Blinded By Science

I’m not the begging sort. However, I find myself fending off the compulsion to clasp my hands together, hit my knees and plead with legislators, spokespeople, religious leaders, school board members and media commentators to look directly at scientific reality. It won’t hurt you. You won’t be blinded. Enlightenment isn’t literally bright. Your retinas are in no real danger.

Furthermore, you are not infants having professional photos taken. I shouldn’t have to wave shiny statistics to get your attention, pose with faux-excited facial expressions while holding up scientific studies or dance around behind the camera with your favorite security blanket, er, I mean polling data.

Ostensibly, you’re adults – at least chronologically. Most of you have multiple degrees and many have impressive looking resumes. So how in the names of google, wikipedia, and internet explorer does this, as reported in Mother Jones, happen:

”The Alabama House of Representatives is expected to vote [February 19] on a bill that would place heavy restrictions on abortion in the state because, according to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin (R), ‘when a physician removes a child from a woman, that’s the largest organ in a body.’”

Um. So. WHAT?

Mother Jones online editorial fellow Maggie Severns puts it perfectly:

”That’s a big surgery. You don’t have any other organs in your body that are bigger than that,” McClurkin told The Montgomery Advertiser. Nevermind that the liver, the second-largest organ after the skin, is about the size of a football and larger than a first- or second-trimester fetus: McClurkin’s assertion that the fetus is an organ contradicts the idea of fetal personhood, a favorite Republican rationale for banning abortion. Organs are not people. That makes McClurkin’s comment possibly the most creative excuse for throttling abortion clinics in a while.”

So, is the fetus an organ or a person now? I can’t keep up. The rhetoric has reached such a sublime level of ridiculous that Lewis Carrol has awoken and demanded that he be able to edit parts of Alice in Wonderland.

Curiouser and curiouser, indeed.

Unfortunately, it gets worse: the bill passed the House Tuesday and now heads to the Senate. This may be the intersection of personhood and off-the-deep-end…and I don’t think there’s a working traffic light. A fetus can’t be an organ and a person – of that I’m relatively certain. So is this the personhood crowd upping the ante by defining a fetus as part of the woman’s body, or downgrading the status of a fetus from autonomous being to mere anatomy?

Whichever intent might be construed, the waters are definitely muddied and the boat has drifted further from the shore of factual reality.

And, as it so happens, the honorable Ms. McClurkin is barely the beginning.

To stray from the laughably misinformed to the parody-level bizarre, I give you talk show host Kevin Swanson . I have to agree with Robin Marty of RH Reality Check – usually I have something to say about utter bullshit like this, but Swanson’s statement really best stands alone:

Swanson: I’m beginning to get some evidence from certain doctors and certain scientists that have done research on women’s wombs after they’ve gone through the surgery, and they’ve compared the wombs of women who were on the birth control pill to those who were not on the birth control pill. And they have found that with women who are on the birth control pill, there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb. They’re just like dead babies. They’re on the inside of the womb. And these wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.

That is…I mean…You can’t be…No one believes this, right??

It’s utterly unfathomable that this imagery was even conjured up. The Onion, The Daily Show and satire-centric comedy acts of all kinds are going to be driven out of business by what’s actually being said and done in the ever-increasing crazy pockets of this country.

Of course, fetal-organ-autonomy and birth-control-created-uterine-graveyards are not the only areas where the science deficient seem to have propelled themselves beyond the bounds of common sense. We’re approaching the ten-year anniversary of Karl Rove turning the phrase “reality-based community” into a slur in the political sphere. Perhaps once we allowed “Turd Blossom” to frame the debate, we shouldn’t have been surprised when our public discourse cut its tether to reality.

When we permitted the sidelining of the “reality-based community,” we made space for the likes of Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) to take a seat on the House Science Committee – a seat he held onto after declaring evolution and the big bang theory “lies straight from the pit of hell.” Seriously.

It gets better:

“God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, the big bang theory; all of that is lies straight from the pit of hell,” Broun told the crowd.
“And it’s lies to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there’s a lot of scientific data that I’ve found as a scientist that this really is a young earth. I don’t believe that the earth is but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was made in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible tells us.”

Possibly the best part is that, not only are neither he nor his party embarrassed about these proclamations, but he’s up for a promotion. Rep. Broun has already announced he plans to run for the seat the retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) will vacate in 2014.

The science illiterate in Congress don’t simply disbelieve the facts concerning where the earth came from, they also deny where we’re likely headed. This dragging of the feet has a particularly dangerous bent to it. Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe is the most outspoken climate denier in Washington, but he’s not alone – and he’s taken seriously by our press.

In an effort to appear “balanced” and “not liberal,” mainstream media outlets give Inhofe and his cohorts equal space to counter the well-established climate models detailed in a wealth of peer-reviewed scientific papers. Of course, it is possible, that I’m being cynical and the media inquiries into the Inhofe theories on the climate could merely be due to his seat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. You would think the button on the front page of his website titled “Hundreds of Scientists Dispute Global Warming Alarmism” might disqualify him from a committee focused on the environment. As is often the case, however, a background relevant to the committee doesn’t have much weight in determining seat assignments.

It would be bad enough for (chronological) adults to be spreading nonsense to other (chronological) adults, but somebody seriously needs to think of the children. Missouri House Bill 291 would require “the equal treatment of science instruction regarding evolution and intelligent design.”

