Mike the Mad Biologist

Recently, I claimned nothing in movement conservatism makes sense except in the light of creationism. One example is Paul Krugman’s recent observation:

It’s kind of shocking if you think about it. Here we have a huge, hard-won intellectual achievement [the recognition that depressions are caused by inadequate demand], one that accounts very well for the world we actually see, and yet it’s being thrown away because it doesn’t go along with ideological preconceptions. Once that sort of thing starts, where does it stop? The next thing you know, the theory of evolution will get the same treatment. Oh, wait.

Now Steve Benen joins the Sacrosanct High Order of the Shrill:

“Real Time” host Bill Maher asked Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) a fairly straightforward question: “Do you believe in evolution?” Kingston not only rejected the foundation of modern biology, he explained it this way: “I believe I came from God, not from a monkey.” He added, “If it happened over millions and millions of years, there should be lots of fossil evidence.”

Seriously, that’s what he said.

Let’s pause to appreciate the fact that it’s the 21st century — and Jack Kingston is a 10-term congressman who helps oversee federal funding on the Food and Drug Administration.

As part of the same discussion, former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell tried to ask Kingston about the overuse of antibiotics. The far-right congressman had no idea how the question related to evolution.

At one point, Kingston, sarcastically, turned to National Review’s Will Cain, part of the same roundtable, and said, “Will, help me out anytime you want, buddy.”

The assumption, of course, is that Cain, a conservative, must agree with the confused congressman about modern science. Cain responded, “I’m sorry, I believe in evolution.”

Will, you’re not the one who should be sorry.

But I think Benen’s not quite all the way there. The point isn’t that Kingston is an idiot because he doesn’t accept the reality of evolution, since there are so many other ways to determine he’s an idiot. If evolution is the tell, then you haven’t been paying attention. Kingston’s creationism matters because it is a crystal clear example of how he approaches everything else. First, he hews to catechism and dogma. Second, he is willing to lie and dissemble to protect that dogma. Because when Kingston claims “there should be lots of fossil evidence”, there is lots of fossil evidence:

Kingston also demands a missing link. By which we can again loosely infer he means fossils demonstrating a mix of early and more modern hominid traits. As long as it’s not A. ramidus, A. afarensis, H. ergaster, or any of the dozens of fossils on exhibit in museums all over the world, all showing the exact set of anatomical traits and found in the precise place in the fossil record demonstrating a clear progression toward anatomically modern humans over almost ten million years. Thus Kingston struggles to convey the well oiled illusion of reason while pandering to willful ignorance.

(By the way, you know who else believes in evolution? The Koch brothers–the ones who helped fund the Tea Party: they donated extensively to the Hall of Human Evolution at the Smithsonian. Even those dolts get it. Just saying).

Keep in mind, no amount of evidence will change Kingston’s mind. I’m sure if you showed him a transitional fossil, rather than accepting that a gap has been filled in, he would then claim you have two gaps (on each side of the transition) that need to be explained. You’re not going to convince him (which is why I really don’t try).

The key point about creationists in politics isn’t the creationism (although when it applies to biology classes, it does matter). It’s that they use the exact same tactics and strategy when approaching other political issues.

Here’s the video:

Comments

  1. #1 TomS
    February 3, 2011

    One thing that I find very illuminating is that the immediate response to a question about evolution is to bring up that most-feared aspect of evolution: being physically related to “monkeys”.

    This is the real issue: I ain’t related to no monkey.

    And the emotion is so strong precisely because the relationship is so obviously true.

  2. #2 Anon
    February 3, 2011

    My mom’s (Kentucky) biology classes also disliked being told they were related to monkeys. Oddly enough, that problem disappeared when she switched to telling them they were related to cattle. The Monkey really is a sticking point.

  3. #3 ShaneBemiller
    February 3, 2011

    Spot on. This was almost as funny as when Lynn Westmoreland got destroyed on the Colbert Report. But is it “funny”, or scary???

  4. #4 Don
    February 3, 2011

    Believe in evolution? BELIEVE IN??

    Makes it sound like a religious experience: I BELIVE! — I BELIVE!! — LORDY, I BELIEVE!!!

    Sorry, but that’s how some folk think: it’s not a matter of accepting where the evidence takes us, it seems to be more a question of FAITH.

  5. #5 Greatbear
    February 3, 2011

    Ironically, I don’t think most monkeys would want to admit being related to Kingston either.

  6. #6 TomS
    February 4, 2011

    I agree with Don. It is tiresome, though, always pointing out that I don’t believe in evolution, no more than I believe in the coldness of snow.

  7. #7 Moopheus
    February 4, 2011

    I, for one, am related to the Great Apes. Not monkeys. No, no, not monkeys at all. Apes! Fuck monkeys.

  8. #8 Rheb-El
    February 4, 2011

    I tell my biology students from day one (and nearly every lesson) that they ARE apes. The big truth works better than the big lie–tell them long enough and strong enough (with evidence) and they will understand.

  9. #9 tybee
    February 5, 2011

    i’ve known jack kingston a long time. met him when he first started running for congress and was losing his first campaign. i’ve voted for him occassionally. that won’t happen again. i never knew he was such an idiot.

  10. #10 sinz54
    February 5, 2011

    I agree wholeheartedly: Any politician who is willing to bend scientific truth to political exigency, calls into question his valuing of truth generally. But that’s not limited to certain conservatives. There was Lysenko (Marxist), and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (liberal Democrat who foisted “alternative medicine” on the NIH).

