A few months ago, the science journalism community, myself included, and a large portion of the nation’s population went justifiably apeshit over Todd Akin’s asinine remarks on female physiology. It is unsettling enough that someone so ignorant is a member of the United States House of Representatives (and has been for 11 years), but to make the situation even more frightening, Akin also sits on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. And to make matters worse still, he is not alone in his ignorance.
Akin sits on the House Science Committee with a few other individuals who are not only undeserving of the position, but are completely unqualified to hold it. Sitting with Akin on the affectionately-dubbed “Anti-Science Committee” is Paul Broun, a creationist who believes the Earth is 9,000 years old, Mo Brooks and Jim Sensenbrenner, both global-warming deniers, and Ralph Hall, who blocked a bill to fund science research by essentially forcing the opposing candidates to vote in favor of pornography.
Having religious zealots holding political office has become so commonplace that the average citizen does not even consider the fact that many of these politicians base their actions in office on religious beliefs — a direct violation of the constitutional church/state separation mandate.
“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.”
Paul Broun said this as part of a speech he gave at Liberty Baptist Church in Georgia. It is impossible not to pick up on the irony of spouting religious beliefs while sitting on the House Science Committee. I would expect this ecclesiastical drivel from a religious fundamentalist or dogmatic preacher, but not from a man who is supposed to be responsible for shaping the scientific future of this country.
Broun continues, “And that’s the reason as your congressman I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C.”
I hope this terrifies all of you as much as it terrifies me. So god made the earth in six days … and then the trillions of other stars got thrown together when? On a Tuesday? Mr. Broun, are you going to propose that all unmarried non-virgins should be put to death as it commands in Deuteronomy 22:19? Are you going to propose that it should be illegal to wear clothes made of two different materials as it says in Leviticus 19:19? According to the Bible in 1 Kings 7:23, the value of pi is 3, not 3.14.
If these are the laws you will be following in office, then this country has a lot more to worry about than global warming.
I must make it clear that I do not harbor negative feelings toward individuals with strong religious beliefs. I do, however, feel that my rights as a citizen are being infringed upon when those individuals use their political power to impose their religious beliefs upon myself or my peers. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion. Vice President Joe Biden is an exemplary example of a man who does not let his religion influence his political actions. During his debate, he stated, “My religion defines who I am … but I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians, and Muslims, and Jews. I just refuse to impose that on others.”
Speaking of global warming, it would seem logical that the head of the panel that oversees the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Department of Energy would be someone who is scientifically-inclined, or at least scientifically-informed. Such is not the case, however.
“I haven’t seen anything that convinces me global warming is real, much less caused by human activity.”
This alarming claim was made by Mo Brooks, a representative from Alabama. In another spine-chilling interview, he claims that “there’s some good associated with [carbon dioxide emissions], to the extent that we have higher levels. That means that plant life grows better, because it is an essential gas for all forms of plant life. I’m not familiar with any [adverse effects of carbon dioxide] on human beings.”
This man sits on the House Science Committee, and he has no idea whatsoever what is going on in our environment. I will give Brooks the benefit of the doubt and say that he is merely confused as to what is happening.
While Brooks may be well-intentioned but sadly misinformed, the same cannot be said for Jim Sensenbrenner, the vice chair of the House Science Committee. Sensenbrenner openly denies any and all scientific research that shows climate change is occurring. He has compared climate scientists to fascists, and supported billboards that compared people who believe in climate change to serial killers.
And now we come to Ralph Hall, a man who sits on one of the most-respected scientific committees in the world, and the man who blocked a bill that would give billions of dollars to scientific research and teaching. Contradictory does not even begin to describe this man. He is the antithesis to what the Committee should be standing for.
The House Science Committee should be for science. Shocking, I know. The Committee should house men and women who hold education and science to a higher standard than the people who sit there now. The committee should house people who know that rainbows are not god’s promise, but a manifestation of light refraction — people who know that the first humans were not Adam and Eve, but the australopithecines. How can the United States expect to remain a competitive scientific player if we are constantly being sabotaged from within?
HUDSON LOFCHIE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.