'True believers' perversion of science has long history

When GOP Congressman and Senate candidate Todd Akin said in an interview last month that rape victims rarely become pregnant because “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” he wasn’t just insulting women. He was insulting science.

Akin is merely the latest in a long line of “true believers” who have tried to hijack, pervert or crush science in order to protect extreme ideological or religious agendas. It’s a sordid history that stretches from recent scientific breakthroughs in climate change, reproductive biology and sexuality back to Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin.

Science has two attributes which ideologues and religious extremists find threatening – curiosity and humility.

Curiosity relentlessly drives scientists to discover truth through systematic observation of nature. Despite science’s spectacular successes in unlocking nature’s secrets, however, humility compels it to label even its most treasured discoveries as “theories,” perpetually subject to being proven or disproven by laboratory testing or prediction.

The same cannot be said for the smug certainty of those, like Akin, who believe that “truth” is revealed, self-evident and immutable. Evidently, they don’t have much use for the human brain, an extraordinarily complex organ that is endowed with far greater processing and analytical capacity than the world’s most powerful computers.

Akin, who attributed his pseudo-scientific assertion to unnamed “doctors,” later publicly apologized, claiming that he “mispoke” and acknowledging that rape can lead to pregnancy.

While he may truly regret the widespread outrage that greeted his remark and threatened his candidacy (causing even leaders of his own party to demand that he withdraw from the Senate race), Akin’s political record suggests that his words were right in line with his core beliefs.

Akin, after all, is a political warrior for the extreme wing of the right-to-life movement, whose ultimate goal is to outlaw all forms of abortion and contraception, without exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother.

Such an unpalatable position needs a justification, and pseudo-science provides it. A woman impregnated during rape won’t be forced to carry an unwanted child to term against her will, because, if it’s a “legitimate” rape, her body will reject the fetus.

What’s not quite clear is just how this is supposed to happen. Perhaps Akin believes the immune system produces antibodies against forcible insemination, just as it does against invading pathogens.

Similar nonsense has pervaded the debate about climate change. U.S. Senator James Inhofe, a staunch defender of the oil and gas industry (a powerful interest in his home state of Oklahoma), has repeatedly dismissed the scientific theory of global warming from carbon emissions as a “hoax.”

Instead of distorting science to support his position, however, Inhofe simply chooses to deny all scientific evidence and invoke the Bible. As he told an interviewer on a Christian radio station earlier this year,”The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

Denial has also characterized the reaction of religious fundamentalists to scientific investigation of the causes of “sexual “preference” since researchers first announced in 1993 that they had found evidence of a genetic predisposition towards human homosexuality.

Fundamentalists cite scriptural passages that condemn homosexuality as sinful. But, since Christian doctrine also teaches that anyone that accepts God can be saved, groups like Exodus International insist that “homosexuals who desire to change can do so.”

Modern Western science can be traced back to the 16th century, when its early practitioners were forced to run the gauntlet of religious orthodoxy. The medieval Catholic Church adopted, as dogma, the earth-centered planetary model of Ptolemy, a second-century Greek-Roman astronomer, because it fit nicely those scriptural passages which described the earth as firmly placed and unmovable. The problem was that Ptolemy’s model could not explain certain observed anomalous planetary motions without adding complex, jerry-rigged features.

In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish-born church canon, published his revolutionary sun-centered (heliocentric) theory, which elegantly accounted for observed planetary motions without requiring the complexity of the Ptolemaic system. Careful not to offend the church though, Copernicus wrote that he was proposing his theory, not as an explanation of reality, but to “save appearances” -– that is, as an arbitrary mathematical model to facilitate astronomical calculations.

Galileo, one of Western Civilization’s greatest scientists, was less circumspect than Copernicus and, as a result, provoked a fierce ecclesiastical backlash. The Italian mathematician, astronomer and philosopher penned a treatise, “Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems,” espousing the heliocentric theory in 1632. As punishment for his candor, he was tried in Rome by the Inquisition, found guilty of heresy and sentenced to lifetime house arrest. The “Dialogue” was banned and further publication of his works forbidden.

English biologist Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, first published in 1859 in “On the Origin of Species,” brought a full-throated cry of outrage from orthodox churchmen, who rejected any explanation of life’s creation and mutability which contradicted Genesis. That hostility persists to this day.