As usual, the bare outline doesn’t do the nuttery justice. The National Center for Science Education explains:

HB 291’s chief sponsor [is] Rick Brattin (R-District 55), who described himself as “a science enthusiast” and “a huge science buff.” Brattin said that the bill would require teachers and instructional materials to “distinguish what is, in fact, theory and what is, in fact, empirical data…There’s so much of the theory of evolution that is being taught as fact…things like the primordial ooze.” He added, “With theories, they need to have equal treatment, objective treatment, not one brushed aside.”

“A science enthusiast.” *sigh* “A huge science buff.” *face palm*

I can’t even…I just…I can’t.

And Missouri isn’t alone. Three other states — Montana, Oklahoma and Colorado join “The Show Me State” — have put forward bills to similarly alter their curricula. Apparently, the plan is to perpetuate the ignorance ad infinitum.

How ‘bout “no?” How ‘bout “that’s seriously enough because I can’t take anymore of this without losing my shit?” How ‘bout “I knew more about science before I graduated from middle school than you people who are in control of public debate and policy and financing and education do in your 40’s and 50’s?”

Alternately, how ‘bout we just line all of you nutters up and do one big, long bitchslap to bring you back to reality? I’m also cool with cutting the very, very thin cord that’s keeping you from floating the rest of the way into outer space and just watching you slowly get smaller and smaller until you fade away entirely.

Perhaps cutting the cord is the best option because, as long as you’re here, we’ll continue wasting time disputing your lunacy-fueled tirades when we could be solving the actual problems that your bullshit obscures. Your days at the helm are numbered. The electorate is growing weary of the infighting you cause and the unnecessary roadblocks you’ve constructed.

That sound you hear, ladies and gentlemen, is that of a very, very large pair of scissors…

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UPDATED March 1: There is, as usual, good news and bad news.
First, the good! Several anti-evolution, anti-science bills floating through state legislatures around the country have been defeated! These wins do not mean we can afford to turn a blind eye, however; if we’re not pushing forward we will slide backward.

Next, some high praise for an atypical Republican legislator-like response to a women’s health issue! Oklahoma State Representative Doug Cox called out an anti-choice bill for what it was: a roadblock to care. From the website policymic:

“We keep passing stuff like this, they’ll be done in back alleys with coat hangers, people,” said Cox during the House of Representative’s Public Health Committee hearing on the bill last week.
“[Abortions] are done in clinics inspected by the Health Department under sterile, medical conditions,” Cox continued. “This bill basically is trying to intimidate the providers who do those.”

The bill would be detrimental to young women who are victims of incest and, despite Rep. Cox’s protests, it passed out of committee with a 7-3 vote, so it’s a situation worth keeping an eye on — as is the fundamental and appreciated decency of a likely lonely Republican legislator.

And, the bad. Alabama isn’t the only state implementing draconian laws restricting women’s reproductive health. It isn’t even the only state beginning with the letter “A.” Arkansas’s legislature has overridden the good sense of its governor — by a 53 to 28 vote — to impose a 20-week abortion ban.

Wisconsin is taking a page out of neighboring Indiana’s playbook and investigating the notion of mandatory vaginal ultrasounds. That might be bad enough on it’s own, but Talking Points Memo has audio of Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) — who describes himself as “100% prolife without exceptions” — avoiding the probing question by saying he couldn’t comment not just because he’d never heard of it, but because “I haven’t had one.” Seriously, nothing tops the audio. It’s a must-listen.

And one more that only fits in the CrazyTown category. I include it, and really all of these, more as an indication of the non-stop nature of this bullshit than a true update. I could update this post daily with the inundation of unrelenting nonsense permeating our legislatures and airwaves. I won’t because I value my sanity and yours. So I leave you with this as I think it stands without comment:

From Alternet.org: Revealed: Right-Wing Groups Spent Over $1 Million Bankrolling Fox News Host’s Propaganda in Schools

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Categories: Finding My Voice

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9 replies

  1. SO great to listen to the Stephanie Miller show and hear you! Loved the show and it is refreshing to truly listen to like-minded people, respecting each other. I actually talked to my boys today about the football rape case, they might be too young, but it is never too young to ingrain respect and decency, they have an amazing Dad, so that takes a lot of pressure off me. They see good examples of how to relate to others! I look forward to reading more of your articles in order to absorb your intelligence!! 🙂

  2. Fantastic article Katie. You are correct in that these bat shit crazy people will soon put The Onion out of work. If only their POV was not shared by so many elected officials, they would be easier to ignore.

    • Thanks, Dennis! Absolutely; I’d shake my head and laugh them off if they didn’t have legislative and local policy-setting power. I use Joshua Holland’s (of Alternet.org) word a lot: “hilarifying.” You laugh until you realize the nut with the crazy statement sits on an environmental committee…

  3. Love it!! Loved speaking with you guys this AM. Love meeting like minded women!!

  4. Katie: This might be your best piece ever! It certainly is the most entertaining ( my favorite line, “…the boat has drifted further from the shore of factual reality.” )

    Rush Limbaugh has been lamenting lately about what he calls “low information voters” (which are any liberals). Actually the “low information voters” are those who watch Fox News exclusively.

    • Thank you! If you’re still online, I’ll be on to talk about it with Hal Sparks in about five minutes! You can catch me there most Saturdays from 12pm-2pm EST via http://chicagosprogressivetalk.com/listen/

      • Another major organ is involved. When discussing major organs, the placenta is often left out. The placenta takes over many endocrine functions during a pregnancy and if size dictates preventing it from being discharged, then doctors should be furiously working to prevent it from being expelled after the pregnancy. After all, no other organ is as important for a fetus to survive. It might get in the way of future pregnancies which would kind of make it birth control. But, the placenta pretty much blows the organ size argument.

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