Richard Dawkins on Rick Perry (and the rest of the Republican Party)

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In summary: well, a thread about lack of understanding of basic science (and/or an effort to sabotage the public school science curriculum).
  • #1
NeoDevin
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Richard Dawkins said:
There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today’s Republican party (I disavow the ridiculous ‘GOP’ nickname, because the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt has lately forfeited all claim to be considered ‘grand’) is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today’s Republican Party ‘in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.

...

The population of the United States is more than 300 million and it includes some of the best and brightest that the human species has to offer, probably more so than any other country in the world. There is surely something wrong with a system for choosing a leader when, given a pool of such talent and a process that occupies more than a year and consumes billions of dollars, what rises to the top of the heap is George W Bush. Or when the likes of Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin can be mentioned as even remote possibilities.

A politician’s attitude to evolution is perhaps not directly important in itself. It can have unfortunate consequences on education and science policy but, compared to Perry’s and the Tea Party’s pronouncements on other topics such as economics, taxation, history and sexual politics, their ignorance of evolutionary science might be overlooked. Except that a politician’s attitude to evolution, however peripheral it might seem, is a surprisingly apposite litmus test of more general inadequacy. This is because unlike, say, string theory where scientific opinion is genuinely divided, there is about the fact of evolution no doubt at all. Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science, and he who denies it betrays woeful ignorance and lack of education, which likely extends to other fields as well. Evolution is not some recondite backwater of science, ignorance of which would be pardonable. It is the stunningly simple but elegant explanation of our very existence and the existence of every living creature on the planet. Thanks to Darwin, we now understand why we are here and why we are the way we are. You cannot be ignorant of evolution and be a cultivated and adequate citizen of today.

...

There are many reasons to vote against Rick Perry. His fatuous stance on the teaching of evolution in schools is perhaps not the first reason that springs to mind. But maybe it is the most telling litmus test of the other reasons, and it seems to apply not just to him but, lamentably, to all the likely contenders for the Republican nomination. The ‘evolution question’ deserves a prominent place in the list of questions put to candidates in interviews and public debates during the course of the coming election.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs...on-is-a-fact/2011/08/23/gIQAuIFUYJ_blog.html"

I would tend to agree that belief in evolution is a good indicator of general understanding of science (or perhaps more accurately, that lack of belief in evolution is a good indicator of lack of general understanding of science).

If a candidate cannot accept the preponderance of evidence supporting the theory which is the foundation of virtually all modern biology, and yet still feels qualified to espouse opinions on the topic, how can we trust that their opinions on other subjects are at all evidence based?

If a candidate is so blinded by their ideology that they can't even accept the evidence on something as basic as evolution, and doesn't have the basic integrity to admit "I haven't studied that, I don't know", how confident can we be that their other opinions - whether it be "lower taxes" for the Republicans, or "more social services" for the Democrats, or any other topic an individual is speaking about - will not be based on blind ideology instead of reasonable evidence.

What do you guys think? Is lack of understanding of basic science (and/or an effort to sabotage the public school science curriculum) a deal breaker for you? To me this signifies a fundamental disconnect from reality. I would rather vote for someone whose goals I disagree with, but who I trust to use actual evidence to pursue them and be honest about the evidence, rather than someone who shares the same goals as me, but lacks the mental capacity to rationally assess evidence, and/or is willing to lie in order to gain votes.

Edit: I don't want this thread to diverge to discussing individual policies, but rather to be a general discussion of science literacy and critical thinking and how important such things are to you when supporting a candidate, and whether the lack of these skills is a serious problem in the Republican party.
 
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  • #2
Excellent post Neo, the things you mentioned are extremely important to me.
 
  • #3
I, personally, don't care if my politicians understand science. However, I do want my politicians to say "I don't know" when confronted to science, instead of simply accepting an ideology without proof.
A person who says that "I don't know, so I can't judge" gains a lot of respect in my book.
 
  • #4
NeoDevin said:
Is lack of understanding of basic science (and/or an effort to sabotage the public school science curriculum) a deal breaker for you?

