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"The minute the Republican Party becomes the anti-science party, we have a huge problem."
August 24, 2011 10:31 AM   Subscribe

In a widely discussed tweet last week, Jon Huntsman broke with the stated opinion of every other major Republican presidential candidate†:
@JonHuntsman "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."
Is Huntsman's announcement a shrewd move to establish his campaign as "the only moderate" candidacy in the crowded G.O.P. field, or is it evidence of a man sticking by his principles and "having a little fun" in a primary he knows he cannot win?

The Atlantic looks at the state of opinion among Republican voters on global warming and evolution:
In a 2010 Pew survey, only about one in six Republicans said they believed human activity was changing the climate. In a Gallup survey this March that phrased the question differently, 36 percent of Republicans said they believed pollution from human activities had contributed to "increases in the Earth's temperature over the last century," while 62 percent of Republicans attributed those changes to natural changes in the environment. Rejection of the scientific consensus on climate change has become an article of faith for virtually all elements of the GOP coalition.
Both the Gallup and Pew surveys found that a majority of Democrats attribute climate change to human activity. Independents fell in between Republicans and Democrats on the matter.
On evolution, just 23 percent of Republicans said in a 2009 Pew poll that human life had evolved solely through a natural process, while another 26 percent said evolution had occurred under divine guidance and 39 percent said life has always existed in its present form. When Gallup phrased the choices slightly differently last December, just 8 percent of Republicans said they believed human life had evolved without assistance from God, 36 percent said evolution had proceeded under divine guidance, and a 52 percent majority said God had created "human beings pretty much in their present form."
†Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney believes that "the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that," but has not fully clarified his position on evolution; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) stated that "climate change is real" but has not (yet?) declared his candidacy and his position on evolution remains unclear; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has long argued that the evidence for global warming is sufficient, but continues to take a nuanced stance to creationism and evolution.
posted by 2bucksplus (130 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
So how long do you think it will take before Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry burn him in a giant wicker man?
posted by elizardbits at 10:34 AM on August 24, 2011 [20 favorites]


The Onion: White-Hot GOP Race Down To Two Mentally Ill People, Person Who Lost Nomination Last Time
posted by schmod at 10:34 AM on August 24, 2011 [30 favorites]


He should be commended for using the scientific method of licking his finger and holding it up to see which way the wind is blowing.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:35 AM on August 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


Ok. YOU CRAZY!
posted by spicynuts at 10:37 AM on August 24, 2011


Well, that's the end of his career.
posted by octothorpe at 10:38 AM on August 24, 2011


As usual, The Onion nailed it.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 10:39 AM on August 24, 2011


It doesn't bode well when the relatively sane are running just for a lark, because there's no chance to win.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:39 AM on August 24, 2011 [16 favorites]


On the other hand, he locked up the Captain Beefheart vote.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:41 AM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


You know who else loved Captain Beefheart? Frank Zappa.
posted by Splunge at 10:42 AM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also I think what he meant was "The minute the Republican Party BECAME the anti-science party, we should have had a huge problem, but this is America."
posted by spicynuts at 10:42 AM on August 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


Back during Obama's campaign when all the nonsense about his crazy preacher came out, I really wondered how religious of a man Obama actually is. If he's not that religious, he could just say, "look, I don't really ever go to church, so I really don't have anything to do with Crazy Preacher." But he has to say he's a Christian, otherwise he's done for. Better to be saddled with the stigma of crazy guy than to out yourself as a nonbeliever.

Now don't get me wrong, I love me some America (you'd be hard-pressed to find someone more USA! USA! than me). But damnit just once I'd like for a candidate to be able to say: "I'm an atheist, I believe in evolution, and if elected I'll do everything in my power to help science find ways to make our lives better," without being seen as some stuck-up intellectual from "not real" America. Three cheers to Jon Huntsman for not being afraid to stick his neck out.
posted by phunniemee at 10:43 AM on August 24, 2011 [32 favorites]


So how long do you think it will take before Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry burn him in a giant wicker man?

