I talked a little bit about this subject in an earlier post, but a couple of things I’ve come across recently reminded me that it can stand a bit better detail. Part of this comes from a concern I’ve harbored for a while, one that has no small difficulty in establishing whether it is legitimate or not. Bear with me for a bit while I lay this out.
John Shimkus, a member of the US House of Representatives, is running to head up the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a position in the US Government which would have strong influence in deciding energy policy and enforcing restrictions on energy providers. The trouble is, Shimkus is not only a creationist, he’s not too clear on what his position in government is actually supposed to be, as he quoted biblical verses during a House Energy Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing back in March 2009. No big deal? Actually, it is, because what he quoted was intended to support his claim that god wouldn’t destroy the earth so we could safely ignore global warming. You can see the video of it here (note, for giggles, the woman behind him who looks up suddenly when he mentions genesis – I’ll leave it to you to decide just what her reaction actually expressed.)
Now, Shimkus is a fucking loon, so this may simply be par for the course. But he does actually hold office, and had to be elected to get there. So this means a significant number of people actually felt he was not only capable of crossing the street without holding someone’s hand, but competent enough to vote on policy decisions and represent his state. Further, of course, is the whole crazy idea that people in government actually recognize their role in governing, which has jack shit to do with religion in any way, shape, or form. And then, of course, there’s this inconsequential little thing where he was in a hearing on scientific matters with a whole hell of a lot of potential impact, where quoting biblical verses has about as much relevance as imitating Captain Jack Sparrow. The bible, and in fact one of the very books he quoted, also imparts the exceptionally useful information that light came before the sun and all animals were initially vegetarians. You can of course find other tidbits of scientific importance within, such as creating striped lambs by having sheep fuck where they can see striped poles, the sin of wearing clothing of two different materials, and of course the proscriptions against having anything to do with women during their “unclean” periods. It also advises the proper way to beat your child.
Does Shimkus actually believe this bilgewater? Perhaps, perhaps not – it could simply be shameless pandering to the religious voters. But if this is the case, he clearly feels such a thing is influential enough to bring up during a hearing on environmental impact, wasting time that could be better spent, I dunno, dealing with environmental impact? So he would actually dick around during a House hearing to suck up to religious nitwits who must be more impressed with his piety than his scientific awareness? Either way, it’s not exactly an encouraging sign.
Lest you think I’m simply attacking religion, let me point out something. During a House hearing, he should quite simply have been censured for interrupting the discussion with tripe. Had this occurred, though, no small number of people would have been up in arms about religious freedom, attacking religion, and various sorts of martyr bullshit, none of which actually applies to this situation. Shimkus can follow any damn religion he wants, and can even drive any damn car he wants. But he has a job to do, and moreover, the hearing had a specific topic, so staying on that job and topic should be a bare minimum requirement of holding office. Does this seem unreasonable? Apparently, it very often is when the subject of religion comes up – you’re not allowed to quell any religious ejaculations, regardless of their relevance to the matter at hand, oh no!
Even that is not the issue I’m addressing here, though. The issue is, how much is this kind of shit affecting our future? Global Warming is a serious concern, one that can have overwhelming impact to all cultures, societies, and countries across the planet. It’s not a political issue, it’s not a religious issue – go back and read those again, just to get the point. Science, once again, is simply a methodical process of learning, and not another facet of influence or debate. It is a way to find out what the world (indeed, universe) actually holds, not what we’d like to believe. Gravity works whether we believe in it or not, the earth revolves around the sun regardless of whether you actually know this or not. Science does not dictate, it explains. It even predicts, and has been doing so since it was even recognized as a process. That’s why we fucking use it, and why it accomplishes so much. And why it works in every culture in the world, and exactly the same for each. Thermodynamics has precisely the same function in Iran as it does in the US; the greenhouse effect works the same in every society, completely impartial as to whether you are a christian, jew, muslim, pastafarian, or atheist. Funny that.
Too many people simply cannot accept this, though, and think science is out to get their religion, and take away their security blanket. I’ve pointed this out before, but it should make you wonder how mere scientists can wield the power to destroy god, shouldn’t it? Even so, let’s look at this from the overall perspective of what the world is, or more specifically, what people think it is. If someone honestly believes they were created in god’s image on a planet made just for them, obviously they’re not accepting the findings of science very well. So does this also mean they won’t even consider the idea that we can damage the planet to a point that it will harm us drastically? Seems likely, doesn’t it? Is Shimkus’ idiotic interruption of a House hearing a symptom of a grave danger to us as a species?
To be even more blunt, can we, as a species, actually destroy ourselves because we’re too vain and insecure to let go of a cherished yet nonsensical belief system? Is this really the way we want anyone to die, as a victim of inactivity because we prefer to believe in something counter to experience? Does it sound pathetic when phrased that way? I certainly hope so.
Consider the demons that torment us with headaches. Consider the retribution that so many have suffered because they sinned, and god smote them with disease or burned their land in the fire. What? You don’t believe demons cause headaches, or that fire and disease are caused by sin? No fucking shit. It wasn’t religion that led us here, was it? No, religion led us to believe the stuff about demons and sin, but scientific understanding brought us away from such superstitious horseshit. Every time we wash our hands, we deny what we once fervently believed. When we visit the doctor, we blithely disregard what scripture tells us about illness. We abolished slavery and granted women equal rights (at least in this country,) because science made it clear that discrimination was baseless. You see, overwhelming evidence does occasionally triumph over ancient stories – and nobody seems to have a problem with these, do they? But we still don’t have our striped sheep.
We are still fighting to understand, combat, and eradicate cancer. Once we thought it was the wages of sin, until we noticed that it seemed to strike rather randomly and impartial to anyone’s behavior (hint: that’s scientific observation.) Then we played around with the idea that it was caused by poisons, bacteria, diet, and many, many other things, eventually determining that it was our own cells acting in abnormal ways. As organisms, cancer cells have two distinct disadvantages: they cannot spread beyond the host, and as the host dies, so do they. Even when multiplying rapidly, they kill themselves. We know this occurs, we see it all the time, and we no longer question that it can actually exist.
The question is, are we as a species doing exactly the same thing?