In general - yes. I can imagine situations when it would be not (say someone who doesn't know, but is honest enough to admit that), but I don't trust people who don't understand the basic scientific facts for the same reason Dawkins does. Once an ignorant, always an ignorant.
 
  • #5
Dawkins may be a gad-fly, but he has some good points WRT the willful ignorance of potential Republican candidates. Our political system should not be held hostage by politicians with religious agendas.
 
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  • #6
NeoDevin said:
whether the lack of these skills is a serious problem in the Republican party.

What's far worse to me than that it IS a serious problem in the Republican party is that they absolutely DON'T think it's a serious problem.
 
  • #7
Thanks to Astro for sending this article to me.

Rick Perry's Rally

The organizers of Perry's rally were from ministries founded by two apostles/prophets of the movement — The Call, and the International House of Prayer founded by Mike Bickle. Bickle, who led part of Perry's event, has claimed that Oprah Winfrey is a precursor of the Antichrist, and Engle has claimed that gay people are controlled by "demonic spirits." Both have served on the Council of Prophetic Elders initiated by Wagner.

"Lou Engle [has spoken] at length about how one of his sons has started an International House of Prayer in the Castro district of San Francisco and that his son is now expelling demons from homosexuals, and supposedly then this cures them of their homosexuality," says Tabachnick. "He has also held [prayer rallies] around the world."

http://www.npr.org/2011/08/24/139781021/the-evangelicals-engaged-in-spiritual-warfare
 
  • #8
it's too bad that Dawkins is simply a brit zoologist and doesn't understand the american political process. if he weren't so single-minded, he might realize that Perry is simply pandering to a certain constituency and we can't reliably infer his actual thoughts and beliefs from such nonsense.
 
  • #9
My guess is WhoWee disagrees.
 
  • #10
I don't like Richard Dawkins, but I have to agree with his first paragraph - especially:

In today’s Republican Party ‘in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.

That might be an exaggeration, but the debate question where every single Republican candidate raised their hand that they'd vote against a debt reduction bill that contained a 10 to 1 ratio between spending cuts and tax increases was pretty telling, as was the 2008 Republican debate question about evolution, specifically (but at least that vote wasn't unanimous).

You have a pretty disturbing bunch pushing the GOP bandwagon right now.

Of course, Proton Soup has the most accurate assessment of the situation. The problem is that the climate makes it hard to tell which of the Republican candidates really are idiots and which are only faking it so they can get nominated. (But not impossible - I'm more confident that Christine O'Donnell isn't smart than I am that she isn't a witch.)
 
  • #11
All I can say is, I wish there was a fiscally conservative party I could vote for that wasn't totally disconnected from reality when it comes to sexual politics, sex education, and evolution.

A solid, factual education for every person should be fundamental, not something that is argued for and against in politics.
 
  • #12
KingNothing said:
All I can say is, I wish there was a fiscally conservative party I could vote for that wasn't totally disconnected from reality when it comes to sexual politics, sex education, and evolution.

A solid, factual education for every person should be fundamental, not something that is argued for and against in politics.

This is an interesting grouping of political views: Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology

They even have a quiz so you can see where you fit.

I was a little surprised to wind up in the post-modern group. I thought I'd wind up closer to the conservative end. All in all, there were a few issues where I don't fit in the post-modern group at all, but I was surprised how many did match my views.

The political spectrum really has shifted to the right and the Republican Party's shift has been even more drastic than the rest of the population (which is why there's only two groups in the Republicans - most of the moderates have become Independents).
 
  • #13
KingNothing said:
My guess is WhoWee disagrees.

o:)
Full disclosure, I thought about challenging turbo's rant - about "willful ignorance" and "held hostage by morons" - but I really don't want to debate religion. I do however think religion will become an issue as the process moves forward and Romney begins to draw critics from both far left and far right.
 
