selling paranoia to angry creationists
As we’ve seen before, letting political pundits write about science usually doesn’t end well because they care about the politics, opinions and agendas more than they care about the facts. The same issue applies to one aspiring right wing commentator, S.E. Cupp, whose claim to fame is authoring yet another book which warns the Religious Right that they’re under siege from evil atheist liberals and that science, specifically the theory of evolution, is one of their main tools in dismantling Christianity. Apparently, we’re actually living in the year 63, the liberals are the Romans, Obama is emperor Nero, scientists are the high priests of Zeus, and a science class is the new gladiatorial arena where Christians are fed to the lions, or sent into the maws of demons to go with what feels more hysterical. In other words, it’s a typical paranoid Hyperbole Brand™ screed that wants to shock, outrage, and encourage religious zealots to spread their personal beliefs as fact louder and louder.
Funny thing is that the book’s foreword is written by Mike Huckabee, who gushes with superlatives about what amounts to a far right anti-everything manifesto. But then again, it’s hard to expect more from someone known to advocate for paroling violent criminals when they claimed to have become born-again Christians. That’s right, find religion and we can think about whether stabbing someone during a robbery was really that grave of an offense if Huckabee has a say in the matter. And as our aspiring forgiver of all sin praises Cupp’s “brilliant logic, substance and scholarship,” it seems that the only substance he finds so persuasive is one that takes pretty much every martyr fantasy and conspiracy theory emanating from right wing talk radio and televangelists and crams it into a tome telling more than 80% of the population that they’re a poor, oppressed minority. While we can leave Cupp’s battle cries on the kind of furious partisan politics we hear every day to other bloggers, it would be rather difficult to overlook her downright shameful desecration of all modern biology, as the NCSE’s Joshua Rosenau addressed in the Washington Post. Of course, speaking on behalf of the NSCE, Rosenau has to be diplomatic and was thus far too polite in his review. I’m not going to be so nice.
We can boil down Cupp’s argument into “if liberals back the theory of evolution more than ‘real’ conservatives, and about 55% of the country rejects the science, then teaching evolution must be a liberal plot to undermine all of Christendom.” While that’s a pretty good rendition of Ken Ham and his merry band of ignoramuses, it’s an absolutely ridiculous and illogical chain of assertions. Again, we’re in Hyperbole Brand™ logic territory so we should expect a multi-stage rocket assisted leap to wild conclusions, but here, the author is really aiming for the next orbit of paranoia and disdain for science. While it’s true that 55% of Americans reject evolution, it doesn’t say anything about the validity of the theory itself. Opinion polls are not studies and a lot of popular or trendy ideas can be wrong. Evolution, like all scientific theories, deals with the facts. You can argue about the metaphysical, theological, and epistemological implications of these facts until you’re purple in the face, but it would only serve to create a lot of noise and a lot of verbiage. To even claim that creationism should belong in the same room with real science is advocating that teaching about the fossil record, DNA and zoology has to be followed by someone who declares “we don’t know, therefore, God and my ignorance is absolute proof.”
Cupp’s lamentations about evolution are that of a person who hates expertise and science in general, who substitutes volume and anger for counterarguments, and who doesn’t even know how to define the theory she so loudly condemns. Sure, I could try to counter her claims from a scientific standpoint, but she can’t provide a single scientific statement so I’m left to argue with nothing more than paranoia and contempt printed on what was once a perfectly good tree. Just like technophobes panicking about comic book science, paranoid right wing pundits like her get a kick out of playing martyr while their ilk beat academic standards into submission in the name of personal aggrandizement and self-validation. When the United States needs the highest rate of scientific literacy to reshape the nation’s economy for the 21st century, these bloviating cranks are dragging education back into the Dark Ages and fostering a culture that can’t stand scientific skill or expertise all for the purpose of affirming their faith against ever increasing and ever more sophisticated knowledge.