beliefs matter

So this is where I admit that despite my best efforts, I am completely and utterly fascinated by Christine O'Donnell. More precisely, I am fascinated by the phenomenon of Christine O'Donnell.

Much has been made of this:

(If you don't want to watch, this is basically a clip of an excruciatingly earnest twentysomething O'Donnell on an MTV show talking about why she thinks masturbation is a sin.)

Now...it has been pointed out that her anti-onanist stance is not exactly the centerpiece of her platform, and that this was from 15 years ago. (She has declined to refutiate it, recently, though.) More to the point, it isn't as though she developed this particular set of beliefs out of thin air, but rather that she was/is simply subscribing to the actual doctrine of the Catholic Church to which she belongs.

Fine, fine and fine. But I still think it matters.

I would not knowingly support for office someone who professes such a belief, for the same reasons I would not knowingly support someone who really believes that the world is 6000 years old, that man was created on the 6th day of the universe's existence, that a global flood wiped out all life on earth except what was on a big boat, or that 70 virgins await you in paradise if you die killing infidels.

This isn't to say I would rule out all religious people--in this country, that's nearly everyone--because lots of people belong to faith communities and don't take all of this nonsense literally. Or even if they do, they have the good sense to keep it to themselves.

No, my problem is not with the profession of silly beliefs per se, but that it indicates a level of credulity that is just too dangerous to put in power. If you believe we don't have dinosaurs because they couldn't fit on the ark (say), then I think the odds are greater that you might believe equally absurd propositions such as "that ex-KGB guy who runs Russia seems like a good fellow", or "we will be greeted as liberators and democracy will bloom in the desert."


Gino said...

i know a lot of people who take the creation, 6000yrs seriously.
but their focus is not on science, and they readily admit that.

their focus is spirituality, and the lessons spelled out in the creation story are more important than science's agreement with it.

you would love a discussion with Ed on just about every other subject. he's not a fool.
but as he would say, how does nitpicking the bible with science add to my spiritual growth as a human being? Arent the lessons learned more important than what exactly did happen at time when nobody was around to record it?

its a fine discusion for some who are into that, but most folks are not. they just arent made that way.

i also know that there are some who really do think 6000yrs is absolute fact, and there is a cottage industry of 'scientific' book writers who cater to that, and want it taught in schools.
i'd say their numbers are about on par with those who want to install abortion clinics within the high schools.

in real politics, the vast wings of both left and right actually fall within these lines of extreme, not on them.

RW said...

The spiritual lessons of a 6000 year old Earth are what, then? That it's okay to take a beautiful poetic metaphor and tell everybody it was actual fact?

What lessons are there in the creation story? Why should "science" give a fuck what the creation story is or why it's supposed to matter?

My connection to the Bible starts with an understanding that it was build by a committee of men who had ties to political entities. I glean from it what examples and guidelines I can - but I recognize it is no more the ultimate word of God than any other book a fellow human *thinks* is sacrosanct.

However, to discount the 6000 year old nonsense being a foundational part of the contemporary conservative mantra and say "it's not that important" is dangerously disingenuous. It is an alert that goes off, and I don't buy the idea that "oh that's not important."

Because it is.

Dave said...

Support for O'Donnell in Delaware had more to do with opposition in the GOP rank and file to Mike Castle than any specific interest in O'Donnell's positions. What we have seen during the primaries are GOP voters who are expressing skepticism with the GOP crowd during the GWB years ... and that seems like a good thing to me.

RW said...

dave I think it's naive to ascribe that kind of altruism to what's going on. There are many reasons the Tea Party is going strong, but the ones the rank and file have are vastly different than the funders have.

Case in point.

Gino said...

ok, RW. tell me then why it is important?

do you really think science will be shutdown because a few loons cant let go of '6000 yrs'?

or, to use the others side, can i justify beleiving that all pregnancies will be aborted because a few loons want to put clinics in high schools?

sure, i guess one could slippery slope it, but it takes a more than a few loons to make the slope work. it takes a population and a society largely willing to tolerate the slope to begin with. and at that point,it doesnt matter who you elect anymore.

RW said...

It's important because we live in a world, and even if Real Americans don't want to admit it there are other countries passing us by in the realm of the sciences while we try to reconcile new techniques, medicines and theories with a jury-rigged book cobbled together somewhere in the 4th century or whenever it was.

When it comes to science we've got our head up our asses as far as I'm concerned. How long do people think we're going to get by just believing we've got the superior tech and all? Wishing won't make it so. And if we have to first consult a bible to see whether or not we can do research to help eradicate diseases then something is seriously addled.

I don't know what pregnancies and clinics in high school have to do with anything. If a local board somewhere wants or doesn't want clinics in high school why is it my business?

The libertarian answer is - what does the community decide? Not what does a book another man tells me is "holy" have to do with it.

RW said...

oh yeah I see where this is going. Now you say "well if the community decides to put Creationism in the curriculum then the libertarian answer is so what?" Right? You were thinking that next right?

Except this is why it's a false comparison. Science isn't decided by opinion polls, it's either science or it isn't. You don't put a pseudo-science in the curriculum because 51% of the people in the neighborhood think that's okay.

The other bit is a moral issue. There isn't any other thing to do with it except to go by community standards.

Or am I shadow boxing here, because I've been down this road 6,000 times before...

