October 2014

For Today’s GOP Science Is an Opinion.

by Pitt Griffin on October 31, 2014 · 0 comments

in Politics, Religion, Science

People believe in creationism because it ‘feels right’, because it ‘makes sense’ – not because there is a shred of evidence for it. People have also believed for years that prison terms reduce drug use – using much the same mind set. Now a study, by the British Home Office of drug policies across industrial nations, has confirmed what many experts on addiction have been saying – drug laws have no impact on drug use.

It isn’t a surprise. In the US we have fought the “War On Drugs” for 44 years – at a cost of $2 trillion – with no reduction in the abuse of illegal drugs.

The Portuguese, on the other hand, decriminalized drugs in 2001. They saw neither  a reduction, nor an increase, in drug use – suggesting that a certain percentage of the population will abuse drugs regardless of the law. What the Portuguese did see was a reduction in the the cost of criminal justice. And as addicts are healthier, there is also a concomitant decline in medical expense.

Faith over fact is the currency of the anti-intellectual right. Take the absurdity that reducing tax rates leads to an increase in tax revenue; that climate change is a fiction; that arming Islamic moderates will bring peace to the Middle-East or that Ebola is easily transmissible.

The Founding Fathers were skeptical of faith. Thomas Jefferson placed so little stock in the irrational that he created an eponymous Bible that excised all the magic bits of Jesus’s story – no miracles, no resurrection, no healing, no walking on water. If he were alive today he would look at creationists and wonder how a country founded in reason could be populated by so many for whom science is an opinion.

When policy becomes unmoored from logic; when expertise is viewed with deep suspicion; and learning seen as a tool cynically wielded by an out of touch academic elite – then the country’s ruling structure becomes government of the credulous, by the crazy, for the covetous.

There are no more renaissance men. There is now too much known for any one person to have expertise in everything. But the well educated do know how to use other peoples’ savvy.

Take Congress. It is asked to legislate on issues as diverse as war, the economy, health care, contraception and the climate. No one can expect our Senators and Representatives to have sufficient knowledge to make informed decisions on everything. Which is why there are committees.

Committees call experts to instruct them on matters that fall within the purview of the committee. At least in theory. It rarely happens in practice. The House Oversight and Government Reform committee once held a hearing on the access to contraception without a single woman on the panel. The Democrats had wanted to call Sandra Fluke (the object of Rush Limbaugh’s misogynistic sniggering) but she was barred by the majority, because she lacked expertise.

House Oversight and Government Reform committee' panel on contraception. Irony: If only men are involved you don't need contraception.

House Oversight and Government Reform committee’s panel on contraception. Irony: If only men are involved you don’t need contraception.

This assiduous respect for expertise would be admirable if it wasn’t so expedient. Let the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology provide illustration. As the House is held by the GOP the GOP members of the committee decide what it will address and who will testify before it. A review of the science committee’s membership sheds light on its putative scientific objectivity.

Who is making these decisions? The Chairman, Lamar Smith, is a Christian Scientist, i.e. someone who thinks illness is cured by prayer. Ralph Hall is a climate change denier, accusing scientists of fudging their results to get federal grants. Dana Rohrabacher, another denier, suggested that dinosaur farts once caused global warming. Randy Neugebauer is a deacon in the Southern Baptist Church, which denies evolution.

Among the science deniers on the committee Paul Broun stands out. Despite a medical education, he has no truck with science. Famously saying that embryologyevolution, and the Big Bang are “lies straight from the Pit of Hell.” And for good measure he has also said “Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community. It is a hoax. There is no scientific consensus.” A position that can be summed up as wrong, wrong and wrong.

Larry Bucshon once told the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy that he didn’t read scientific papers because he didn’t believe them. (Remember he’s on the Science Committee.) Steve Stockman used a glass of iced water to ‘prove’ that melting ice wouldn’t cause sea levels to rise – ignoring all the ice that is on land.

There are others, but why torture ourselves.

We once had tremendous respect for science. But knowledge is now seen as politically inconvenient.


Really? – 10.29.14 Ebola Crisis; Elizabeth Warren; Buying an AG; Wrong about the Winner of the ‘Space Race’; Squashing the Vote.

October 29, 2014

In a letter to the New York Times a group of medical people from Columbia University wrote that people shouldn’t overreact to the “Ebola Crisis”. Fine, but if you don’t want people to overreact don’t call it a crisis. ************************************************************* A new meme has it that Elizabeth Warren “lives in a $5.4 million mansion”. PolitiFact quickly […]

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Tear It Down – The Republican Plan for America

October 28, 2014

The GOP hates the Affordable Care Act (aka the ACA, aka Obamacare). It’s hate is hypocritical, as it mirrors a health initiative proposed by the GOP in 1994 to forestall talk of a possible Democraticsingle payer plan. But as it is today closely identified with its eponymous promoter – the President, whose name is now mud […]

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Really? – 10.25.14 Hysteria on Gay Marriage; Tolerant Republicans; Maniacs Aren’t Terrorists; Cruz Ignores the 8th Commandment

October 25, 2014

A Judge in Puerto Rico upheld the state’s law prohibiting gay marriage. This caused the conservative Washington Times to run an editorial celebrating the “good news”. The editorial characterized the support for gay marriage as “emotion-driven liberal judicial activism”. It’s always activism when you disagree with a judges decision. Finally the editorial slams federal judges […]

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Is Christianity Under Attack in America?

October 23, 2014

Christians still make up the easy majority in this country. In every state they outnumber all other religions combined, while atheists – although growing rapidly in number – are still a declared minority. Through swathes of the country Christianity is the driving social force. And yet to hear some of these poor lambs you would […]

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Raven-Symoné Gives Us a Road Map to a Post-racial America.

October 22, 2014

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. – Martin Luther King, Jr. Oprah Winfrey is an inspiration to many. And she should be. Growing up in abject poverty, […]

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Media Panicking That There Is Nothing to Panic Over.

October 20, 2014

“People are sheep. TV is the shepherd.” ― Jess C. Scott Thank God there’s an election coming up – we might run out of Ebola cases and then what would the hysterical media report on? ISIS is letting down the side by failing to capture Kobani. Although they are trying by launching coordinated attack against the Kurds. […]

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Paranoia, the Destroyer – America’s Fear Driven Thinking.

October 19, 2014

“Courage is knowing what not to fear.” ― Plato There are so many Americans who live in a perpetual state of fear that you have to wonder if there isn’t some odd pleasure to being paranoid. A psychological masochism, if you will. It would account for the doomsday preppers and the people who watch them on TV. […]

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Is America Too Big (and Divided) Not to Fail?

October 17, 2014

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics.” ― Plutarch People in Vermont and New Hampshire vote differently. Vermonters are reliably Democrat. New Hampshirites are libertarians, who will vote for a Republican. But there are similarities. The North East may provide slim pickings for an out-of-area Republican presidential candidate, […]

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