Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 29, 2011

THE ANTI-SCIENCE PARTY.... This segment, by way of Daily Kos' Jed Lewison, helps reinforce much of what's wrong with the state of critical thinking in the Republican Party.

"Real Time" host Bill Maher asked Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) a fairly straightforward question: "Do you believe in evolution?" Kingston not only rejected the foundation of modern biology, he explained it this way: "I believe I came from God, not from a monkey." He added, "If it happened over millions and millions of years, there should be lots of fossil evidence."

Seriously, that's what he said.

Let's pause to appreciate the fact that it's the 21st century -- and Jack Kingston is a 10-term congressman who helps oversee federal funding on the Food and Drug Administration.

As part of the same discussion, former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell tried to ask Kingston about the overuse of antibiotics. The far-right congressman had no idea how the question related to evolution.

At one point, Kingston, sarcastically, turned to National Review's Will Cain, part of the same roundtable, and said, "Will, help me out anytime you want, buddy."

The assumption, of course, is that Cain, a conservative, must agree with the confused congressman about modern science. Cain responded, "I'm sorry, I believe in evolution."

Will, you're not the one who should be sorry.

In the larger context, there's a renewed push underway for the United States to value and appreciate science in the 21st century -- our future depends on it. And while this push is underway, Republican leaders are more comfortable walking a bridge to the 18th century.

What an embarrassment.

Steve Benen 3:15 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (94)

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Apes should be indignant to be considered related to humans.

Posted by: mlm on January 29, 2011 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

The point isn't that Kingston is anti-science, a fool for not accepting evolution as a biological fact. He is a fool, but he has lots of company. Those are the people who elected him. They think the same way, and there are legions of them in this benighted country. Certainly he represents his district if they have elected him ten times.

Yes, he's an embarrassment. However, the (dis)United States is embarrassing itself by announcing to the world how uneducated and dumbed down we have become. If the so-called democratic process produces the likes of Kingston and his ilk, which it has, then what does that say about democracy? And what sort of future in the 21st century can we expect when fools like him have any power at all?

Posted by: rrk1 on January 29, 2011 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't it Hilarious

... that just about the only respectable journalism these days is being done by comedians?

Posted by: zandru on January 29, 2011 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

When dogma is all you got, evolution takes a back seat in your beat-up karma! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 29, 2011 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

If Scopes "monkey trial" prosecutor William Jennings Bryan were to be re-born today, he would enjoy a rousing welcome by the Republican Party. But then, so would the prophet Mohammed. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 29, 2011 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

Apes should be indignant to be considered related to humans.

Posted by: mlm on January 29, 2011 at 3:19 PM

As it happens, there's a classic science fiction movie that posited that very idea.

The 29th Scroll, 6th Verse:
"Beware the beast Man,
for he is the Devil's pawn.
Alone among God's primates,
he kills for sport or lust or greed.
Yea, he will murder his brother
to possess his brother's land.
Let him not breed in great numbers,
for he will make a desert of his home and yours.
Shun him, drive him back into his jungle lair,
for he is the harbinger of Death."

Posted by: electrolite on January 29, 2011 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

I have lived in his district the whole 10 terms and know Jack somewhat. Even his family thinks he is a idiot.

Posted by: Tom on January 29, 2011 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

You know, his comment raises an interesting question. How could a creature as stupid as that be even distantly genetically related to one as smart as a monkey? It does make you marvel at the enormous changes that can evolve over time.

Posted by: biggerbox on January 29, 2011 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

There is an excellent article in one of the January issues of the magazine Science discussing a dig site in northern africa with fossils of relatives to modern day humans that dates to about 120,000 years ago. This is just another link of many in the chain of human evolution that gets consistently ignored by the religious right.

Posted by: Dylan on January 29, 2011 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

The conservatives are really starting to remind me of the Khmer Rouge.

Posted by: schwag of tulsa on January 29, 2011 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

If Scopes "monkey trial" prosecutor William Jennings Bryan were to be re-born today, he would enjoy a rousing welcome by the Republican Party.

Bryan was an anti-corporate, anti-bank, anti-war, anti-imperialist liberal to the bone. It is a pity he his remembered for his religious flameout in the sunset of his life.

Posted by: martin on January 29, 2011 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

"Will, help me out anytime you want, buddy."

'I would, Congressman, but I think evolution is a proven point, because you're APESHIT insane!'

And Tom,
"Even his family thinks he is a idiot."
It's not the fact that our country had grown and matured enough to have families allow the Boo Radley's out in public, it's that if they decide to run for public office, they don't immediately cuff them back to the radiator in the attic.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on January 29, 2011 at 4:21 PM | PERMALINK

At one point in the show, they were arguing over climate change and Kingston was adamantly requesting that we just "put all the science on the table..."

I find that request funny, considering he chooses to completely ignore the science behind evolution. Enjoy your dinner tonight, knowing this guy is in charge of making sure our food is safe.

Posted by: Pluvlaw on January 29, 2011 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

He's a 10 termer? If he didn't evolve to this opinion over the last 20 years then that means he was a fuckin' moron when he got there.

Posted by: FitterDon on January 29, 2011 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

What disturbs me is the discussion of evolution -- by everyone in the conversation -- as a belief.

It's a scientific theory, not religious dogma. It's not an axiom from which one reasons. It's an explanation of observations that can be disproven by subsequent observations.