You joke, but just wait until the crops start failing...
posted by hermitosis at 10:45 AM on August 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


The Republican Party not only embraced the Religious Right, it has learned from them, and adopted many of their methods. Their message is, The Republicans are a community, and in order to be part of our community, there are things you have to believe, as a matter of faith, which cannot be questioned. Among them are Taxes Can Never Be Raised, Global Warming Is a Lie, and Evolution Is a Lie. Those who stray from these beliefs are virulently attacked and ultimately shunned.

The core Right Wing of the party, the Tea Party, is indistiguishable from a religion.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 10:48 AM on August 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


all the nonsense about his crazy preacher came out

It says a lot about where we're at, that saying that this country was founded on taking land by force, using forced labor, and a long history of violence and human rights violations = crazy.

2+2 = 5 and all that.
posted by yeloson at 10:48 AM on August 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


Why are the Republican candidates that don't effing scare the bejeezus out of me the only ones who apparently have zero chance of winning? Why the hell can't the right wing embrace some sanity? I am so goddamn tired of listening to batshitinsane crazy people being taken seriously as a potential leader of the US. It makes me sad and embarrassed to live here. I can't even begin to imagine how it makes the rest of the world feel to have the prospect of a lunatic potentially being a few months away from having his or her hand on the suitcase with the nuclear launch codes.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:49 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Science™ ...at least it still works for PR in America.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:49 AM on August 24, 2011


phunniemee:

According to a University of Minnesota study atheists are America's most distrusted minority group:
Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:50 AM on August 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


But damnit just once I'd like for a candidate to be able to say: "I'm an atheist, I believe in evolution, and if elected I'll do everything in my power to help science find ways to make our lives better," without being seen as some stuck-up intellectual from "not real" America.

Oh, plenty of candidates have said that...

...to the tears slowly accumulating in their empty pint glass as they contemplated being beaten to a County Alderman position by someone who won on a platform based around exposing the fact that Satan making apes resemble people because climate change is a only a theory and gays did 9/11.
posted by griphus at 10:50 AM on August 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


A google image search for "Huntsman Jon LOL" does not yield the appropriate results. Is my my internet is broken?
posted by jeffburdges at 10:51 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


He could have combined the tweets into one....

To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Sure nuff N yes I do
posted by ian1977 at 10:54 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huntsman played keyboards in a prog rock band called Wizard. With this and his Captain Beefheart name-drop, is he trying to win the record nerd vote?
posted by jonp72 at 10:55 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


According to a University of Minnesota study atheists are America's most distrusted minority group

I remember seeing that somewhere before--I think on an episode of the short-lived Morgan Spurlock show 30 Days?

Close your eyes for a moment and picture in your head a person who is so sad that they melt down into a puddle of goo, such that only their sad eyes and frown remain, floating on top of the goo pile. Got that image? Yeah, that's what I felt like mere seconds after seeing those poll results. :(
posted by phunniemee at 10:56 AM on August 24, 2011


I believe in evolution ...

This is a meaningless statement. Science doesn't require BELIEF. Science requires understanding the process of collecting data, creating a model of reality that fits the data, testing the predictive power of the model, and revising the model as new data appear.

Some religions, on the other hand, see only that the models are incomplete, then accept BELIEF as the only "truth."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 10:57 AM on August 24, 2011 [11 favorites]


Sure, Huntsman trusts scientists about global warming, but he doesn't want anything done about it:
“We don’t make things anymore in this country. We need to start making things in this country. And in order to do that, we need serious regulatory reform, not just repealing Obamacare, but ending the EPA’s regulatory reign of terror.”
posted by jessssse at 10:57 AM on August 24, 2011 [15 favorites]


I'll give him credit for bravery and/or brain cells, but my teeth always grind when it is presented as a matter for "belief" or "disbelief".

