people do. Now if you’re reading this, and your decisions don’t have the potential to change millions of lives, then you can go on believing whatever it is you want. No skin off my back. But if you are a politician, or a policy maker, please listen up. This is just unacceptable:
Absolutely unacceptable. And so is this:
Yes, 40% of Americans–most Republicans–reject evolution. You might as well also reject gravity. The evidence for evolution is pretty concrete; only those who have never been to a museum of natural science would say something like this. In what might as well be likened to a child failing a test and stomping away frustrated saying ‘who needs this crap anyway?’, Bachmann, Perry, and Paul have all made extremely ignorant and dangerous statements about evolution. As the article noted above highlights:
Perry says he is a “firm believer in intelligent design as a matter of faith and intellect, and I believe it should be presented in schools alongside the theories of evolution.” Intelligent design is the view that the complexity seen in nature is best explained as resulting from the efforts of an intelligent designer — for example, God, or an alien civilization. But in Perry’s case, certainly God.
Bachmann says “evolution has never been proven” and believes that intelligent design should be taught alongside the evolutionary view of biological change. “What I support is putting all science on the table and then letting students decide,” Bachmann told reporters at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans in June.
Paul says “nobody has concrete proof” for evolutionary theory, although he acknowledges that “it’s a pretty logical theory.” In his view, the intelligent-design concept has more to do with personal beliefs rather than science. “In a libertarian society these beliefs aren’t nearly as critical. When you have government schools, it becomes important,” he said. “‘Are you fair in teaching that the earth could have been created by a creator or it came out of a pop, out of nowhere?’ In a personal world, we don’t have government dictating and ruling all these things; it’s not very important.”
There may very well be a reason, though, why certain people reject both evolution and climate change–it’s because of an ignorance of both science and the value of a good education, and also a clear disrespect for the scientific method. It is a fact that these sorts of rejections are connected. After all, evolution means that we are all, in a lot of ways, equal, and it is easy to understand why that would scare some conservatives (who probably do not want to be associated with ‘socialists’ or Muslims, or minorities, for example). And that would mean that gays are equal to conservative Christians, which means they require the same sorts of rights. And for some that is a scary thought, especially when they read the Bible in a manner that seems to prohibit equality in this case, and even commands them to not just shun homosexuality but potentially put homosexuals to death. Science also informs us that our fossil fuels are millions of years old, not 6,000 years old, so our resources do not seem as replenishable. So of course some republicans will claim that climate change is all a hoax, that carbon dioxide is a “harmless gas“(!!!). Facts are pesky things that get in the way of certain types of faith; it is just unfortunate that the sorts of people who follow this sort of faith are also deciding policy in our government.
And it may be, as well, that many feel that science is a secular-person’s game and not for the religious. If you believe that, fine. But do us all a favor and don’t run for office. What politicians like Rick Perry and talking heads like Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin don’t seem to understand is that one can be religious without it interfering with public policy. My issues with Perry, et al, are that they seem to think one has to do with the other. It does not. The more Perry talks, for example, the more interested in Mitt Romney I become. And I’m not Republican (frankly, I think all politicians are liars regardless of party), but if I ever felt the urge to elect one, Romney is at least taking a step in the right direction (talking the talk) to earn my vote. I can see past his religious convictions because he recognizes that science and faith ask and answer different questions. On evolution, Romney states:
“I believe that God designed the universe and created the universe,” Mr. Romney said in an interview this week. “And I believe evolution is most likely the process he used to create the human body.”
“In my opinion, the science class is where to teach evolution, or if there are other scientific thoughts that need to be discussed,” he said. “If we’re going to talk about more philosophical matters, like why it was created, and was there an intelligent designer behind it, that’s for the religion class or philosophy class or social studies
On climate change and global warming, Romney said:
“I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that,” Romney said. “I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer.
“No. 2, I believe that humans contribute to that,” he continued. “I don’t know how much our contribution is to that, because I know there’s been periods of greater heat and warmth than in the past, but I believe we contribute to that. And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and global warming that you’re seeing.”
What this boils down to is his recognition of the differences between church and state, the good of the many vs. the wants of the few. He said, and I agree:
“I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith … I will put no doctrine of any church above the plain duties of the office and the sovereign authority of the law. …If I am fortunate enough to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause, and no one interest … A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States.”
Republicans can learn a thing or two from Romney. Hopefully Romney maintains his convictions. Either way, I hope he continues on and gets the ticket. I think it would make for a great presidential race. And frankly, the Republicans deserve a better candidate like him.
Note: Joel Watts has an apt perspective on the recent anti-Gay stance that some Republicans have taken.