Okay, it's held up very well, properly understood. And one can hypothesize further based on a theory. But "belief" is a different matter entirely.

How can we advance in science if even the most basic aspects of science are not understood by political leaders and leading voices in the media?

Don't these people have people to exain these things to them?

We're doomed.

Posted by: bleh on January 29, 2011 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK

Any particular reason my last comment was removed? I was only pointing out that the woman on the panel (Kim Campbell) is also a conservative.

[I am going to go with it was an "oops" on the part of the mods as spam was being removed. --Mod]

Posted by: neilt on January 29, 2011 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

He's from Georgia... seriously, what did you expect? This is the state that sent Saxby Chambliss to the US Senate and just elected Nathan Deal as governor. I think the stupid comes up out of the ground around here.

Posted by: TG on January 29, 2011 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

Conservatism is not religion a fact that many conservatives dont or wont correct.

Posted by: Kill Bill on January 29, 2011 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

Someone is surprised by some ignorant Southern Baptist from "Jaw-juh" being a moron? That's what you get with ten generations of "inbreeding". I wish they had provided sub-titled English when he was talking so I could understand him.

Posted by: TCinLA on January 29, 2011 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

It should also be noted that on the same show DL Hughley said that he, too, didn't believe in evolution.

Part of me thinks that this is just an act to curry favor with a not too bright extremist base, and that the likes of Kingston actually do believe in science (but not in public where "real Americans" will hear them).

Posted by: SaintZak on January 29, 2011 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

IIRC, Boo Radley was a perfectly gentle and decent young man who was just afraid of going out of the house. And who could blame him, then or now?

Posted by: tamiasmin on January 29, 2011 at 5:16 PM | PERMALINK

For the last goddamn time, evolution does not say that man descended from apes, chimps, or monkeys! It says they have common ancestors. Man is descended from something called an Australopithecus.

Posted by: FreakyBeaky on January 29, 2011 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

That's my congressman. :sad sigh:

YOU try putting up with him and those that believe he should be re-elected.

Posted by: Dav on January 29, 2011 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

PS: Thanks for all the compliments on Georgians. Makes ME feel good. (didja catch the sarcasm in there) Stupid knows no geographical boundaries.

Posted by: Dav on January 29, 2011 at 5:31 PM | PERMALINK

What the hell, in Kingston's world view, is the difference between adaptation and evolution? It seems that conservatives must deny 'evolution' but can accept 'adaptation.' Seems like a distinction without a difference, but I'll sign off on the Theory of Adaptation if that means the anti-science morons can go on to a less destructive kick.

Kudos for Kim Campbell for blindsiding the congressman with her question about the overuse of antibiotics. He was utterly exposed on that one.

Posted by: danimal on January 29, 2011 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK
For the last goddamn time, evolution does not say that man descended from apes, chimps, or monkeys! It says they have common ancestors.

Freaky, if the common ancestor of chimps and humans came waltzing into the room, I'd have no problem calling it an ape. And neither would you. It's not one of the living ape species, but it would meet all the biological criteria for ape-hood.

Posted by: noncarborundum on January 29, 2011 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

I second what Bleh said. People should accept or reject scientific theories on the basis of evidence, rather than belief.

Saying "I believe in evolution" is also bad strategy when arguing with a creationist: it allows them to respond, "well, we believe in creation and you guys believe in evolution, so it's just two sets of beliefs, evolution is just your religion, and you shouldn't erect privileges for your beliefs over ours." Instead, arguing that "Evolution is our best explanation" focuses the discussion on the evidence. That will show that science has a lot of evidence, while creationists just make stuff up and end up rely on very odd baseless beliefs, such as Noah having dinosaurs on his ark and most or all of the geological record happening during Noah's flood. (See Ken Ham's Creation Museum for details.)

Posted by: N.Wells on January 29, 2011 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

neilt: Conservatives in Canada are to the left of our Blue Dogs. They would also be to the left of Obama.

Posted by: sensistar on January 29, 2011 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

neilt: Conservatives in Canada are to the left of the Blue Dogs and Obama.

I remember seeing a quote form a conservative in Canada and he called Obama crazy for letting the rich have their tax cut.

King said something very interesting when they were talking about the tax cuts.

He actually stated that he voted against the bill
and that Obama was the one pushing the issue.

Posted by: sensistar on January 29, 2011 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

Guys, guys, guys...I happen to believe that evolution fits the facts as we know them better than any other hypothesis. So, why do I call evolution a hypothesis rather than a theory? Because, with the knowledge we have now, there's no test we can conceive that will prove or disprove evolution. The special theory of relativity can be disproven should we ever observe something exceeding the speed of light. There's no corresponding test for evolution.

I'll also point out that anthropomorphic climate change can never be considered more than a hypothesis for the same reason.

It is not anti-science to doubt a hypothesis. So, please quit snickering up your sleeves.

Posted by: MIckeyRat on January 29, 2011 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

Dav, I'm with ya, brother. Georgia boy here, approximately 5th generation; I know all the slurs that come our way, and many of them are even deserved. But: Darrell Issa, Michelle Bachmann, Steve King, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh~~ We can't take the blame for ALL of them!

Posted by: Decatur Dem on January 29, 2011 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

Only slightly off topic: bottom of CNN screen says "Legislator moves to restore Colonel Reb as Ol' Miss mascot."

