Americans display disinterest, distrust, or illiteracy when it comes to science. They enjoy their smart phones and the other toys and conveniences science produces, but few delve further than that. Many felt a sense of nationalistic pride with the landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars in August but these moments seem all too infrequent. On a given day, there is more interest in sports or celebrities than scientific issues. Too many in this country reject scientific thinking in favor of new age superstition or ancient religious nonsense.
Today’s case in point is US House Rep. Paul Broun from Georgia; he recently told an audience at Liberty Baptist Church that:
God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. 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. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. 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. And what I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually, how to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all of public policy and everything in society. 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., and I’ll continue to do that.
In other words, we have a superstitious, religious zealot in our government who rejects all scientific findings that contradict his favorite story book. The theories he rejects as being conspiracies from Satan himself are the cornerstones of our understanding of the universe. Evolutionary biology, old Earth geology, and the big bang cosmology are consistent with all existing evidence and are contradicted by none of it. The universe we live in makes no sense without these theories. Scientific literacy requires knowledge of these theories. Representative Broun rejects them in favor of willful ignorance.
Can you believe that this superstitious ignoramus is on the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space and Technology which has jurisdiction over NASA, the Department of Energy, EPA, ATSDR, NSF, FAA, NOAA, National Institute of Standards and Technology, FEMA, the U.S. Fire Administration, and United States Geological Survey as well as over federally funded scientific research and development that is not military-related? He shares this position with Todd “legitimate rape” Akin, who recently made news because of his incorrect belief that pregnancies are not likely to result from rape. There is certainly disagreement, among freethinkers about what role government should have in the sciences, but nearly all will agree that if we are to have a science committee the last people on it should scientific illiterates like Broun and Akin.
There are quite a few problems with Broun’s claims that the Bible is a good source of information on how to run society or a family. It is silent on many important issues like Nuclear proliferation, space travel, vaccinations, fossil fuel usage, and television to name a few. The New Testament’s main political instruction is to be obedient to earthly authorities: The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves (Romans 13:1). The Bible’s instructions on family life are completely insane. For example, it prescribes killing rebellious young people as well as family members who suggest you join other religions. Jesus himself was surprisingly anti-family when he said: If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.(Luke 14:26)
Unfortunately, as of the time of writing Representative Broun is running unopposed. We need to free our government from the influence of superstitious crackpots and scientific illiterates who cling to Bronze Age mythology. Science has endless potential for improving our lives and our understanding of the universe we live in. We need law makers who understand this, rather than ones who want to base policy on primitive stories and outdated belief systems.