There have been several stories in the news lately detailing how various leaders in the Republican party approach the issues of our day based upon a fundamentalist mindset.
Let us consider the difference between the approach of a Democratic leader and various Republicans. When Joe Biden was asked in the vice presidential debate how his Catholicism guided his view of abortion rights, Biden affirmed his personal belief in Church doctrine while saying he was not willing to try to impose his religious belief on the rest of the nation.
That approach seems like the perfect blend of personal faith and political activism in a society which values religious tolerance.
The approach demonstrated time and again by Republican leaders is hardly so tolerant of those who do not hold fundamentalist Christian belief. In the most recent example, Richard Mourdock, Indiana Republican candidate for Senate, justified forcing rape victims who are impregnated due to the rape to carry the pregnancy full term. Mourdock believes the preganancy is the will of God.
All of this would be perfectly fine if Mourdock simply held that belief, but did not wish to impose it upon the nation as a whole. But Mourdock and the people who agree with his fundamentalist take want that view to be the law of the land.
One other problem I have with the fundamentalist outlook is how it shuts down any possibility of developing a deeper understanding of the world around us. The first thing I thought when Mourdock proclaimed that rape pregnancy was the will of God was how antithetical that view is to science. Science offers the answer to the question of why rape results in pregnancy: When a man deposits sperm into a woman who has recently ovulated the egg has a certain percentage chance of being fertilized resulting in pregnancy. That is just science, it is empirically provable and there is no reason for us to pass laws based upon anything other than that scientific truth.
Todd Akin’s pseudo scientific view that victims of “legitmate rape” have ways of shutting down preganancies naturally is belied by eons of human history. Historically, world wide, many conquering army’s rape conquered women on a mass scale with the intention of impregnating them. In Europe as recently as the 1990′s, the Bosnian war saw mass rape used as a weapon primarily by the Serbs with one of the desired effects being to impregnate the Muslim women with ‘Chetniks’.
Saying that God wills these pregnancies is just as antithetical to the science as is saying that women have ways to shut down pregnancies resulting from rape. Both are essentially fundamentalist claptrap offered as an excuse to stop women from having reproductive rights, literally. To force a woman to bear the child of her rapist is to remove any vestige of choice she could ever have over her own reproductive system. She had no choice in the conception, has no choice in carrying the pregnancy to full term, and the justification used by the fundamentalists to force this on our women demonstrates a willful lack of scientific understanding.
Fundamentalism leads to intellectual laziness. If your answer to all of the issues is that God is responsible regardless of any other factor then you may as well not worry about what really causes pregnancy, or what science says about any other issue such as evolution or global warming. It is this kind of fundamentalist intellectual shut down that resulted in Gallileo being condemned for saying that the Earth was round. After all Jesus commanded his disciples to spread his gospel to the four corners of the world, and a globe does not have four corners! Enough said… and anyone who dares contradict the word of God is condemned to damnation.
This fundamentalist mindset led Representative Paul Broun, Republican of Georgia to recently declare:
All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.
Beyond both being Republican representatives in the House, Paul Broun and Todd ‘legitimate rape’ Akin have another commonality. They both sit on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. One believes women can biologically shut down rape pregnancy and the other thinks that the theory of evolution, embryology and the Big Bang are lies from the pit of hell. They both vote on matters before congress bearing on the most important issues of science before the nation!
I do not believe that faith and science are mutually exclusive mind you. For example I find it easy to correlate the science of evolution with the creation described in Genesis. Genesis describes how the Earth was created from the void and then formed simple life forms followed by higher life forms with man being created from the dust of the Earth. Think about it. Evolution describes how life evolved from single celled organisms which must have been in the dust or the mud or the seas of the ancient Earth. I just don’t happen to believe in the literal days of Genesis. But what better way to explain evolution to superstitious bronze age farmer gatherers than the creation allegory.
The difference between me holding that conglomerated belief, partly based upon personal faith but also with a scientific underpinning, and Broun or Akin holding their fundamentalist beliefs is that I have the approach of Joe Biden: I don’t want to force my outlook on the rest of society. Let us teach science classes and pass law based upon science and allow ourselves to interpret how that affects us in our personal lives based upon our individual beliefs.
In a world economy this nation is in danger of falling well behind our competitors if we insist upon closing our minds to the obvious truth and proceed down the path offered by the fundamentalists. The Republican drift towards fundamentalism should be enough to disqualify them in the voters mind from holding positions of power that deal with the way this nation approaches issues of science. Is a zygote a human? Not scientifically. Can women shut down their reproductive system due to a rape? Not scientifically. Is the theory of evolution a lie from the pit of hell? Not scientifically. Fervently believing or pretending that there is some other answer based upon faith in a fundamentalist doctrine is harmful to the interests of the nation if the believer is given power and insists that the rest of us be brought into line with the way they see the world.