Lincoln should have just let them leave. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 29, 2011 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Guess he didn't hear the story:

Two angels flew down into the Garden of Eden for a smoke break and one of them said to the other, "Michael. You see that ape over there. It's kinda' cute. I think I'm gonna go f*#k it."

Posted by: bjobotts on January 29, 2011 at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK

Once explained these goober do believe in evolution. They just want to believe that exceptional "man" came directly from God with no go-betweens...Just like the world was created in 7 days and a day being 24 hrs. Their head explodes when asked who did Cain marry and where was she from and who had her?

They believe in their modern mythology just as passionately as ancient man believed in Zeus who they prayed fervently to each day for the same things modern man prays for...an end to the grape party.

Posted by: bjobotts on January 29, 2011 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

re: Senistar.

Not only that, but Campbell sat pretty firmly in the Red Tory camp :)

(which unfortunately means there'd be place for her in the current iteration of the Conservative Party of Canada - a far more right wing version than Canada had been used to)

Posted by: neilt on January 29, 2011 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

"...The special theory of relativity can be disproven should we ever observe something exceeding the speed of light. There's no corresponding test for evolution.

I'll also point out that anthropomorphic climate change can never be considered more than a hypothesis for the same reason.

It is not anti-science to doubt a hypothesis. So, please quit snickering up your sleeves.
Posted by: MIckeyRat on January 29, 2011 at 6:34 PM |

Yes evolution CAN be proven. The antibiotic frame above is but one example. What can not be proven is that man came from ape...not by evolution. The most adaptable survive is just a given.
Climate change also can be proven...but not absolutely proven that global warming is due to man though that "hypothesis" carries overwhelming evidence.
To say "it's not anti-science to doubt a hypothesis" is a petty statement which should be amended to ..."it IS anti science to refuse to allow a hypothesis based on overwhelming scientific evidence"...especially when your paycheck depends on your doing just that. Your statement is a cop out which would be used to end debate.

Posted by: bjobotts on January 29, 2011 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

MickeyRat: "Because, with the knowledge we have now, there's no test we can conceive that will prove or disprove evolution. "

You're wrong, Mickey. All you'd have to do is find even one fossil in the wrong stratum, say, a hominin fossil in a Jurassic stratum. Find that, and you've falsified the theory because evolution predicts that no such fossil exists. No such anachronistic fossil has ever been found, despite all the mountains of fossils that have been unearthed. I suggest you read Jerry Coyne's "Why Evolution is True." It's a good read, and presents an excellent array of evidence, as well as pointing what would falsify the evidence (but never has).

Posted by: azportsider on January 29, 2011 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

judge not lest ye be judged... it's not monkey or apes, but the chimpanze which is our closest genetic twin among the primates, and before you go all neolithic on the congressman understand it's called a missing link for a reason. let the man have his beliefs, just as you have yours.

Posted by: Hunt on January 29, 2011 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

Uh. Whatever else he is, that congressman from Georgia is not an idiot.

He's a very, very smart guy. Very able. At the top of his profession. I mean, he's been elected to 10 TERMS in the House of Representatives of the United States, representing a district that is, on it the evidence, populated almost entirely by some of the most ignorant people in the country.

He's successful. He'll collect a fat pension. He's been making well into six figures yearly for 20 years. He gets fantastic perks, including top-notch medical care for him and his family.

All he has to do is get enough profoundly ignorant Georgians to vote for him, and the gravy-train keeps right on rolling.

He's no idiot. He's a smart man. Knows exactly how to get elected, and stay elected.

See, it all depends on how you look at this. We may not like it, or like him, but it's reality in this country: nearly half the electorate is happily enslaved to bigotry and ignorance and foolishness. That's to bad, but to call politicians who exploit that idiots is to miss the whole point.

Posted by: LL on January 29, 2011 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

St. Augustine, an African bishop of the fourth century, made the following statement in regards to science and the scriptures, which I believe Kingston, who claims to be a Christian, should consider:
"Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,... and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn."
- St. Augustine, De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim (The Literal Meaning of Genesis)
Even believers are laughing at Kingston!

Posted by: Padre Mickey on January 29, 2011 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Mr/Ms Mod. I sorta figgered it was something like that.


Posted by: neilt on January 29, 2011 at 7:55 PM | PERMALINK

MickeyRat- Evolution can be tested any number of ways. The basic theory was developed long before the development of microbiology. The early evolutionary phylogenetic trees were developed based on observable macroscopic characteristic, such as skeletal structure, scales verses fur verses feathers, etc. With the development of DNA and protein sequencing, all it would have taken was for the molecular structure based phylogentic trees to differ significantly to disprove evolution. In fact there was no significant difference between trees based on macro characteristics and those based on molecular structure. Saying evolution can’t be tested with scientific data shows a fundamental misunderstanding of science.

Posted by: J. Frank parnell on January 29, 2011 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

What caught me, beyond the ignorance, is saying, "Sorry, I believe in evolution." I quibble here, but only a little, because I think the distinction is important. To phrase it this way is to be sucked into the same semantic nonsense as the thumpers. Saying you believe in creationism is perfectly fine as that is clearly a belief, but saying you believe in evolution is like saying you believe in weather. Evolution is true because it's true and is backed by irrefutable reason, logic and fact.

