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Leave science to those who actually believe it

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Speaking at a recent dinner event at a Baptist Church in Georgia, Congressman Paul Broun (R.-Ga.) declared, “All that stuff I was taught about — evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory — all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.” Unfortunately, this statement might not be surprising to those attuned to American political discourse.

What did surprise me is that Broun is on the U.S. House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, whose jurisdiction includes energy policy, research, and science education.

Yes, someone who legislates policy related to educating youth about proper science would presumably be unable to pass a grade school class that taught it. Marking “It’s a lie from hell” on a bio test would be a surefire way to fail. Our country, which has led the world in science research in countless fields for years, appears to be run by those who, because of their fundamentalist views, lack a fundamental understanding of reality.

What’s even more shocking is that not only is Broun a medical doctor, but he also holds a B.S. in chemistry from the University of Georgia. It would now appear that he holds science as B.S.

Further complicating matters is the fact that none other than U.S. representative Todd Akin of Missouri, best known for his comments regarding “legitimate rape,” is on the same committee. Wired magazine complied a list of things other members have said regarding climate change and related issues. Suffice it to say, not everyone on the committee accepts the truth of global warming, and it’s only the Republican members who have made such statements.

How can this be? Do these Congressmen really not believe in something for which there is mountains of evidence? I’m not so sure. But I do know that according to a Gallup poll, 46 percent of their constituents think God made the human race less than 10,000 years ago. It could very well be that they’re saying whatever people want to hear to get elected, but considering Broun is running unopposed this year, this might not hold true in every case.

Regardless of why such anti-science rhetoric exists in our political system, the question remains: What can we do about it? Science advocates such as Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye attempt to reach out to young people, but as I previously wrote in The Tartan, this has garnered a rather negative response from the kinds of people who vote in anti-science legislatures. Clearly we need to improve education, but how are we supposed to get an educated electorate with these anti-science people in charge?

Luckily, though, there is hope. Just this past week, a Pew report showed that those with no religion are on the rise and Protestants — the religious group that most Creationists call home — are no longer the majority, with about a third of those under 30 years old claiming no organized faith.

Why is this good? It means that presumably public favor with certain flavors of fundamentalist dogma are on a downslide. People are less likely to accept arguments for or against certain laws based on faith alone. More progressive views might have a chance to be heard without fear of being labeled as “against family values.”
There will still be opposition, no doubt; the anti-intellectual strain in this country is too deep seated to disappear overnight. Yet we can be reasonably certain that future politicians will have all the more reason to study up if they want to stay in office.