Rick Santorum: usually wrong, never in doubt

There is a joke expression about surgeons, “sometimes wrong, never in doubt.” Depending on how you feel about surgeons I’ve heard it begin “sometimes right” and “even when wrong.” Applied to Rick Santorum, I think it has to be “usually wrong” if not “always wrong” given the serious of ridiculous distortions, lies, and made up statistics in the last week.

Starting with his claim that 62% of people that go to college religious graduate without their faith. It seems plausible. College expands peoples experiences and exposes them to new ideas, and such experiences are not going to always mesh with fundamentalist writings of long dead priests. Well, while counterintuitive it actually turns out to be the opposite case. Those who do not attend college may be at higher risk of losing their religion.

“There is no statistical difference in the dropout rate among those who attended college and those that did not attend college,” said Thom Rainer, president of the Southern Baptists’ LifeWay Christian Resources research firm. “Going to college doesn’t make you a religious dropout.”

A 2007 LifeWay survey did find seven in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23.

The real causes: lack of “a robust faith,” strongly committed parents and an essential church connection, Rainer said.

“Higher education is not the villain,” said Catholic University sociologist William D’Antonio. Since 1986, D’Antonio’s surveys of American Catholics have asked about Mass attendance, the importance of religion in people’s lives and whether they have considered leaving Catholicism.

The percentage of Catholics who scored low on all three points hovers between 18 percent in 1993 and 14 percent in 2011. But the percentage of people who are highly committed fell from 27 percent to 19 percent.

“Blame mortality,” D’Antonio said, “The most highly committed Catholics are seniors, and they’re dying out.”

Do colleges indoctrinate the young to turn on their parents and reject religion? Salon argues they do a little bit, but the indoctrination that tends to be found on college campuses is on pretty universally accepted issues like rejecting racism and homophobia, both of which a majority of Americans now believe are repellent. But to politicians like Santorum, teaching tolerance is a major drawback to college attendance. The claim that colleges engage in indoctrination against religion is bogus, however, unless one is referring to religious beliefs in discrimination against other races and homosexuals.

If anything the opposite is the case as studies have shown higher rates of religious “drop out” among the less-educated. Politifact also challenges his statement that Obama wants everyone to go to college cause he’s a snob.

And how about all his other wacky claims? That prenatal screening causes abortion? Or that JFK believed religious people shouldn’t serve in government?

Politifact takes on the prenatal screen claim and again finds Santorum doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum opposes requiring insurers to pay for a type of invasive prenatal testing called amniocentesis, saying it results “more often than not in this country in abortion.”

He noted something that other experts we talked with also quickly pointed out: More than 90 percent of the time, the results of amniocentesis are normal, and parents go on to have healthy children.

So, based on that, Santorum is incorrect.

Meanwhile, when doctors do find a problem, only about half of patients choose to end their pregnancies, Evans said — and there’s a direct relationship between the severity of the problem and parents’ choice.

There’s also a direct relationship between the region parents live in and the choices they make — something we pointed out in our rating about Down syndrome.

“In liberal areas such as New York, probably 80 to 90 percent of parents with severe abnormalities do choose to terminate when legal to do so. In conservative areas, the proportion of termination is much lower — perhaps as little as 10 percent,” Evans said.

So Santorum might have been right if he had focused only on amniocentesis that results in diagnosis of a severe abnormality in liberal regions of the U.S. But his statement was much broader.

Evans argues, in fact, that prenatal diagnosis allows for more healthy babies, both because accurate diagnoses help doctors treat fetuses with problems (he’s helped pioneer such in utero procedures as a stem-cell transplant for a fetus with a severely compromised immune system), and because accurate testing helps parents at high risk for passing on serious genetic abnormalities to confidently continue their pregnancies.

“These are women who would not have otherwise gotten pregnant,” he said.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists points out that in the case of a definitive diagnosis of a chromosomal abnormality, such as Down syndrome, the doctor and family have information to plan ahead for the rest of the pregnancy, labor and delivery.

The idea that potential parents should not know what may or may not be wrong with their children in utero is stupid and medically unjustified. If the parents opt to keep the child it’s incredibly important to know before delivery what may or may not be wrong with the child. Given the prevalence of associated birth defects with genetic disorders, the idea parents and doctors should remain in the dark presents a significant risk to the newborn and the mother. Downs syndrome, for instance, carries significant risks for congenital heart defects, GI disorders, etc., and are considered “high risk” births. While it’s true many children with birth defects are aborted, the idea that it would be better for the parents or the doctors should be kept in the dark about potential birth defects and complications of the pregnancy is breathtakingly irresponsible.

And how about his last claim that JFK’s speech on religion? After saying the speech makes him want to vomit Santorum plaintively asks “What kind of country do we live in that says only people of nonfaith can come into the public square and make their case?”

This went unchallenged in today’s NYT which I guess is consistent with their editorial policy of not challenging lies or checking facts. Both Salon and Slate take this nonsense on, but does it really need a serious debunking? JFK was talking about his Catholic faith and how he wouldn’t take orders from the Pope when president. How does this suggest only people of “nonfaith” can participate in government? How can one say this is anything but absurd when you consider only one member of congress is openly atheist? When poll after poll shows the majority of Americans wouldn’t vote for an atheist no matter what? Nor does this mean Santorum would take orders from the Pope if president. I find this unlikely as he does not share the Catholic church’s view on the death penalty, the Iraq war, torture, health care for all, or protection of the poor with welfare programs. He probably actually agrees with Kennedy’s claim but somehow hears instead that Kennedy is saying only atheists can serve in government.