Posted by: sw on January 29, 2011 at 8:12 PM | PERMALINK

The point is, we can make snarky comments all day long about the willingness of certain states to keep their population uneducated and thus underemployed but we need to turn the snarks to boojums and so that

"In the midst of the word (Republicans are) trying to say
In the midst of (their) laughter and glee
(Their supporters) softly and suddenly vanish away
For the Snark (will be) a Boojum, you see."

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on January 29, 2011 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

I said when I started that I think evolution is the best explanation out there. So, I doubt I can argue effectively against it. It's proven for variation within a species. Looking at the different breeds of dogs or the "antibiotic frame" will prove that. What it doesn't prove is that evolution is responsible for the multitude of species past and present. I believe it probably is but, my belief is not the same thing as a fact. I recognize that.

azportsider: You're wrong, Mickey. All you'd have to do is find even one fossil in the wrong stratum, say, a hominin fossil in a Jurassic stratum...

Yes but, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I'm pretty sure we've only found a very small percentage of the fossils we're ever going to find. I don't expect it but, there's nothing saying that fossil won't show up tomorrow.

For something like the special theory of relativity, we have and continue to set up experiments to attempt to disprove it. You can't do that with evolution.

I'm not saying that proves evolution wrong. What I am actually saying is that there's room for doubt here. All the ridicule I see on here is nothing more than the product of closed minds secure that their beliefs are the right ones.

In other words, to me, you and the conservatives you ridicule are cut from the same cloth.

Posted by: MickeyRat on January 29, 2011 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

I expected from the headline there would also be a mention of the Republican's intended Vice President, Sarah Palin, saying that space research is an example of bureaucratic overreach that bankrupted the Soviet Union.

Posted by: JohnJay60 on January 29, 2011 at 8:51 PM | PERMALINK

Who's the anti-science Party? Democrats repeatedly deny the obvious scientific evidence that an unborn child is a human being. It does not matter how many heart beats and how much brain activity is recorded. You will keep on denying it and repeating your religious dogma that a woman's "right to choose" is the greatest right at stake in the abortion debate.

Posted by: Realpolitik on January 29, 2011 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, RealPolitik.

First you need to define what life is.

Then why leviticus wanted to kill life he disagreed with. Obviously he wasnt pro-life.

Bush said God told him to do war.

Why would God say kill life?

Posted by: Kill Bill on January 29, 2011 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, c'mon realpolitik. You have GOT to be kidding. To equate an argument over evolution with the argument over when a fetus is a human? That's just an argument over nomenclature. You would say "it's a human when I say it is." I would say "it's a human when I say it is, but, really I don't care one way or the other."

You're the only one who cares about it. The right to have an abortion, or lack of it, has nothing to do with when the fetus becomes a human (which is a totally sujective argument anyway, not in the least scientific in any sense)..it has to do with a woman's right to control her own body. Without the woman, there is no fetus. No child either.

Not to mention the FACT that there is no debate to be had over the basic truth of evolution. You can debate nuance if you like. But the basic FACT of it? Please.

To equate the status of a fetus with an argument over evolution is so profoundly stupid, I'm actually surprised that you can remember to breathe regularly. Luckily that function is controlled by your autonomous nervous system. Evolved from less complicated nervous systems over millions of years. Otherwise, you'd suffocate from stupidity.

Seriously. That is really stupid. Not to mention so intellectually dishonest there really should be a separate word in the language to describe it adequately. The Germans probably have one.

Posted by: LL on January 29, 2011 at 9:14 PM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately, there are lots of public officials who are ignorant about science. The Obama administration had Vann Jones as the "czar" of green jobs. The whole renewable energy story is an example of scientific ignorance. It would be bad enough if it was simple a passive position but the administration altered the scientific experts' report on the Gulf BP spill. They did NOT recommend a drilling moratorium. We could be self sufficient in energy by building nuclear power plants and drilling for domestic oil. Canada has taken a realistic position and is building wealth from the oil shale deposits in Alberta. Instead, Ken Salazar blocks exploitation of the same deposit on the US side of the border. There is no common sense. Wind and solar will always be boutique sources of energy. They cannot supply the base load and anyone who thinks so is indulging in magical thinking. Of course, they have lots of company on the left.

Posted by: Mike K on January 29, 2011 at 9:32 PM | PERMALINK

"Democrats repeatedly deny the obvious scientific evidence that an unborn child is a human being."

I am a scientist. I have held a Ph.D. in genetics for nearly 30 years.

Science is silent on when one becomes a human being.

A fertilized human egg is human life, but so is an unfertilized human egg (is it human? yes. Is it alive? yes) and a human sperm. So is every nucleated cell in our bodies (are they human? yes. Are they alive? yes).

Is a unique human being created at the time of fertilization? No. Monozygotic twinning results in two unique human beings who started from a single fertilized egg.

Don't bother trying to draft "science" in support of your sectarian religious belief. It only proves your ignorance.

Posted by: Joel on January 29, 2011 at 9:33 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K, I'm not an expert but building enough renewable generation would eventually pay for itself AFAIK if we allow a sufficient time frame. In any case, Obama is indeed looking into nuclear and some new plants are being built.

Posted by: neil b on January 29, 2011 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think any of us can be too sure about where human beings came from. We are a seriously insane species with a mutant brain, a divided self, an awareness of mortality, a need for meaning - all things no other animals seem to have.

All other animals operate solely on instinct - they don't spend half their time trying to figure out what to do, and then making up fantasies to explain how confused they are. It's hard for me to explain the human condition entirely through evolutionary theory.