    I’ve been a political conservative most of my life. I got into conservatism in the 1970s, when liberals turned my city of New York into a crime-ridden pesthole, and when stagflation began spiraling out of control.

    At the time, the Religious Right (most of whom seem to be creationist) was just one part of a broad conservative coalition that focused mostly on economics and foreign policy.

    But for a variety of reasons, the Religious Right came to dominate the conservative movement.

    Now I’m a registered Independent.

  11. #11 Jay
    February 5, 2011

    “As a complement to phyletic gradualism, its most important implications remain the recognition of ‘stasis’ as a meaningful and ‘predominant pattern within the history of species’, and in the recasting of macroevolution as the differential success of certain species (and their descendants) within clades.” S.J. Gould.

    So where are the transitional fossils? Or was Gould a fool also?

  12. #12 Jay
    February 5, 2011

    As a complement to phyletic gradualism, its most important implications remain the recognition of stasis as a meaningful and predominant pattern within the history of species, and in the recasting of macroevolution as the differential success of certain species (and their descendants) within clades. S.J.Gould

    So where are the transitional fossils? Was Gould a fool too?

  13. #13 Paul Murray
    February 6, 2011

    “This is the real issue: I ain’t related to no monkey.”

    Oh, I am! I’m also related to ferns, although they are much more distant cousins.

  14. #14 TomS
    February 7, 2011

    @Paul Murray:

    We are obviously related to all living things. But the only relationship which causes so much distress is the relationship to “monkeys”. We are all related to Torquemada, from whom I would rather distance myself, than from Binti Jua (if you don’t remember her, see the Wikipedia article).

  15. #15 Sally Strange
    February 7, 2011

    “Liberals turned NYC into a crime-ridden pesthole”

    Really, all by themselves, with no assistance from prevailing economic or sociocultural trends? Citation needed here, dude.

  16. #16 strange gods
    February 7, 2011

    It’s not at all apparent that the Koch brothers believe in evidence-based science. They have an ideological spin on evolution. And their Smithsonian exhibit has been designed to promote their agenda; they’re not promoting facts.

    The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, is a multimedia exploration of the theory that mankind evolved in response to climate change. At the main entrance, viewers are confronted with a giant graph charting the Earth’s temperature over the past ten million years, which notes that it is far cooler now than it was ten thousand years ago. Overhead, the text reads, “HUMANS EVOLVED IN RESPONSE TO A CHANGING WORLD.” The message, as amplified by the exhibit’s Web site, is that “key human adaptations evolved in response to environmental instability.” Only at the end of the exhibit, under the headline “OUR SURVIVAL CHALLENGE,” is it noted that levels of carbon dioxide are higher now than they have ever been, and that they are projected to increase dramatically in the next century. No cause is given for this development; no mention is made of any possible role played by fossil fuels. The exhibit makes it seem part of a natural continuum. The accompanying text says, “During the period in which humans evolved, Earth’s temperature and the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere fluctuated together.” An interactive game in the exhibit suggests that humans will continue to adapt to climate change in the future. People may build “underground cities,” developing “short, compact bodies” or “curved spines,” so that “moving around in tight spaces will be no problem.”

    The exhibit’s main theme is that extreme climate change in the past made humans very adaptable, an interesting theory based on limited data and lots of speculation. But its huge flaw is that it it leaves visitors with the distinct impression that human-caused global warming is no big deal — even though our understanding of the grave threat posed by that warming is based on far, far more research and data.

    The exhibit’s major intellectual failing is that it does not distinguish between 1) the evolution of small populations of tens (to perhaps hundreds) of thousands of humans and pre-humans over hundreds of thousands of years to relatively slow, natural climate changes and 2) the completely different challenge we have today: The ability of modern civilization — nearly 7 billion people, going up to 10 billion — to deal with rapid, human-caused climate change over a period of several decades (and ultimately much longer).

    The exhibit fails to make clear that while small populations of homo “sapiens” evolved over hundreds of thousands of years of fluctuating climate, the rapid population growth of human civilization occurred during a time of relatively stable climate.

    The exhibit did have a couple of displays aimed at future climate change, but none of them lays out the threat posed by the rapid climate change we now face. The single strongest statement is one panel that said:

    The level of CO2 today is the highest since our species evolved. The projected increase over the next century is more than twice that of any time in the past 6 million years and suggests a long-term sea level rise of 6.4 m (21 ft).

    The Smithsonian never gives a time frame for sea level rise, and, of course, the key fact in that sentence is not accurate. The projected increase of CO2 emissions just in the first half of this century suggests a long-term sea level rise of 75 to 120 feet, as a major 2009 Science article explains.

  17. #17 MacTurk
    February 10, 2011

    It is NOT , as has been frequently pointed out here, about BELIEF in evolution. It is about not having your brain hermetically sealed. It is about lack of dogmatic thinking. It is about a willingness and ability to deal with the facts.

    The link below is a study from Japan. It involves comparison between human and chimpanzee intelligence. I do wonder how the Honourable stupid from Georgia would perform?

    http://www.dump.com/2011/02/03/man-vs-chimp-video/

  18. #18 Centurion13
    June 19, 2011

    First, he hews to catechism and dogma. Second, he is willing to lie and dissemble to protect that dogma.

    Sounds like a lot of scientists – and for that matter, a lot of university professors – I’ve met. And read.

    It works both ways, guys. Regardless of your faith, there are folks willing to go to dishonest lengths to defend theirs.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!