  • #14
WhoWee said:
o:)
Full disclosure, I thought about challenging turbo's rant - about "willful ignorance" and "held hostage by morons" - but I really don't want to debate religion. I do however think religion will become an issue as the process moves forward and Romney begins to draw critics from both far left and far right.
Since most of the Republican politicians have decided to cozy up to religious groups, (Evangelicals in Perry's case, for instance) that religion is already a big part of it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/28/magazine/asking-candidates-tougher-questions-about-faith.html?_r=1

One woman who did not appear to be affiliated with [a group of anti-Perry] protesters ushered her son up to the governor and prompted him with questions for Perry like “do you believe in evolution?”
“It’s a theory that’s out there,” Perry told the child. “It’s got some gaps in it. In Texas we teach both creationism and evolution.”
Perry went on:

[To the boy]: “I figure you’re smart enough to figure out which one is right.”
During Perry’s time as governor the Texas Board of Education has faced intense national scrutiny for its re-framing of controversial subjects including evolution. In 2009, with Perry’s support, a bloc of social conservative school board members was able to change the state’s educational guidelines on evolution “to encourag(e) schools to scrutinize ‘all sides’ of scientific theory, a move some creationists hailed as a victory,” according to a CBS story.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs...and-evolution/2011/08/18/gIQARsf6NJ_blog.html
 
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  • #15
If Pawlenty would have talked a little bit more on that last debate, Dawkins point would be much more obvious. People might actually think, *is this the guy I should be voting for?* or worse yet, *is this a party I should be in?*.

It's not the guy, but the things he said just to get in the spotlight.
 
  • #16
Evo said:
Since most of the Republican politicians have decided to cozy up to religious groups, (Evangelicals in Perry's case, for instance) that religion is already a big part of it.

If Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton campaign for a Democrat nobody complains (although Rev Wright was another story). IMO - Perry is trying to solidify a Southern base and we'll see less moving forward. If anyone has noticed - it doesn't help Santorum.
 
  • #17
WhoWee said:
If Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton campaign for a Democrat nobody complains (although Rev Wright was another story). IMO - Perry is trying to solidify a Southern base and we'll see less moving forward. If anyone has noticed - it doesn't help Santorum.
The difference is that these politicians are holding prayer retreats, like the one Perry is holding saturday and are actively discussing religion as part of their campaign.
 
  • #18
WhoWee, I am curious about something and I'd like to hear your opinion. No, this isn't a trap :).

In your opinion is the GOP better off holding onto their religious allegiances, or ditching them?
 
  • #19
WhoWee said:
o:)
Full disclosure, I thought about challenging turbo's rant - about "willful ignorance" and "held hostage by morons" - but I really don't want to debate religion. I do however think religion will become an issue as the process moves forward and Romney begins to draw critics from both far left and far right.
My "rant" about willful ignorance? At what point will the right acknowledge that their movement has been co-opted by radicals who appeal to the unwashed masses? Can anyone here seriously support Bachmann, Palin, etc? I truly hope not, though I am seeing signs of intransigence in PF that make me fear for the US.
 
  • #20
per Jackson/Sharpton comments above, GOP isn't the only one that panders to a religious constituency.

http://articles.cnn.com/2008-02-02/politics/bill.clinton.tour_1_clinton-campaign-hillary-clinton-s-bill-clinton?_s=PM:POLITICS
 
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  • #21
Evo said:
The difference is that these politicians are holding prayer retreats, like the one Perry is holding saturday and are actively discussing religion as part of their campaign.

I think the longer Perry stays out there and the longer he is attacked over religion - the attacks (from the far left) will intensify and become more hostile to religion and offend a great many people (of all religions). The far left (people like Bill Maher) will not help the President win independent votes with their angry religion-based attacks - again IMO.
 
  • #22
BobG said:
This is an interesting grouping of political views: Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology

They even have a quiz so you can see where you fit.

I was a little surprised to wind up in the post-modern group. I thought I'd wind up closer to the conservative end. All in all, there were a few issues where I don't fit in the post-modern group at all, but I was surprised how many did match my views.

The political spectrum really has shifted to the right and the Republican Party's shift has been even more drastic than the rest of the population (which is why there's only two groups in the Republicans - most of the moderates have become Independents).