Posted by: Speed on January 29, 2011 at 9:42 PM | PERMALINK

Re whether unborn fetus/whatever you call it is human being: it is not always clear how things should be put together into categories, but if we are going to reason ethically at all (otherwise why think that born humans deserve any rights, and don't tell me the latter is "a matter of religious beliefs" because then how could we hold accepted ethical norms about that?) then comparison of similarity should be uppermost. A late term fetus is "a baby" in traits except for the dependency issue and so it's game to think it should be treated like one to the extent possible.

Note that as pregnancy progresses, it becomes less and less reasonable to force termination of something more and more like a birthed human and that will resolve itself anyway in less and less further time, albeit not with identical resolution pros and cons. As for body-control rights, they are no more absolute than any other right like speech (the usual cases, and also note slander, plagiarism etc.), gun rights, etc. To hold a favorite right as absolute and over and above other considerations is the sort of mistake that conservatives usually make. Finally, why was what Michael Vick do with the fighting dogs wrong? If we accept some ethical norms about (other) animals, it gets less and less persuasive to cut it off for persons simply due to contextual issues and lack of full development. That's a rational argument, not a religious one, and as made from a "communitarian" perspective of give and take (look it up.)

Posted by: neil b on January 29, 2011 at 9:50 PM | PERMALINK

[That "typo" you keep bringing up under various handles was indeed deliberate, and you would know, since you are the jackass who did it. It is also why every time you show up here with a new IP, it get's banned, and always will. I get paid for this. How about you? -- Mod]

Posted by: jane h on January 29, 2011 at 9:57 PM | PERMALINK

@neil b,

Interesting points and debatable. They do, however, intrude on the domain of religion.

OTOH, science is silent on "when human life begins."

Posted by: Joel on January 29, 2011 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

I strenuously object to the way in which the question is framed: ("do you believe in ----". People believe (or don't believe, as the case may be) in the Tooth Fairy, in Santa Claus, in Siva, or Allah, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. People are convinced (or not, as the case may be) that evolution through natural selection is a scientific theory which is strongly supported by factual evidence, and has predictive and explanatory power, verified by the fact that its predictions have been supported by reality. (Example: finding the fossil remains that fill in the evolutionary steps that led from a large land mammal to today's whales.)

To frame the question this way as a mater of belief is to cede the high ground to the morons (who prove at least that "evolution" is not synonymous with "progress") and I wish that people would stop doing it.

A related beef is referring to such as Rep. Kingston and is numerous ilk as "conservative". The right words would be "radical reactionary", so long as that doesn't imply some sort of coherent set of positions.

Posted by: jrosen on January 29, 2011 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

Hush now, Jane. Grown-ups are talking.

Posted by: Joel on January 29, 2011 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

That idiot politician probably gets his "facts" from things like "Answers" magazine. It's hilarious how they twist and turn to make their case against things that offend them, things as obscure as the Oort Cloud.

But they're well-funded, they don't give up, and there's a lot of dopes out there who believe their crap.

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on January 29, 2011 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

There is a reason why 55% of PhD scientists identify themselves as Democrats and 6% identify themselves as Republicans.

Here is a rather shaky video of my favorite evolution themed song. It can also be found on the "18 Tracks" album:

Posted by: J Bean on January 29, 2011 at 10:37 PM | PERMALINK

People are studying evolution and testing it as we speak. There are "natural experiments", there are lab studies, and there are better observations. The questions now are not "does it happen", but "how does it happen".

A number of years ago, the consensus was that there was no (evidence of) inter-breeding between Neanderthal and modern man. Now that the Neanderthal genome has been sequenced, there is direct evidence of interbreeding as well as a better idea of when the species split from a common ancestor. Yes, some modern people carry Neanderthal genes (mainly those of European heritage if I recall).

Posted by: golack on January 29, 2011 at 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

Pardon me for making these initial points if they've already appeared above, but the entire scene made me crazy.

1) When an anti-evolutionist says, as Kingston said, the he doesn't believe that "something crawled out of the ocean and became human" the best response - and it's a two-fer - is that "neither do I", adaptation and speciation has been at work for billions of year. The "billions of years" part undercuts Young Earth and even "Old Earth" creationists.

2) When an anti-evolutionist says, as Kingston said, "where's the missing link?" answer the question with a question, such as "what do you think a missing link is?" The field is then yours.

The bottom-line is that if anybody on the "left" or is a "Democrat" who believed in the forward looking optimism of the President's SOTU, one must think long and hard about how any of what the President projected can be accomplished when a majority of the nation's high school biology and/or science teachers are afraid to formally "teach" evolution. The countries the President, and the MSM, repeatedly point to as our "competition" are 100% committed to teaching the sciences and the efficacy of the scientific method.

BUT, as bad at the right is on the science's as an afront to their "beliefs", they're small potatoes. The real threat comes from corporations that (who - post Citizens Unt?) spend billions on marketing, faux research and coopt legitimate researchers with grant agreements that forbid free-speech. Truthiness and scienc-y propaganda do more damage to both the sciences and competitiveness than do religious nitwits pining for the Dark Ages.

Every time a Christian denies or lies about evolution, a Chinese student gets an Biochemistry Ph.D.

Posted by: William Hurley on January 30, 2011 at 12:52 AM | PERMALINK

Reinforcing what another poster mentioned above: when it comes to climate change, Kingston said that all the scientific evidence should be put on the table for an impartial analysis. But when it comes to evolution, the vast evidence that has been put on the table seems unable to convince him. So why should we believe that he will pay any attention to science?