Gino said...

i'm saying a few loons, from either side, are not a big deal.
or not so much that its worth so much fear from those who oppose them.

as far as the US lacking in sciences, i'd say it has more to do with the sad state of education and the priorities of those who are charged to deliver it, rather than a few fundies in TX.

because i dont see an over arching abundance of scientists, doctors and shit coming out of chicago, new york, or los angeles, where millions are 'educated' every year, and the GOP christians have no power to speak of.

RW said...

maybe because all the best scientists come out of Baltimore and the Quaker-run Johns Hopkins? But of course in the mill you work in you run across a lot of scientists right? I'll refer directly to stem cell research which has the potential to address major problems, has been one of the first places the crazy-cons misrepresented what was going on (in no less the same way as they railed against "death panels" and other such invented bullshit after the "baby-harvesting" obfuscation); not to mention the so-called libertarian desire to stop funding research.

No sorry - you can downplay it all you'd like but that doesn't change the anti-intellectual bent of the Tea Party rank and file.

Finally I reject your characterization of "fear" as something maybe you wish people were doing so you can point and laugh at over-reaction. I personally find it, and their apologists, quite laughable at this point.

But you asked me why it was important and I told you why I thought it was. Then you're telling me a few loons here and there are not the problem, but I'll just harken back to what I originally suggested; and that this subject still requires vigilance lest those "few loons". Vigilance doesn't equal "fear", it equals vigilance, however you'd like to paint it to win a fucking talking point.

RW said...

"lest" should read "on".

I have no idea. Maybe beer....

Brian said...

Oh, hai guys!

The number of people that make a career out of promoting young earth creationism is certainly small, but the number of people that subscribe to it to some degree (or to some form of Biblical literalism) is not at all trivial in this country. In parts of the south and midwest, it is almost certainly a majority, depending on how you draw the lines.

It is *not* a fringe position, but is a profoundly stupid one. And on this point, I have to go a little Sam Harris here and cast an awful lot of blame on (theologically) liberal and moderate Christians for being too damn tolerant about it. It is completely insane that Biblical literalism commands as much respect in public discourse that it does.

Gino said...

RW: you said all the science folk was coming from overseas, and i think our science guy blogger has said largely the same thing in so many words.

i'm accepting your claim that such is true. but why arent they coming out of the non GOP areas is what you havent addressed. shouldnt these cities be pissing out scientist then, if its the GOP christians that are standing in the way?

or are you just blaming Jesus people because you dont like them. so yeah... throw it all at them. that'll do it.

brian: i cant speak about the south and midwest. i'll take your word for it. i just know the crowd i was once hanging with, long time ago. actually, they were a diverse group, various denominations with varying degrees of literalism, but generally falling under the evangelist lable.

they speak one way to each other, but when pressed, very few actually tow the young earth party line.

Brian said...

Regarding where scientists come from, and the effect of the local social/political/religious climate on that...I actually think that would be a great research project. Someone should look at that. Because I really don't think anyone has any rigorous data on it.

I think it's entirely possible that the local political and/or religious environment has very little effect in the aggregate...except in the very extreme cases. I'm thinking about really cloistered communities like the Holdeman Mennonites (my extended in-laws) where education beyond about the 10th grade is actively discouraged.

Of course, it's also a very tricky question to ask where a scientist "comes from". Am I from Jonesboro, GA (where I grew up), Atlanta (where I went to undergrad), or Tucson (where I went to grad school)? And I'm actually a relatively simple case...

All of that said...if you were a dogmatic and outspoken creationist, you would have a really hard time getting into a good PhD program in the biosciences.

Gino said...

i'm going to say that scientists are born, like athletes and artists.
and can be born anywhere.
a certain manner of thinking will always trump upbringing. (its a risky declaration to say that maybe?)

like in your case. the way your mind works, you were never going place your faith in certain ideas, like 6-day creationsism, regardless of how much bible study was fed to you.

back in school, i generally did well in science classes. it was always A's or B's. but i was never interested in it beyond that. i was never in a million yrs going to choose that path of travel. its not me.

RW said...

Gino, that's a ridiculous question but I've erased my first incredulous response and giving you the benefit of the doubt lest this discussion end with me telling you to blow it out your ass.

the actual question - the more important question - is why would it matter how many scientists "non-GOP areas" (whatever the fuck that IS) piss out when research is blocked by Republican judges still loyal to the tortured morality of the neocon years?

But you're right about one thing. I do put a lot of the blame on christians who are idiots. There are a lot of them around. Anybody who thinks that sickness and suffering is "God's Will" or something we shouldn't tamper with is not only an idiot but a dangerous, heartless, morally twisted living piece of shit.

As are the apologists who defend them.

My contempt for the Right gets stronger each passing day. I've never seen a bigger pack of anti-intellectual fuck heads congealed in one place before in my whole life.


Gino said...

if you are placing me in the 'apologists who defend them', then i've stated my case wrong.

i'm not defending them when i'm saying that they are not that big of a deal, threatwise, to the overall picture.
you've seen me arm wrestling and mocking fundies in another site, long ago.
why would i be defending them now?

so, it appears you are annoyed by the stem cell reasearch thing from last week(?), was it? i dont know the story. i saw the headline, yawned, and moved on.

you know my views on sanctity of life issues. they are not going to change...

...even when somebody tells me (they did) that some branch of this reasearch may help grow/heal my damaged nerve and its paralysis allowing to speak and live a normal life again.

you are free to disagree with me, of course.

as for hating the right: the tea party will finish it off. you should be cheering them on.

as for me, i'll sit back and watch.
i just cant get excited about some things anymore.