I placed post-modern, too.

I think Dawkins is right on his assessment. I could never vote for any of the current crop of Republicans because I hold very liberal social values AND I think the Republican party thinks it's better to be simple than smart. When they change those two things, I'll take another look at them.

Oh and they have to accept my atheism, too :biggrin:.
 
  • #23
Proton Soup said:
per Jackson/Sharpton comments above, GOP isn't the only one that panders to a religious constituency.

http://articles.cnn.com/2008-02-02/politics/bill.clinton.tour_1_clinton-campaign-hillary-clinton-s-bill-clinton?_s=PM:POLITICS
That had to do with countering a perceived racial remark, not about religion. He was doing racist damage control not religious.
 
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  • #24
Evo said:
That had to do with countering a perceived racial remark, not about religion. He was doing racist damage control not religious.

what's that got to do with the venue?
 
  • #25
WhoWee said:
I think the longer Perry stays out there and the longer he is attacked over religion - the attacks (from the far left) will intensify and become more hostile to religion and offend a great many people (of all religions). The far left (people like Bill Maher) will not help the President win independent votes with their angry religion-based attacks - again IMO.
So, how do we prevent these politicians that are running on religion and scientific misinformation from being elected without alienating the religious fundamentalists?
 
  • #26
Proton Soup said:
it's too bad that Dawkins is simply a brit zoologist and doesn't understand the american political process. if he weren't so single-minded, he might realize that Perry is simply pandering to a certain constituency and we can't reliably infer his actual thoughts and beliefs from such nonsense.

In which case the man lacks integrity and is a hypocrite.
 
  • #27
How about that; Dawkins and I completely agree on something.
 
  • #28
KingNothing said:
WhoWee, I am curious about something and I'd like to hear your opinion. No, this isn't a trap :).

In your opinion is the GOP better off holding onto their religious allegiances, or ditching them?

That's fair if we stick to politics - I just don't want to debate religion itself.

First, much like Mike Huckabee, I don't think Perry or Santorum are electable because of the way they share their beliefs. I don't think it's because the average person is anti-religion - but rather because abortion is a non-starter. I doubt very seriously if an anti-religion or more specifically a proclaimed atheist candidate would be electable either.

Not to sidetrack, but I saw an interview with Al Sharpton a few months ago and the subject was abortion. Al was careful to walk the Dem Party line and support it - then the host asked him if he realized how many black babies (specifically) have been aborted since legalization? He was clearly stunned by the numbers (as was I). I've never seen him speechless and absolutely stumped before - his face dropped and his mouth was open for a few moments. He finally recovered and said he'd like to see those numbers - nothing else.

If the left pushes too hard against religion - President Obama could lose support amongst Black and Hispanic church groups as they seek to defend Republicans. Although unless they embrace the Republican - they might just stay home and the vote won't convert (a -1 but not +1).

When the issue moves off of abortion, I think Republicans are wise to resist and push back the ultra liberal agenda when the left pushes the limits with regards to sex education and legalization of drugs. I posted earlier in a thread about a child porn ring regarding psychologists that want to help people who are sexually attracted to children - to better understand and accept them (or some crap - IMO).

A hard left person might find it necessary to defend the undefendable (a la Alan Combs - I actually feel sorry for him sometimes when he defends hard left positions) - by comparison an ultra right person will sound quite reasonable in such a discussion - again IMO.
 
  • #29
Proton Soup said:
it's too bad that Dawkins is simply a brit zoologist and doesn't understand the american political process. if he weren't so single-minded, he might realize that Perry is simply pandering to a certain constituency and we can't reliably infer his actual thoughts and beliefs from such nonsense.

Are you sure Dawkins doesn't know that? That Perry might be doing that makes him equally poor a choice IMO.
 
  • #30
Evo said:
So, how do we prevent these politicians that are running on religion and scientific misinformation from being elected without alienating the religious fundamentalists?

Why would you want to prevent someone that is easily attacked from running? The left is on their knees praying for Palin to announce - IMO.
 
