10/12/2005

Daily Kos: God, Graft, and Banana Republicans

[the fundie pandering of GOP] can be turned into an advantage [for Dems]. Not just a political advantage, but an appeal-to-business kind of advantage: A big fat headache for the opposition kind of advantage.. It's science Vs anti-science, business innovation Vs third-world status, pure and simple.: science is the Golden Goose of progress ..progress leads to profitable innovation ..profit is desirable to the business base of the GOP .. [and creationism is going against all progress]

God, Graft, and Banana Republicans
by DarkSyde

... At the same time Florida's Governor was surreptitiously considering the dreadful Cheri Yecke as State Education Czar, he and his zany band of ideological hypocrites, with visions of techno-dollars dancing in their heads, were schmoozing the Scripps Research Institute. There are few better illustration of conflicting political currents vying for dominance in the GOP these days. Because, while Yecke is considered by many to be a creationist pandering, reproductive right's hating, neo-conservative extremist, who was run out of town on a rail by disgusted Minnesotans after a year on the job, Scripps is a premier, cutting-edge engine of commerce that has facilitated the creation of dozens of biotech and medico firms. And Scripps uses as the fundamental basis for much of their research and development, you guessed it, evolutionary biology.

Make no mistake: The battle over creationism and evolution is way, way bigger than either one. It always has been. Neo-con support for the movement to replace science with 'theistically approved' pseudoscientific bullshit has little to do with evolution per se. It attracts GOP favor for precisely two reasons:

1. It's useful for scoring votes from theists who have already been misled by duplicitous opportunists preying on the faithful

2. It abdicates science standards to the neo-conservative clique, who can then eliminate pesky research or inconvenient findings under the righteous cover of religion. They want to control what scientists produce and say, period. They could care less if that control comes out of the barrel of a gun or from the pulpit of a State Sanctioned Church

This bears restating: What makes the Intelligent Design movement dangerous is not the threat to evolutionary biology alone. Biology will survive intact if teachers are forced to read a nonsensical statement in K-12 science classes, or if a misleading warning sticker is placed on science texts. If it stops there, the damage will be minimal: But it won't stop there. The assault is driven by a marriage between the broader anti-science movement and those caught up in the endless search for immediate profit and the bottomless thirst for power. And that process never ends.

Right now in Florida, Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc., our main concern should be that anti-science pandering followed by anti-science policy will triumph, with evolution playing the role of sacrificial lamb, and global warming, medical science related to reproduction or pollution, and lifestyle choices of every kind, thrown on the same alter as needed. The standard operating procedure in the past has been to assure nervous Nellie's in the GOP--who lack either the nerve or possess the basic integrity and good sense to resist turning back the clock hundreds of years--that there is no 'plan' to mess with science. Then those same forces suddenly launch surrogates into an anti-science campaign in the middle of an ongoing textbook review doing exactly that. Florida has an exhaustive review of education standards and textbook contracts next year; right before the national mid-term elections.

One of the core arguments behind the anti-science movement, is that science relies on a form of naturalism, AKA materialism, when considering candidate explanations for further analysis. The flat-earthers decry this as inherently biased ... because it unfairly excludes magical explanations: And no, I'm not making that up: And no, they're not by any means planning on limiting themselves to evolutionary biology. Evolution is just the edge of the wedge to 'split the log of science'. The openly stated goal of the flagship anti-science think-tank, the Discovery Institute, is crystal clear in that regard and has been from early on. They blame science for every conceivable social ill:

The social consequences of materialism have been devastating. As symptoms, those consequences are certainly worth treating. However, we are convinced that in order to defeat materialism, we must cut it off at its source. That source is scientific materialism. This is precisely our strategy. If we view the predominant materialistic science as a giant tree, our strategy is intended to function as a "wedge" that, while relatively small, can split the trunk when applied at its weakest points. (Source; Phil Johnson, The Wedge Document; Link)

It's downright surreal that in the year 2005 we in the scientific blogosphere have to stop, shake off the shock, pick our jaws off the floor, and engage in a vigorous public relations campaign explaining that science is a dynamic process, not a dry list of facts or dogmatic theories. This process cannot remain healthy if forced to incorporate anecdotal phenomena which have never been recorded, have no distinctive elements which are repeatable under controlled conditions, do not lend themselves to modeling or testing, and lack even the most basic definitive framework, such as magic. That's not to say there is no such thing as magic or the supernatural. Only that without clear definitions and examples possessing testable elements, science cannot even begin to get a handle on them, regardless if something like magic does in fact turn out to exist.

