Last week I came across an article on the front page of Reddit revealing a video of U.S. congressman Paul Broun decrying evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory as “lies straight from the pit of hell.”
For some reason this headline in and of itself did not really phase me. Apparently I’ve become desensitized to craziness and religious fervor in our political system, which is an opinion article in and of itself. However, this piece will focus on what I discovered about Paul Broun after reading the article.
First of all, this man is a Doctor of Medicine — he graduated from the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. This is not an issue, as being a doctor is a relatively noble profession and is certainly not one that you can cheat and buy your way into.
I think though, that as a man of medicine, the good Doctor Broun should know the history of medicine and the progress it has made from the unrigorous and ad-hoc practices of yesteryear to the efficient and modern practice we have today, the result of empirical study, observation and a willingness to look the weird and unknown straight in the eye.
So how he can claim that a field that studies where and how human beings develop into what we are is clearly something devised by Satan to lead us from our one true saviour and still be respected as a doctor truly boggles the mind.
I can’t even begin to imagine what he must think about where babies come from if he completely discounts embryology. Perhaps he thinks they coalesce into fully formed fetuses slowly over nine months when a man and women really, really love each other.
What’s worse than his blatant disregard for the tenets of his own education, though, is the clear conflict of interest that arises with him being a glaringly ignorant zealot who preaches against the basic tenets of science and also serving as a member of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
You’d would think there is some sort of vetting process for potential members of this committee. It doesn’t even need to be super complex, just a couple of yes/no questions about how someone feels about the basic theories behind each field of science. If that person doesn’t agree with say, the theory of gravity, good for them! They can revel in their own ignorance outside of the committee because those sorts of people have no business deciding scientific policy.
It’s not even that disagreeing with a particular scientific theory is bad. In fact, skepticism can be a very good trait to have in the scientific disciplines. Without it, we would not have had Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and the paradigm shift that came with it.
However, if someone is going to publicly decry a scientific concept with over a century of evidence and peer review, they better have some serious empirical evidence backing up their dispute.
The scientific method isn’t something that people can just pick and choose where to apply. It’s just as valid when used to determine the speed of light, the properties of light and the resulting application of these observations in the creation of fiber-optics and the modern internet as it is when discussing evolution and the development of drug resistant diseases.
EIther it works or it doesn’t. If you don’t trust in the theory of evolution, fine. But at that point television, the Internet, cars and modern medicine are now based on magic instead of logic, and perhaps Mr. Broun should refrain from using those if he truly fears for his soul.
In short, people who distrust and ignore the basic guiding principles of a system should not be in charge of deciding that system’s future. Atheists shouldn’t run churches and those who refuse to believe in the validity of the scientific process shouldn’t sit on science committees.
Hamilton Reed is a senior computer science major. His columns appear Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.