  • #31
WhoWee said:
Why would you want to prevent someone that is easily attacked from running? The left is on their knees praying for Palin to announce - IMO.

You are assuming that everyone supporting the left wouldn't support a viable option from the right.

I happen to think Obama is unique and unusually talented as politicians go, so it's hard to imagine someone from the right winning me over, but I do want to see a viable and valuable right wing; not what we have today.

The US political process has effectively been reduced to a religious war.
 
  • #32
WhoWee said:
Why would you want to prevent someone that is easily attacked from running?
Because I've never been this frightened by the people running before. I'm not kidding. I at one time considered myself Republican, 30+ years ago. Now it makes me physically ill when I look at the list of potentials and worry that one of them could get elected.

No offense to anyone intended, just really frightened for the first time in my life. What will happen to women's rights? What will happen to gay rights? What will happen to education and advancing scientific knowledge? What will happen to every freedom that we have fought so hard for all these years to make this country a decent place to live?

I don't want to be thrown back to the Salem Witch trials. These people that the candidates are surrounding them selves with believe in witches and demons!

IMO to all.
 
  • #33
Ivan Seeking said:
You are assuming that everyone supporting the left wouldn't support a viable option from the right.

I happen to think Obama is unique and unusually talented as politicians go, so it's hard to imagine someone from the right winning me over, but I do want to see a viable and valuable right wing; not what we have today.

I've never attempted to argue that President Obama is an untalented politician - quite the opposite! I just think his executive skill set is equivalent to Kim Kardashian's skills as an entertainer.
 
  • #34
WhoWee said:
I've never attempted to argue that President Obama is an untalented politician - quite the opposite! I just think his executive skill set is equivalent to Kim Kardashian's skills as an entertainer.
I was never an Obama fan, I only backed him after McCain announced Palin. At that point, I would have supported Porky Pig.
 
  • #35
The Republican refusal to accept evolution I'd put right up there with many of the Democratic party views on issues of economics. Both parties cling to ideology on certain issues. There's a saying: You don't want Republicans in the bedroom, or Democrats in the boardroom.

It is true, sadly, that too much of the Republican party has a populist strain that disgains intellectualism. There's probably a term for it, but it's bad. It is the opposite strain of intellectual elitism. There's the one extreme, of intellectuals who think they know what's best, that they are better than everyone else, and that they thus should be given the power to boss everyone else around. Generally these types also hold the view that if you didn't go to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc...that you have no business running for President. That is wrong. But the other extreme, one exploited by populists oftentimes to win points with portions of the general public, is a disdain for intellectualism. That anyone intellectual is a cocktail-sipping elitist who has no business giving any opinions on anything and doesn't understand the real world and so forth.

BobG said:
That might be an exaggeration, but the debate question where every single Republican candidate raised their hand that they'd vote against a debt reduction bill that contained a 10 to 1 ratio between spending cuts and tax increases was pretty telling, as was the 2008 Republican debate question about evolution, specifically (but at least that vote wasn't unanimous).

The Republicans in 2008 being against evolution was just ideology or playing to the party. Being against tax increases with spending cuts is because the spending cuts virtually never occur.

KingNothing said:
All I can say is, I wish there was a fiscally conservative party I could vote for that wasn't totally disconnected from reality when it comes to sexual politics, sex education, and evolution.

Usually in other countries, these are known as the Liberal Party (classical liberals, for inidividualism, limited government, free-market capitalism, etc...but they tend to lack the social conservatism of the American Republican party).

turbo said:
At what point will the right acknowledge that their movement has been co-opted by radicals who appeal to the unwashed masses?

The "unwashed masses?" That statement really says a lot.

Can anyone here seriously support Bachmann, Palin, etc? I truly hope not, though I am seeing signs of intransigence in PF that make me fear for the US.

What makes you think the general American public would vote for either of these candidates into the White House? Either of them would likely get Barack Obama re-elected. They can win points with certain segments of the American population, but the overall voting block, they will not win it.
 

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