He's going to believe what he wants to believe, claiming that the evidence is somehow flawed, regardless of the subject area. He says he believes in science, but he actually doesn't. Otherwise, he couldn't have the position on evolution that he does.

Posted by: dsimon on January 30, 2011 at 1:53 AM | PERMALINK

Using "believe" is the wrong term to use with respect to evolution. It gives the uneducated the impression that there is some equivalency to a spiritual belief.

One should say "I think there is a preponderance of evidence for evolution".

Posted by: longde on January 30, 2011 at 2:04 AM | PERMALINK

What man knows about science would amount to a pin point on a basketball. So before you get to cock-sure of yourselves-better come to the realization that it takes a leap of faith to believe evolution science or creation science. For me I'll go with the latter.

Posted by: steve on January 30, 2011 at 2:06 AM | PERMALINK

Belief in creation and trust the scientific evidence behind evolution should be mutually exclusive.

Steve, you have a false choice, there.

Posted by: longde on January 30, 2011 at 2:15 AM | PERMALINK

Jack's a piece of work all right.

He complained the Democrats were anti-family because they expected the House to work 5 days a week.

Plus who can forget his complaining on cable about Obama not wearing a flag lapel pin, while not wearing a flag lapel pin.

Idiot is a step up for this Teatard.

Posted by: LosGatosCA on January 30, 2011 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen: "Republican leaders are more comfortable walking a bridge to the 18th century."

The Age of Enlightenment? Nah, that's far too modern for them.

The only things they're interested in are religion, weapons, and pleasing their rich patrons. Think 14th century, not 18th.


Posted by: JGabriel on January 30, 2011 at 6:49 AM | PERMALINK

Why should I care whether a politician believes in Darwin's Theory of Evolution or in Intelligent Design? Does believing in one vs. the other determine whether the politician does or does not uphold their sworn oath to the Constitution and the limits it puts on the powers of the Federal government?

It is amazing how naive many people are. How is it that they can think that the more power they allow the Federal government to wield, the greater freedom they believe they will have?

On a side note, why is it now that Obama and the lamestream media is "partnering up" with Ronald Reagan, that champion of smaller, limited government that stays within the bounds of the Constitution? I suggest that those of you who never heard any of Reagan's speeches go back and listen to them. Don't just limit yourself to those of his Presidency either. He gave notable ones during the 1960s and 1970s, too.

Then after you have done that, ask yourself how can today's President and his political party without changing their political beliefs ever align with Ronald Reagan and his political beliefs?

Posted by: True American 2008 on January 30, 2011 at 7:06 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, False American 1980, thanks for letting us see how the deeply insane think!

Posted by: HMDK on January 30, 2011 at 7:29 AM | PERMALINK

This tired, phony debate that is so often trotted out is wrong on both sides...Liberals are constitutionally incapable of conceiving the difference between humanity and animals. They just adore the sentiment of John Lennon's charming lullaby: "Why don't we just do it on the road?" Pious Conservatives on the other hand are quite religious: they fervently worship one god...Mammon.

Posted by: Thingumbobesquire on January 30, 2011 at 7:43 AM | PERMALINK

Joel (and by extension, et al): ethical inquiry into how to correlate developmental stage/dependency etc. with rightful treatment is not intrinsically any more "religious" than other ethical questions about margin issues, like what to do with people in comas, how to treat animals, etc. Why would it be? It doesn't turn into that logically just becasue of some prevalence of religious opinion on it as a historical accident. It's a game point, just like the absoluteness of body control is a game point (which also comes up regarding drug use for example.) And if science can't decide when we "become human beings", then on what basis is it obvious that the answer should be "at birth"? You can't have it both ways.

True American 2008: We know that if the government doesn't reign them in, *other* institutions will take our freedom, appropriate more and more of the value our work creates, etc. Are you naive? But you're right that it's phony for Obama to get into Reagan worship. Instead, he should tell everyone that Reagan was fundamentally wrong and that anyone who doesn't believe government can help or do a good job should get the hell out of government, since its a conflict of interest leading to bad performance. That means resignation of the Republican Party, right?

Posted by: neil b on January 30, 2011 at 7:56 AM | PERMALINK

@Thingumbobesquire: Dude, if you're going to try and get all snarky and whatnot get your Beatles right.

McCartney wrote that track. It's attributed to Lennon and McCartney but it was Paul's baby.

Kinda renders the rest of your "point" dumbassery.

Posted by: Grillner on January 30, 2011 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

Gee whiz, I stand corrected... I guess that really just proves I must be wrong. Whatever could I have been thinking?

Posted by: Thingumbobesquire on January 30, 2011 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Thingumbobesquire I have to say Grillner is right. Besides that anyone with a handle that long has to be a douchebag.

Posted by: Ganadalf on January 30, 2011 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

@True American 2008: It absolutely matters what the congressman believes, especially as a scientist myself, with potential future funding of my career at stake, or the education of my children as a point of interest to me. If someone in a position of power, such as the congressman, continually turns a blind eye to what factual evidence continues to support it matters in the utmost degree. Why does it matter? His job as a congressman goes beyond just his oath to uphold the constitution. He votes on budgets and bills that shape the direction the country takes when it comes to science and engineering, and even educational policy. These policy issues influence the country's ability to remain competitive in an ever evolving world. So yes, it matters.