Santorum is a fabulist, making up statistics and interpreting others actions in order to fit a warped view of the world in which Christians are persecuted in government (rather than running every branch), scientists are lying liberal political operatives generating whole scientific fields to serve atheist agendas and Al Gore, and everyone else is just looking for an excuse to abort babies. He’s a crank, and a large portion of this country seems to believe a crank should be in charge.

Then again, according to Krugman Romney is running a campaign of pathological dishonesty as well. With Newt it’s probably easier to just list the few true things he’s against the field of absurd self-aggrandizing lies he’s dropped from the beginning of his campaign.

One day the Republicans will recover from this insane road they’ve gone down, and once again field someone who is capable of telling the truth one out of 10 times and believes in science. These don’t seem to be such stringent requirements for a presidential candidate, but maybe I’m just naive.

Comments

  1. #1 Joel
    February 28, 2012

    And that’s without even getting to his claim that 10% of deaths in the Netherlands are due to euthanasia – half of them involuntary. If he keeps going at this rate, by the time the primaries are done Ron Paul’s sanity will be above the average for Republican candidates.

  2. #2 RonnieC
    February 28, 2012

    Gee I miss the days where rich Republicans would tell me that by lowering their tax rate I would somehow benefit. Now that was a lie that had potential benefits in the real world!

  3. #3 Jose
    February 28, 2012

    The sad thing isn’t what Santorum is saying but the fact that he’s getting a receptive audience amongst a sizeable portion of the population. The fact that someone can say these things in public and get a warm reception is worrisome. These people need to be spend a cycle or two in the political hinterlands to reorient themselves a bit closer to reality.

  4. #4 Saffi
    February 28, 2012

    Given the flavor of this blog I’m surprised you didn’t mention another way in which Santorum differs with the religion he claims to follow so closely. Catholic doctrine has no problem with Evolutionary theory, and His Conservativism himself (aka Pope JP2) even specifically stated that biological evolution is a fact.

    Of course, Santorum can’t admit this and still pander to the fundamentalist Protestant vote. What’s more important to Bag-Mag Ricky: his “faith” or his poll numbers? I guess we know the answer.

  5. #5 tbell
    February 28, 2012

    Often in error, never in doubt. my favorite version of the adage.

  6. #6 Tony P
    February 29, 2012

    My disbelief started to emerge strongly between my 7th and 8th year of schooling.

    Part of it was watching my mom die at a very young age from metastatic breast cancer. How an allegedly loving god could allow what happened to her was beyond any stretch of faith.

    And as I learned more about Catholicism I realized how ridiculous it was. You see, the schools I attended taught one thing very well; critical reasoning. But they tried to tell us that that we couldn’t apply the reasoning skills to religion and faith. As if!

    And two events in my sophomore year of high school cemented it.

    The first was that my religion class that year had us reading the ENTIRETY of the Bible, discussing it, analyzing it. That’s when I found out that the inconsistencies in the Bible are astounding. And that isn’t to mention the obvious agendas in the text.

    The second event was my Confirmation. At the interview with the priest just prior to the ceremony, I openly admitted that I didn’t believe in any of it. That I could not reconcile faith with reason. They confirmed me anyhow.

    And the first twelve years of my education? All in Roman Catholic schools. So even they spawn the occasional atheist.

  7. #7 jfrate
    February 29, 2012

    5% of the Texas prison population is euthanized every year – also involuntarily.
    :)

  8. #8 Calli Arcale
    February 29, 2012

    Saffi:

    Of course, Santorum can’t admit this and still pander to the fundamentalist Protestant vote.

    That seems, to me, to be the real irony of Santorum. He’s proud of his Catholicism, but both religiously and politically he is far more closely aligned with fundamentalist Protestantism — which traditionally regarded the Pope as practically (and in some cases *literally*) the anti-Christ. It’s an irony which also appears to be lost on the right-wing Protestant fundies who support him.

    Santorum is a loony. It disturbs me that he’s come as close as he has to the nomination.

  9. #9 Calli Arcale
    February 29, 2012

    Oh, and for the record, my faith deepened in college. So there, Sanctimonious Santorum. :-P

  10. #10 dean
    February 29, 2012

    Just a take on Tuesday’s vote, and the time leading up to it.
    Santorum won the west side of Michigan yesterday. He is especially strong near here (Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids), but this is the region that has the DeVos and VanAndel families, as well as the Prince family (whose son founded the Darkwater mercentary group). He spoke at Heritage Christian Academy, a school (term used loosely) just before Tuesday. The comments made by some folks there made him seem moderate.

    It isn’t that this entire region is that far to the right, it’s that those who go that way really go the extreme.

  11. #11 DuaneBidoux
    February 29, 2012

    A couple I have made up concerning my fundie family…
    (although I’m sure others have used it)

    “…an excess of opinion with a shortage of fact.”

    or

    “Never has someone had so many opinions with so few facts.”

  12. #12 SLC
    March 1, 2012

    Re DuaneBidoux @ #11

    I like a statement from a Michigander, the late former Michigan Supreme Court Justice John Voelker, who wrote books under the pseudonym Robert Traver, in assessing some testimony he heard while serving as a prosecutor in the Upper Peninsula.

    “Never have I heard someone speak so knowledgeably from such a vast fund of ignorance.”

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