And, of course, no account of the perversion of science would be complete without at least a mention of the manner in which the Nazi regime forced German science to incorporate the ideology of Nordic racial purity into university teaching, biological research and medical practice from 1934 to 1945.

If anything can be learned from Congressman Akin’s ill advised comment, it’s that there’s no such thing as “legitimate rape” of either women or science.

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Jim Lutz's picture

Something Else to Think About

Carbon Dioxide is Not Evil, Could Actually Benefit Earth's Plant Life

Jonathan DuHamel
is a retired geologist in Tucson.
By Jonathan DuHamel
SPECIALTO THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Gov. Janet Napolitano and the Arizona Department of Envi¬ronmental Quality are sparring with the Arizona Legislature over the Western Climate Initiative, which would impose restrictions on carbon-dioxide emissions in Arizona and several other western states.
The governor wants to set a statewide goal to reduce Arizona's greenhouse-gas emissions to 2000 levels by 2020, and to 50 percent below 2000 levels by 2040.
Perhaps our next governor will look at the science rather than the politics and remove Arizona from the Western Climate Initiative and quash implementation of any other scheme to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions. There are five good reasons to do so:
I There is no evidence that carbon dioxide is, or ever has been, a significant driver of temperature. All the scary scenarios we hear exist only in the virtual world of computer modeling, modeling based on assumptions that are proving to be wrong.
2 There is good evidence that the greenhouse model used by the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is wrong. The panel's greenhouse theory holds that temperature trends (rate of warming, not absolute temperature) should increase by 200 percent to 300 percent with altitude, peaking at around 10 kilometers —a characteristic "fingerprint" for green house warming.
However, actual measurements from weather balloons and satellites show the opposite result: no increasing temperature trend with altitude. In other words, the model-predicted "fingerprint" of anthropogenic, greenhouse warming is absent in nature.
3 Restriction of carbon emissions will harm our economy by making energy more expensive and increasing compliance costs for businesses, schools and government buildings.
4 Even if you believe that carbon dioxide emissions have a significant effect on temperature, the human contribution to total greenhouse gas emissions is insignificant — approximately two-tenths of 1 percent (0.2 percent). Therefore any scheme to limit emissions will fail to have an effect on temperature.
5 Carbon dioxide is vital to all life on this planet. Over the long geological perspective, current concentrations of carbon dioxide are dangerously low. Plant life becomes more robust and more water efficient at higher concentrations. This has implications for our food supply.

The governor and the Department of Environmental Quality invoke the U.N. panel and its "2,500 scientists" as their authority. But those "2,500" are not all scientists, nor do they all agree. Also there is a group of more than 31,000 scientists that says:
"There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate. "Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth."

To see a list of those scientists and read the scientific basis for their statement, go to www.petitionpro-ject.org online.
Write to Jonathan DuHamel at jedtaz@cox.net

Jim Lutz's picture

Climate Change Science????

Elliott, you really had me for a moment. While Congressman Akin's misguided statement is truly an affront to "Science", and everyone has a responsibility to challenge him on it, and everyone on the side you seem to villify HAS, it is your misguided use of the word "Science" when it comes to the "Global Warming" scam. Oops - I now have to call it "Climate Change" because in the 70's they claimed there was going to be a new Ice Age with the next 50 years. Then they changed it to the seas rising and putting half the land that people currently live on under water in the next 50 years. Now they can't explain how the last decade has actually been cooler worldwide than the last decade, and the oceans have not come up a millimeter.

The United Nations and the IPCC have gathered politicians and "scientists" to decide what has to be done to protect the poor underdeveloped countries that have chosen to take the money given to them, mostly by the USA, and line the pockets of their leaders and keep the masses poor. Climate change is just a way to scam more dollars for these countries, and it will come directly from our pockets. The "scientists" from the IPCC were caught flat out creating their own data that fit their agenda. They claim it was stolen, but where ever it came from, it was their data. Al Gore, the oracle of the CC, is NOT a scientist, and by the way the IPCC and the British institute that collaborated with them to cook the data, they proved they are not scientists either.

There are more REAL scientists today that say the science is NOT settled, and most of the data really can't be proved anyway. It will turn out that the planet will continue to warm and cool over periods for the next million years, but by that time none of us or our progeny, if they survive abortions, will probably be reconizable.

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