An interesting aside for you philosophers and students of apologetics out there: Every time a hurricane, epidemic, earthquake; i.e., a Natural disaster strikes, right-wing theocrats ooze out of the woodwork like slime-mold, from Osama bin Laden to Pat Robertson, eager to claim the credit on behalf of their warped version of a deity and point out the victims had been justly smitten for offending same. So, if these deities do indeed routinely use natural forces to carry out important tasks, why couldn't they have used natural forces like evolutionary biology or stellar nucleo-synthesis to create the present day universe?

But it's a bit of a wild goose chase to pursue that conundrum, because these clowns are operating on several levels where the alleged battle against evolutionary biology is merely the first, superficial veneer. Anti-science ideologues use the term naturalism interchangeably with materialism and Darwinism as a code word for atheism, which they then go on to associate with science, communism, Nazism, and just about any negative ism imaginable. Markos and others are exactly right when they point out that code-words and stealth terms with hidden, multiple meanings, remain an integral part of extreme right-wing public relations. They have to do this, because the general public would recoil in horror at that actual, unsavory theocratic agenda, if glimpsed in full repugnant glory. Refuting the attacks on evo and science in general is good and necessary work. But exposing the revolting, underlying theo-conservative goals, with the anti-American ideology clearly displayed in the light of day, is also a productive tact. And it's one that all of us can help out with.

Of course, at this point the Bushistas have long since fled the world of reality, so I'd like to think I'm no longer surprised by tacit displays of delusion and/or multiple personality disorder among their groupies. The good news is that lately this behavior is inconvenient for the GOP spokespersons, as over the past few months the gallant MSM has suddenly and collectively noticed a vestigial sliver of stiff tissue running the length of their back, placing them tentatively in the phylum chordata. The Goopers aren't used to journalists with spines. Under routine questioning from reporters thus endowed, they don't do so well.

EG: So Guv'na, how exactly does one reconcile red-meat, anti-science, fundamentalist nonsense promoted by the head of Florida Education and always so wildly popular among your misled base, with a state-of-the-art research facility that's going to pump billions a year into the local economy almost completely beholden to the dreaded liberal taskmaster of science?

[Link: register r'qrd] ''I don't . . . I don't know,'' he [Gov Bush] said Thursday. "It's not part of our standards. Nor is creationism. Nor is Darwinism or evolution either" ... "That is so loaded. That's like, you've already written the article, why do you want me in it? It's not fair,'' ... Bush said ... "That's no comment. The governor refused to comment. That's what it is in the article: The governor refused to comment.'' [My brother's coming soon and he's bringing many Fremen Warriors]

OK, I added the Fremen. My bad. But the rest is part of Gov. Bush's actual answer to a similar question. And that kind of confused, gutless tap-dancing suggests to me that the GOP fundie/corporate alliance ain't that tough to crack. It may seem that way at times: But that's only because they've been given an unprecedented media pass for the last few years in the aftermath of 9-11. Now they're out of shape and that sweetheart deal is drying up fast. Confront them with a single, unscripted question, deprive them of vetted soundbites, place them squarely between the crucial wingnut voters and the endless corporate quest for Gold Latinum, and you have a good chance of witnessing a flailing, public meltdown.

If science is the Golden Goose of progress (and it is) and if progress leads to profitable innovation (and it does), and if profit is desirable to the business base of the GOP (And you better goddamn believe it is), then I certainly hope someone on our side is thinking how that can be turned into an advantage. Not just a political advantage, but an appeal-to-business kind of advantage: A big fat headache for the opposition kind of advantage. So, when the discussion is framed as evolutionary biology Vs Intelligent Design and you lack the basic knowledge or inclination to spar with the biological specifics, steer right past that token and go straight to the heart of the matter: It's science Vs anti-science, business innovation Vs third-world status, pure and simple.

Daily Kos: God, Graft, and Banana Republicans

1 Comments:

Blogger P-BS-Watcher said...

My thoughts on intelligent design at Talking Past Each Other

10/12/2005 04:04:00 PM  

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