You're a political activist. Your side is in trouble; the sitting president you want to see re-elected failed to keep most of his campaign promises. He doesn't have any major successes to run on. The economy is still given up and at best they are too apathetic to vote.
What do you do?
In 2011, the answer from the left is to stir up as much reckless fear that any potential challengers from the GOP will turn the nation into a Christian theocracy. After all, these candidates have some associations to strange branches of Christianity and some of them support teaching Intelligent Design along with evolution.
Byron York nailed it when he said this is what running on fear looks like.
What's worse here is that my lefty friends in skeptical, secular and biological science communities are allowing themselves to be used in this political game and fearmongering.
Secular writers who already write about problems they see with mainstream Christianity are all too eager to echo these trumped-up "Dominionism" cries, possibly because of confirmation bias. Biologists like Richard Dawkins, who do a great job of defending evolution, are quick to jump to the unsupported conclusion that being wrong about evolution correlates with being wrong about other things.
Now when a Republican politician talks about science, I listen with the same anticipation of ignorance as when an older person talks about the Internet. Those talks are always a countdown to ignorance.
But compared to what? Since when has the left dedicated itself to defending evolution? It's awful that 60 percent of Republicans believe in creationism, but 38 percent of Democrats believe in it too. President Obama's pledge to "restore science to its rightful place in society" was just another empty campaign promise. As Ken from Popehat wrote on a similar incident;
You won’t find much creationism or global warming denying at the Huffington Post, but you will find it to be a cesspool of junk science and assorted twittery.There are some major problems with the assumption that being dead-wrong about evolution disqualifies someone from holding office. Smart people can be very wrong about subjects outside of their area of expertise, and still right on the money in other cases. I don't know of any politician I've voted for that I didn't think was dead wrong on a few issues, and I doubt one will ever rise to power that I completely agree. Personally, I choose to vote for politicians who are wrong about things unrelated to the office they are running for. As David Harsanyi said in one of my favorite columns of 2010:
After all, what's more consequential than a faux pas about nature and/or nurture? Who cares that Democrat Michael Bennet was busy moralizing about the cosmic benefits of dubious economic theory and science fiction environmentalism — ideas that have already cost us trillions with nothing to show for it?But there's one nagging question remaining. How did evolution end up on the table in the first place?
From the same Byron York piece I linked earlier:
Out on the campaign trail, Democratic activists are trying to maneuver the candidates into statements to feed the Republicans-are-religious-nuts narrative. For example, in New Hampshire a few weeks ago, a young boy approached Perry with a series of questions about science. How old is the Earth? the boy asked. As Perry answered (he said he didn't know), the boy's mother pushed her son to confront the governor. "Ask him about evolution," she ordered the boy. "Ask him why he doesn't believe in science." Perry's answer -- that evolution is a theory that has "some gaps" -- provided more material for [New York Times Executive Editor] Keller and the subject-changers.
Its clear what's going on here. The left wants to move the fight to a scientific issue the GOP will stumble on, so they are using children as puppets to throw anything they think will stick. Evolution was not selected because they think its an important subject; they just wanted a battle they know they can win.
Elsewhere on the trail, so-called "trackers" from the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, David Brock's American Bridge, and other organizations follow Republicans around, sometimes posing out-of-the-blue questions in hopes of throwing a candidate off message. "It's all about homosexuality, Islam, anything that is remotely sensitive socially," says Ellen Carmichael, spokeswoman for frequent target Herman Cain. "That's what they usually ask about."
It's telling that questions about the disproven link between vaccines and autism are not being lobbed at the Republicans. The anti-vacc movement is popular on the extreme left and extreme right, and my Google searches to find vaccine dirt on GOP contenders Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann did not return any, although I did find Perry being criticized by right wingers for supporting a mandatory HPV vaccine - a view supported by the left and medical science.
Keep in mind that Candidate Obama screwed up the vaccine issue, endorsing a pseudoscience belief of a vaccine-autism link, despite having the opposite stated on his campaign website.
I am not defending Republican ignorance of science. Despite these trolling questions being a hunt to produce gaffs, candidates like Perry willingly endorsed teaching intelligent design along with evolution. They set a trap and he was foolish enough to fall for it.
But don't pretend this was the result of the left displaying a Sagan-like love for science. This would be about Star Trek if the number polled that way. Evolution supporters are being used, plain and simple, and they will be unceremoniously dumped when the issue is over.
Monday, September 5, 2011
Evolution is being used for a cheap political stunt