[NOTE: This is not my first foray into political opinion on this blog, so I expect to get a lot of comments which could charitably be called angry. BEFORE YOU COMMENT, first, read the ample links I have included in this post. These are how I back up my arguments, and reading them first may prevent you from saying something already refuted. Second, read my note about posts covering politics and religion. Third, read my commenting policy. Thank you in advance.]
Unless you’ve had your head buried in the mantle of the Earth this week, you probably heard what Missouri Congressman Todd Akin said about women’s bodies and rape. If you haven’t, my friend Matt Lowry at Skeptical Teacher has the lowdown.
But in a nutshell – apt phrasing, that – Akin claimed that:
First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare… If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
This is so appallingly ignorant – to be kind – that it makes my brain explode. Pregnancy from rape is not rare; tens of thousands occur every year. His claim about the female body is complete claptrap, nonsense. And his use of the word "legitimate" is just grossly insulting. As President Obama said the next day: "Rape is rape".
So here we have a man who has not just no knowledge of what happens during rape and conception, but actually provably wrong knowledge. And he makes laws about these things.
It’s clear that Akin’s beliefs are driven by his religious fundamentalism. This would be a matter of concern to me for any lawmaker, but you have to understand: he sits on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee!
The irony in this should be evident.
And worse, Rep. Akin is not the only woefully under- and simply miseducated person on that committee who attacks science. It’s full of such antiscience people. Examples include Mo Brooks, a global warming denier; Ralph Hall, who tried to use porn to scuttle a science funding bill; Jim Sensenbrenner, another global warming denier; Paul Broun, a creationist (a creationist on the science committee!); Dana Rohrabacher, another climate change denier, and more.
It’s mind boggling.
Today, more than ever before, we need politicians who are educated about science and technology. At the very least our economic future depends on science! Yet we have people on the Science Committee who are devoted to actively destroying it.
This is why I support Science Debate 2012. The goal of this organization is to educate the public about where politicians stand on science issues, including evolution, global warming, energy, and the economy.
We need to hold current politicians accountable when they are flatly against reality, and we need to make sure we elect ones who are reality-based. As Rep. Akin showed us clearly, this spans a broad range of political issues.
Let me leave you with this: in America, only about half the people of voting age actually go out and vote. That means there is a vast, untapped resource of people who can make a real difference in November.
If you don’t vote, then you are letting someone else decide for you what to do with your money, your life, your future, and even your very body.
Learn the issues. Vote.
– Erasing false balance: the right is more antiscience than the left
– Republican candidates, global warming, evolution, and reality
– Next up for Congress: repeal the law of gravity
– Antiscience party
Response to both Obama’s space policy and my blog post about it were pretty much as I expected. Haters, lovers, people who didn’t actually read what I wrote or listened to what Obama actually said, some thoughtful, some knee jerk. The usual.
But my favorite is from Congressman Todd Akin (R-MO), who, in a press release, posted this:
The decision by the Obama administration to gut NASA’s manned flight program does more than jeopardize the long term goals of solar system exploration, the cancellation of the space shuttles replacement will effectively leave the United States reliant upon the Soviet Union to grant us access to low earth orbit. As a member of the Armed Services Committee I am very concerned with that possibility, and as an American I am disappointed by the prospect.
It doesn’t surprise me that someone would erroneously say that Obama is gutting the manned space flight program, when we know he isn’t and when he may in fact be saving it. It doesn’t surprise me that people are forgetting that private industry is poised to take us into low Earth orbit before Constellation could have, though it’s odd for a "fiscally conservative" Republican Congressman — and therefore, one assume, pro-business — to forget such a thing.
It also doesn’t surprise me that someone would blame Obama about us having to rely on foreign partners for access to space after the Shuttle retires, and it certainly doesn’t surprise me that a Republican Congressman would say such a thing, even though this necessity came about because of President Bush’s decision to retire the Shuttle and not have a replacement ready for at least five years after.
But what I do find really interesting is that a Congressman on the Armed Services Committee would refer to Russia as "the Soviet Union".
Pssst! Congressman Akin: it’s the 21st century. It stopped being the USSR in 1991. I guess it’s hard to keep up with such things if you can’t see Russia from your state, though.
[Update (14:30 MT): Apparently, Congressman Akin’s release has been updated, replacing "Soviet Union" with "Russian Federation". My congratulations and thanks to his team. Now, if they could fix the other egregiously wrong things he said in that release, we’ll be copacetic.]
Tip o’ the Cossack hat to ScottW.