Posted by: Dylan on January 30, 2011 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

True American 2008: "Why should I care whether a politician believes in Darwin's Theory of Evolution or in Intelligent Design?"

Because it may show whether a person is wiling to base policy in testable evidence rather than ideology that is impervious to falsification. Policy that works in the real world has to use data in the real world. If the data is going to be consistently rejected in favor of ideology, then we'll get policies that don't work. Kingston's position on climate change is an example: yes, there's always a chance that the data constitute a blip. But at some point, one has to recognize that enough data will show that there's more likely a trend going on than a temporary blip. Kingston seems to want to hold on to the blip option as long as there's a very small probability that it's true. That's not a good basis for planning for the future.

"It is amazing how naive many people are. How is it that they can think that the more power they allow the Federal government to wield, the greater freedom they believe they will have?"

It's naive to say that more federal government inherently means less freedom. There are lots of things done on the national level that make our lives better that can't be done locally. The states and the "free market" weren't stepping in to build our interstate highway system; it was created only by the federal government. Elderly poverty was a national embarrassment until the national Social Security program. And we are the only wealthy nation where people die because they can't get health insurance and families go bankrupt because people get sick; such problems may best be addressed on the national level, because it would then give people the freedom to change jobs and move between states and start their own businesses without fear of losing their medical insurance.

Throwing around words like "big government" and "freedom" sound very nice until you start looking at specific examples, and then it becomes clear that there is a role for national government in our lives.

Posted by: dsimon on January 30, 2011 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

You "believe in" magic, or fairies, or "that I'll have another drink", or religion. You have to have FAITH when you have no evidence.

There's plenty of evidence for THE PROCESS OF evolution. Belief isn't called for.

Posted by: Ken Mitchell on January 30, 2011 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

My preferred way to express it: Evolution is a theory like atomic theory or heliocentric theory. No one has ever seen an atom or seen the earth go around the sun but these "theories" are the foundation of chemistry, astronomy and biology.

Posted by: catalyzer on January 30, 2011 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

There's a difference between MACRO and MICRO evolution. There is NO fossil evidence of transitional forms of species becoming other species. Ie: Chimpanzee doesn't become man over time any more than dogs become cats. But there is plenty of evidence of man, chimpanzees, dogs, etc. changing over time.
The problem is that the Congressman (and most commenters on this post) doesn't know how to differentiate between the two concepts. Glad I actually paid attention in biology 101.

Posted by: CThomas on January 30, 2011 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

This is just a bunch of uneducated people talking about something they know very little about. It's entertainment. How is this question relative to his job? Anyway, the question about antibiotics, I really liked it, brought up a good question, how are we stunting evolution. She should of also asked about homosexuality, right? OR is that publicly incorrect. Another question. Are all racial classes evolving at the same speed? Sorry if I am sarcastic and dark, please tell me where I am wrong, or where reason/logic is missing?

Posted by: nate on January 30, 2011 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

@nate - I would recommend checking out this video as a starting point - enjoy! :o)

Posted by: genome on January 30, 2011 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

CThomas - Look up punctuated equilibrium. The accepted theory is not that one species transforms into another so much as that a geographically separated species branch and diverge. Cats won’t turn into dogs, or dogs into cats, but cats and dogs share macroscopic and microscopic similarities that suggest there was a common ancestor. Searching the fissile record confirms the existence of such ancestors that were neither cat nor dog. The same situation exists with apes and humans, why would a chimpanzee ever evolve into a man when a chimpanzee is better adapted to living in a chimpanzee habitat? If you are going to discuss evolution, you really need to become more familiar with the theory.

Posted by: J. Frank Parnell on January 30, 2011 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Funny: Steve Benen says that it's a "fairly straightforward question." Is he serious?

How about this question: "Do you believe in Santa Claus?"

I bet Steve (and most commenters) would answer "no" to that one, in spite of the fact that the man who became known as "Saint Nicolas" was very real indeed.

So what do they mean when they say that they don't believe in Santa Claus? They mean that they do not buy into the modern mythical accretion built on the historical facts that goes by that name.

So it is with evolution. Sensible, knowledgeable, and scientifically-minded people (a category to which Kingston does not necessarily belong) who claim not to believe in evolution simply mean that they do not buy into the modern mythical accretion build on the historical facts that goes by that name.

A straightforward question? Hardly -- unless you need a shibboleth with which to trap your political enemies.

Posted by: Doug on January 30, 2011 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

The first article referenced below, which requires a subscription for full viewing, Defeating Creationism in the Courtroom, But Not the Classroom, is the basis for the opinion piece that follows. All in all, not a good report for the competency of biology teachers since 13% of the ones surveyed believe in creationism and the majority teach evolution ineffectively, sending mixed messages. It explains, on some level, why ignorant politicians like Kingston can flaunt their tripe and go unchallenged.



Posted by: gone_west on January 30, 2011 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

As a conservative, I agree Kingston is an idiot. But please keep in mind, there are lots of idiots on both sides of the aisle. Another ranking Democrat, for example, recently seriously posted that Guam had too many people on it such that it might tip over. This was not a joke.

More seriously, the entire Democratic Party is in the process of pushing for hundreds of billions to commercialize solar and wind technologies and "high speed rail" that make no economic sense. Prominent liberal economists continue to advocate spending trillions we do not have in order to create wealth by government spending.

