Monday, October 30, 2006

Vote Democratic to Restore Rationality to our Government

More and more Americans find themselves appalled by the Republican's attempted overthrow of reason by faith. Today's New York Times reports from the front lines of the rational backlash against the theocrats in Washington:
And this year, one issue incenses them above all others: restrictions on embryonic stem cell research.
It is a matter of concern across the country, even across parties. But for many engineers and their ilk, restriction of stem cell research is what gay marriage is to conservative Christians, a phenomenon so counter to their basic values that they cannot vote for any candidate who supports it. After all, for Bellevue’s professionals, science is not only a means of creating wealth but also an idealistic pursuit, the most promising way they know of improving the human condition.
“For hundreds of years, science has had its own jurisprudence over the truth. It’s called peer review, and it works pretty well,” said Mr. Mattison, whose father had Alzheimer’s and his uncle Parkinson’s disease. “I’m outraged that a mere politician would interpret science for me.”
Today's Washington Post reports that the Interior Department has repeatedly rejected the advice of its own scientists on protecting plant and animal species:
A senior Bush political appointee at the Interior Department has rejected staff scientists' recommendations to protect imperiled animals and plants under the Endangered Species Act at least six times in the past three years, documents show.
In addition, staff complaints that their scientific findings were frequently overruled or disparaged at the behest of landowners or industry have led the agency's inspector general to look into the role of Julie MacDonald, who has been deputy assistant secretary of the interior for fish and wildlife and parks since 2004, in decisions on protecting endangered species.
The documents show that MacDonald has repeatedly refused to go along with staff reports concluding that species such as the white-tailed prairie dog and the Gunnison sage grouse are at risk of extinction. Career officials and scientists urged the department to identify the species as either threatened or endangered.
Despite the religious right's talk about the faith of our founding fathers, the framers of our system of government were also profoundly rational in their thinking. The Declaration of Independence opens with an empirical statement:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another...
As Gary Wills describes it in his book, Inventing America, the word "necessary" is meant empirically. The argument for independence is not faith-based, but evidence-based:
To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
Wills points out that in referring to truths as "self-evident," Thomas Jefferson borrowed a concept found not in scripture, but in the works of the enlightenment philosophers Thomas Locke and Thomas Reid.
Wills demonstrates his customary thoroughness in detailing the attempted overthrow of reason in the federal government in the New York Review of Books:
Bush promised his evangelical followers faith-based social services, which he called "compassionate conservatism." He went beyond that to give them a faith-based war, faith-based law enforcement, faith-based education, faith-based medicine, and faith-based science. He could deliver on his promises because he stocked the agencies handling all these problems, in large degree, with born-again Christians of his own variety.
What is different about Bush is not his faith, but his intent to subject reason to faith:
During the 2000 presidential campaign, Bush said that "the jury is still out" on the merits of Darwinism. That is true only if the jury is not made up of reputable scientists. Bush meant to place religious figures on the jury, to decide a scientific question.
Wills cites one example of faith shoving science to the side:
Since President Bush advocates the teaching of intelligent design, it is not surprising that in his administration, the National Park Service would authorize the sale of a book at the Grand Canyon claiming that the canyon was formed by Noah's Flood.
Earlier this year, I highlighted this stirring defense of science presented by Wes Clark:
We were pragmatists by nature...Ben Franklin was our first, one of our first notable scientists, taming lightning in a bottle brought down from the sky, understanding for the first time, proving that lightning was this magical thing called electricity.
Throughout our national history, we have seen a creative tension between faith and science. For instance, devotion to God's creation can be informed by sound science, as happened when more than 100 evangelical leaders met earlier this year to discuss global warming.
But what Wills calls "faith-based science" threatens to upset this essential balance, and undermine the rational underpinnings of our society. An open society cannot thrive if we allow politicians to interpret science on our behalf.

There is one way to restore the rightful place of rational inquiry in our society and our national government, and that is to vote Democratic.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Majority watch predicts a 43 seat landslide.

9:29 PM, October 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Abstinence policy extends to 29-year-olds

Very timely.

11:45 PM, October 30, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read this essay yesterday so you beat me to the punch.

Atrios had a link to it on the Eschaton and I had just seen the Christine O'Donnell show in person on a tag-a-long to see Mike Matthews give a speech on her behalf.

I still shall write about it but it will not be a snap, more of a mind-boggle, this chick is WHACK.

You did a bang up job here, Wonk.

5:32 AM, October 31, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Several years ago, the US went to war in a region dominated by regional blood- feuds, and cultural hatred bordering on intolerance, in an effort to bring democracy to people who had known only totalitarian government. The nay Sayers said we would be there forever. They said our too few troops would bog down, never to return. The terrain was indefensible. Casualties would be enormous. Remember?

Today I never hear anything more from Bosnia. Those Democrats must have known what they were doing. Compare that war to the one we currently face, and look at results, not propaganda, and what do you see? Have we made progress? Republicans are inexperienced at foreign policy and results prove it. Results prove it. They have had their chance. It is time we elected Democrats to show them how to do it.

2:51 AM, November 02, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doing my daughters homework, I stumbled across this newer version of the New Math.

Democrats = Competence

Republicans = Iraq. $ 3.33 a gallon, Katrina, Heating costs, Prescription Prices, Insurance costs

Wow have I aged.
I must be a Conservative. I long for the good old days.

2:53 AM, November 02, 2006  

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