Sunday, November 30, 2008

Enemies of science

I mentioned in my last post that the Discovery Institute is the public enemy number one of science education. There are, however, enemies everywhere, and many occupy influential positions in large churches near you. As I was gaily going about my business the other day, I flipped the radio to WMBI (Moody Radio), since there was nothing particularly stimulating on The Score. It's an obvious alternative I know. I tuned in just at the moment when pastor James MacDonald was reaching one of his trademark climaxes. For those not in the know, MacDonald is the CEO of one of the largest, and most successful, (if you measure success in church by attendance) suburban churches. Like other successful pastors of the new, young, attractive, media-savvy, seeker-sensitive breed, he had the good sense to locate in an affluent area. Consider Rick Warren and Bill Hybels (the latter the founder of the hyper-mega Willow Creek located in that suburban slum Barrington). I know, the rich also need converting too and, as we read in the Bible, wealth is the biggest obstacle to faith; so these people really have a tougher challenge than the folks that labor in the fields of the poor and needy - like shooting fish in a barrel there I guess. MacDonald made the news a couple of years ago by shelling out a few mill for a mansion once owned by former Illinois Senator Peter Fitzgerald. Also, like many modern pastors, MacDonald is in tune with the modern communications methods and has a blog. I note that he has adopted the shaved-head look - a sort of ecumenical Tom Collichio. Hmmm.

I'm just getting hopelessly sidetracked here, but I wanted to set the scene. Anyway, the moment I tune in, MacDonald is at the pinnacle of a major moment: "Evolution is the biggest lie run up Satan's flag pole." he screams. He goes on to question why this "lie" is defended. Apparently, "they," scientists I suppose, want to deny the truth of God's creation. He then proceeded to trot out some of the wonders of nature, like bugs that spit out two chemicals from opposite sides of their mouths that form an explosive mixture when combined, as proof of God's creation. If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times; but the argument proves nothing. It is a false argument.

Why James, why? Why are you and so many of your ilk so committed to keeping your flocks believing in fairy tales? You say so many good things, and do many good things, but when it comes to the principles of science it all goes horribly wrong. And all for what? Is our salvation dependent upon disavowing evolution? I think not.

The evangelical anti-scientific bias was clearly manifested in Sarah Palin. If for no other reason than Sarah Palin would not be Vice President was I profoundly relieved by Obama's election. Apart from the more obvious problems like her belief in Creationism (which to her credit she did not make a big deal of), or skepticism about global warming (more worrying given her location), was her profound ignorance of the importance of basic scientific research. She mocked, for example, the funding of research on fruit flies in France, as if this was a ridiculous misuse of public funds. She was unable to connect that research with its profound economic implications for agriculture in California. Overall, I found the U.S. press to be rather soft on Palin's grotesque deficiencies and utter lack of suitability for a position of public importance. Lawrence Krauss in the New Scientist did not pull any punches in his assessment. "...she is ignorant." "She is also uninterested:..." "She is unqualified:..." "And she is so inarticulate..." All of these positions are unarguable. And yet, shockingly, she was popular. Even educated people thought she was "smart."

Warming to my task of outing champions of ignorance and anti-science, I will conclude with an observation on the most vile and loathsome creature that haunts our radio stations. I'm talking, of course, of the odious Limbaugh. On Dulcie and Aylwin's big beer adventure across the western wastes that the Giants in the Earth had settled little more than a century before, we found that the vast emptiness of the land was mirrored by a similar vacuity in the air waves. There was one constant to keep us company on those long hauls across the plains: Rush Limbaugh. With ceaseless, unflagging commitment (must be the pills I guess), he talked to us at seemingly every hour of the day. Well when I say "talk," I really mean rant. If it was not Rush, it was another of his ilk, Sean Hannity for example. It's hard to tell them apart since they all sound alike. It all sort of melded into a background drone of hyperbole and exclamation points. Eventually you go mad, buy a pick-up and hang a giant American flag out the window.

It was truly terrifying. Whereas I felt strong enough to withstand the relentless assault on reason, I'm sure the vast armies of loyal listeners had been completely and irrevocably corrupted. I was shocked, though I probably shouldn't have been, by Limbaugh's antipathy towards the alternative energy crowd. Limbaugh has a very simplistic view of life; he espouses no deep principles; he invites no discussion of ideas; ultimately he says very little in fact. His rant is one of pure destruction. So, I was a little taken aback by the vitriol spewed over any that promote the need for developing new energy sources and demand that global warming be treated seriously. All such people are liberal, left-wing idiots out to delude the American people. All. That includes me I suppose. Now I take personal offense. This was at the time of the "drill baby drill" anthem and that business about inflating one's tires. Of course they had a field day with that on shriek radio.

I want to ask Limbaugh one thing. Well, I don't really want to ask him because, in all honesty, I don't care what that idiot thinks. But, for the sake of argument, let's say I want to ask him one thing. What is deeply offensive to you, sweet charming Rush, about developing alternative energy? Simply from a business sense alone it represents the best hope for the future. The world is pregnant with opportunity in the development of a new era of energy businesses that will profit Americans rather than criminals, terrorists and despots. Whatever the future holds for climate change, the world will, sooner or later, be reliant almost entirely on other energy sources. Why not be in the forefront, rather than entrenched in bitter denial?

No comments: