Brownback confuses science, religion, and democracyJune 2, 2007 at 6:31 am | Posted in Policy | 4 Comments
Republican Senator Sam Brownback, who is from Kansas (so he works for me), has decided to publicly demonstrate his profound ability at circular logic, susceptibility to anti-science propaganda, inability to properly identify credible sources of information, and a willingness to vote on issues that he does not understand by writing this OP-ED piece published by The New York Times online May 31. Below are quotes, out of order, from Brownback’s pitiful confession.
It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.
I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos.
These statements by Brownback display an ignorance of what science is. Looking for a purpose to existence or for the intentions of a supernatural being would be a venture beyond the realm of empirical science, which is limited by what can be observed in nature, the universe that we share.
There is no one single theory of evolution, as proponents of punctuated equilibrium and classical Darwinism continue to feud today.
Classical Darwinism, most likely what he is calling gradualism, and punctuated equilibrium, which was proposed by the late great Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge as recently as 1972 with a paper in Models in Paleobiology, are not competing theories. Each are proposed mechanisms by which evolution has occurred, and each has been validated, to varying degrees, by evidence that actually exists in the universe that we all share. The theory of evolution is, simply put, that the changes in the allele frequencies of populations over time are responsible for the diversification of life on this planet. There are discussions about how much punctuated equilibrium contributes to this process, but I am unaware of any scientist who thinks that punctuated equilibrium was contributed greatly, especially during speciation, and denies a large degree of gradualism as a reality.
This statement by Brownback shows either his willingness to twist the truth for the sake of political appeal, or a tendency to think that he’s an expert in a subject of which he’s demonstrated that he does not even possess a very basic understanding of.
The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accident. That being the case, many believers — myself included — reject arguments for evolution that dismiss the possibility of divine causality.
If belief in evolution means simply assenting to microevolution, small changes over time within a species, I am happy to say, as I have in the past, that I believe it to be true. If, on the other hand, it means assenting to an exclusively materialistic, deterministic vision of the world that holds no place for a guiding intelligence, then I reject it.
There are many scientific theories, in fact all of them, that hold no place for a guiding intelligence. My only hope that Brownback doesn’t reject those as well, and I am pleased that he spared the audience his own arbitrary definition of species, though at this point I’m curious as to what he would say. If you can’t think of a coherent definition of species, dear reader, I encourage you to seek one, or better put as them, and think about it.
While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order. Those aspects of evolutionary theory compatible with this truth are a welcome addition to human knowledge. Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.
The fact that a Senator from my state said this, wrote it and sent it to The New York Times, is going to keep me up all night. Our elected official is such a little Aristotle that he’s willing to reject any science that is incompatible with anything that he believes to be the truth, which from my perspective, is not a truth that exists in the universe that we share. Brownback would make a horrible scientist, because he’s shown here that he would never be willing to reject his own initial hypothesis, and that he’d never accept a conclusion that he didn’t like the sound of, no matter the evidence.
Brownback almost makes a tiny bit of sense in that paragraph, however. I would have to agree with his implication that an atheistic theology would more readily pass as science (to those who know what it is) than a theistic theology due to the fact that human activities lack a belief in God because of the simple fact that human activities are not humans. What he’s doing here is analogous to condemning the game of baseball, or even a rock, for not behaving how he thinks a person should. This, to me, is a pretty ridiculous thing for someone who is paid to make reasonable decisions to not understand, and it’s what Dr. Phil calls a “deal-breaker.”
The statements that Brownback makes implies that he believes that science should agree with his religion and that democracy can make that happen, and by this has shown that he does not know the difference between science, religion, and democracy. Though he is willing to vote against it, Brownback is not reacting to the theory of evolution as science, but evolution improperly used as a religion, and is under the delusion that science is democratically decided. Although policies concerning education and funding are affected by public policy, science itself is not a democracy. Thankfully though, the United States of America, and that includes Kansas, is a democracy.
Don’t be shocked by the tone of my voice. It’s the new weapon, the weapon of choice.
– Fatboy Slim
You’re a sad, sad man, Sam. And you’re fired.