Grant Rants

A final thought: why what politicans believe matters

- September 27th, 2012

Greetings web denizens, heathens, zealots and the rest of you!

So, just a final thought about my previous post regarding science, religion, schools and evolution.

I’ve been asked by some readers why I care if regional councilor Andy Petrowski is a creationist or not. Why does it matter if he believes the world was created in seven days a few thousand years ago and whole story about the talking snake in the Garden of Eden is true? What has that to do with the kinds of things Petrowski has to make decisions on? What has evolution and creationism to do with taxation, or public works or public transit?

Directly? Nothing. Knowing that, for instance, birds are the direct living descendants of dinosaurs doesn’t inform say, policy on road safety.  On the other hand, it does speak volumes about a particular person’s ability to cope with evidence.

Take Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, by way of a for instance. Recently, his wife was on a plane where there was a fire. Afterwards, Romney lamented that passengers on planes cannot open windows to get some fresh air:

“When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem”

So apparently the would-be leader of the free world doesn’t understand a couple of basic things: 1) if you open the windows of a plane in flight, you will depressurize the cabin, which is very, very bad and 2) fire feeds on oxygen. Adding more oxygen to the mix could well make a fire inside a plane worse.plane

What has that to do with, say, national defense? Nothing directly, but it does speak to how well Romney understands the world we live in and his ability to handle facts. It’s NOT a real problem that passengers cannot open the windows. It’s a very good thing they cannot. This is not some arcane fact only a few people know. It’s common knowledge that Romney doesn’t have a grip on.

And so naturally, one asks, if he doesn’t understand one doesn’t depressurize a plane at 37,000 feet, how the heck is he supposed to be trusted with the economy or national defense or any other large, complicated issue?

You see the point: Evolution by natural selection is as well supported a theory as there is in science. Yes, debates about the mechanisms behind it rage all the time in scientific circles, but that is not the same as saying evolution isn’t true because a bronze age religious text says so. (Ironically enough, even if some egghead showed that evolution is totally wrong, that doesn’t make creationism fact. I have no idea why they don’t get that.)

From my point of view, if a politician – any politician – cannot handle the very basic facts about evolution – proven, hard, scientific fact – and chooses instead to reject it in favour of theology, that speaks volumes about that person’s capability of handling evidence. It says that when cold, hard facts run headlong into a predetermined belief system, that belief will win out even when all the facts tell a vastly different story. It suggests that an a priori, hard nosed, commitment to an ideology will trump reality even if that reality punches massive holes in it.

What politicians believe matters because the decisions they make impact all of us. And the phrase “it’s a matter of faith” is no defense at all.

Categories: News, politics, religion, science

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4 comments

  1. Dante says:

    True enough, just witness the uproar when that conservative backbencher introduced a motion to have a committee examine the scientific evidence on when life begins; in the womb or at the moment of birth. The number of people on the left that chose ideology over science was astounding.

    • grant.lafleche says:

      Well yes, except A) that motion had NOTHING to do with science whatsoever, wasn’t backed up by any sort of definitive data and B) was being done to try and outlaw abortions. It was a dishonest way to trying to shoe horn religion into law and anyone involved with it should be ashamed by such an obviously pathetic slight of hand and what it would have done to women’s rights. You’re not going to find an ally on this blog on that count, “Dante.”

  2. FYI, Grant:

    My old alma mater, Utah State University – Mormon country.

    http://www.usu.edu/ust/index.cfm?article=51646

    • grant.lafleche says:

      Hey Mike;

      That would be an interesting film to watch.

      Certainly, there is a segment of the population that won’t vote for anyone who is not, from their perspective, “properly Christian”. Which is crazy and sad because an otherwise brilliant leader might not be able to take office out of bald prejudice.

      That said, I don’t think Romney is such a brilliant leader waiting in the wings and there are many serious questions to be asked about him and the Mormon church. While I agree he should not be dismissed as a candidate simple because he is a Mormon – the is NO religious test for holding public office – the actions of the church and where and how Romney’s religious beliefs and politics connect are legit questions to ask.

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