I personally know intelligent Democrats who seriously believe that there are energy efficient processes that create hydrogen from water and sunlight, in contravention of the laws of thermodynamics. It's not a matter of intelligence, it's a lack of education.

No party has a monopoly on scientific ignorance.

Posted by: Perplexed and Amused on January 30, 2011 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

nell b, the statement by Obama on nuclear power is considered to be pure wind as no new nuclear power plant has been built in this country for decades. His administration has no plans to build when we should have 100 new plants under construction, as China has. Instead, he blathers about China's green projects which are Potemkin villages.

The left seizes upon social conservatives about evolution and abortion. The tea parties are largely libertarian and the evolution issue is obsolete. The religious left worships global warming and the positions are almost mirror images of each other. The Met office in London fakes temperature data to make 2010 look warmer. They have no more credibility than the anti-evolution people have on the right.

Posted by: Mike K on January 30, 2011 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Mike K: Not just gullible but also ignorant of science in all its aspects.

Posted by: HMDK on January 31, 2011 at 2:01 AM | PERMALINK

Perplexed and Amused.

But your understanding of simple household economics doesn't translate to the national, let alone international, stage. Yes, sometimes you DO actually have to spend to make.

Posted by: HMDK on January 31, 2011 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

Adaptation is the short-term result of natural selection on the gene pool of a population. Speciation is the longer-term result of natural selection, combined with factors such as geographical distribution, which results in the emergence of distinct, non-interbreeding populations, called 'species'. Both are integral aspects of evolution. Adaptation is not a negation of evolution.

None of this is a 'belief', as others have pointed out. Nor is evolution unproven: laboratory experiments on fast breeding organisms, including bacteria, have demonstrated speciation under a variety of selective regimes. The only reason large-scale evolution cannot be proved is that the experiments would take millions of years. We have, in this case, as with astrophysics, to rely on logic and reason to establish the most likely hypotheses.

Posted by: Goldilocks on January 31, 2011 at 5:58 AM | PERMALINK

Posted by: HMDK on January 31, 2011 at 2:05 AM

"But your understanding of simple household economics doesn't translate to the national, let alone international, stage. Yes, sometimes you DO actually have to spend to make."

Any businessman knows that investments are a part of wealth creation. Certainly, we can all agree that efficient construction and maintenance of infrastructure, as well as investments in education, are worthwhile, since they provide a return. Investments in national security as well. But the key word here is "efficient", and even building of roads and bridges reaches a point of diminishing returns if there's no-one to use them, or if they're gold-plated boondoggles (such as "the bridge to nowhere"). The US already spends more per pupil than any country but Switzerland, with the well-known mediocre results. And perhaps most important of all, while it is certainly good that we provide a safety net for citizens, we can only provide what we can afford.

Much of what Obama calls "investment" is simple spending on unsustainable social programs. Social security and medicare have their merits, but return on investment is not one of them. They are, simply stated, spending, and unsustainable at that. Most people who receive social security and medicare receive far more than they ever put in.

Every bit of social spending requires business profits to provide the wealth that is consumed thereby. Government can build roads and bridges and provide for national security, and if done right this may help the private sector create wealth, but no-one should kid themselves that any of this creates wealth directly. Wealth is created in the private sector, not the public sector.

This country has been living beyond its means

Posted by: Perplexed and Amused on January 31, 2011 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Mike K: Not just gullible but also ignorant of science in all its aspects.

I happen to be a retired surgeon. And what do you do when you're not greeting at Wal-Mart?

My kids from my several marriages voted for Obama and at least three of them constantly make fun of me to their friends behind my back. They think I don't know this but I hear things. I see no reason to stop consuming fossil fuels at our current rate. Let my kids and grandkids fend for themselves since they couldn't show me any respect. If they're so smart they can find their own solution without asking me to change my lifestyle.

The tea party is composed of libertarians who couldn't care less about social issues and Christianity. Everything you've heard to the contrary comes from liberal plants.

It's embarrassing to see people as far into denial as you people are. You probably also think that Jay Nixon is a Democrat.

Posted by: Mlke K on January 31, 2011 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Disease resistance to antibiotics is NOT proof of evolution. Darwinian evolution, in its current form at least, posits a purely materialist origin for life in all its diversity. Yet the sole mechanism for the introduction of new genetic information is random mutation. The resistance of diseases to antibiotics like the resistance or flies to pesticides is a manifestation of selection for PREEXISTING traits in the gene pool, not evidence of new traits.
Furthermore, a mere change in the relative competitiveness offered by particular traits in a particular species is a far cry from one distinct species becoming another. Also, although the Congressman could certainly have been move articulate his point regarding fossils is valid. the bulk of the fossil record should be transitional forms, as Darwin himself recognized. Instead, scientists have despite their best efforts struggled to find more than a handful of potential specimens, and most of these have been in the hominid line which should, at the least, raise some eyebrows from fair-minded observers. This is the reason for the theory of punctuated equilibria, which is an attempt to explain away the almost total lack of transitional forms and the strong evidence for stasis in the fossil record. Of course this "theory" has no mechanism and was driven by the intense need to believe that the underlying theory is metaphysically true.

Posted by: Paul on January 31, 2011 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

What do you expect from white trash like this guy?

Sorry, but they get to say anything they want about us; call us Nazis, whatever.

Posted by: Dave S on January 31, 2011 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK



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