It's a scientific theory with testable hypotheses, corroborating evidence. The weight of the evidence supports the theory. If evidence appears to challenge the hypothesis, the hypothesis will be revised.

No one is taking a poll to determine if the theory is correct. Who cares what your belief is.
posted by superelastic at 11:00 AM on August 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


polls show the average American considers atheists to be less trustworthy than child molesters, so i'm better it'll be a while yet before someone's able to run for office in a meaningful way without at least claiming to be Christian.

it makes me tremendously uncomfotable to know that they cite the lack of "moral base" as one of the primary reasons for distrust, as if i couldn't possibly differentiate between good and bad without an invisible, omnipotent diety watching everything i do and keeping score.

honestly, that's terrifying. to me it says plainly that the average person would be raping and killing and basically being the worst kind of person possible if they didn't subvert their own true desires based on a fear retribution from their diety, and therefore they assume (read : project) that i must simply BE that terrible person as i fear no wrath from above and therefore have no reason to subvert my basest desires.

this further implies that the good of society is literally no concern of theirs, and could not possibly be a concern of anyone who doesn't believe what they believe, dogmatically.

terrifying.
posted by radiosilents at 11:00 AM on August 24, 2011 [31 favorites]


“We don’t make things anymore in this country. We need to start making things in this country. And in order to do that, we need serious regulatory reform, not just repealing Obamacare, but ending the EPA’s regulatory reign of terror.”


christ,
posted by beefetish at 11:01 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Our long national nightmare of war and austerity is finally over begun over begun over [ANSWER HAZY, ASK AGAIN LATER]
posted by blue_beetle at 11:01 AM on August 24, 2011


ZenMaster, I have achieved satori thanks to your post :-)
posted by superelastic at 11:02 AM on August 24, 2011


A Republican that likes Beefheart? I'd vote for him.
posted by eggtooth at 11:07 AM on August 24, 2011


Rejection of the scientific consensus on climate change has become an article of faith

Well, doesn't it pretty much have to be?
posted by nickmark at 11:11 AM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a meaningless statement. Science doesn't require BELIEF.

First, you're using a ridiculously narrow fake definition of the word "belief." Is that what the all-caps version is indicating? Second, it's not a meaningless statement. It's a meaningful statement that you've intentionally misunderstood in order to make what you think is a point.
posted by The World Famous at 11:17 AM on August 24, 2011 [31 favorites]


I've spent time in the pit arguing with these people over evolution and global warming and there is no hope because the more you argue, the more hard core their position becomes. There is actually scientific evidence of this phenomenon - the more you defend your position, the more real it becomes. I think that's what's happening nationally, people arguing and getting increasingly set in their view until we now have a large percent of the country believing a 1% minority of scientists (and the PR that follows).
posted by stbalbach at 11:17 AM on August 24, 2011


While Perry has come out in support of Beefheart's early Howlin' Wolf-inspired work, Bachmann stubbornly clings to the "Tragic Band"-era mid-'70s disappointments "Unconditionally Guaranteed" and "Bluejeans and Moonbeams." Ron Paul, however, is straight "Bat Chain Puller" all the way, and Mitt Romney likes the paintings...
posted by AJaffe at 11:18 AM on August 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


The more you use something as a political issue, the more it sounds like bullshit.
posted by The World Famous at 11:19 AM on August 24, 2011


I'm disturbed how the post used the "†" to denote the footnote, rather than the typical six-pointed "*". Couldn't we have just gone with the non-denominational "§"?
posted by jabberjaw at 11:20 AM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


jabberjaw: Don't get the Church of the Mighty Hurricane people angry. I got spam in the mailbox for months after I insulted one of their door-to-door people.
posted by cthuljew at 11:24 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


First, you're using a ridiculously narrow fake definition of the word "belief." Is that what the all-caps version is indicating? Second, it's not a meaningless statement. It's a meaningful statement that you've intentionally misunderstood in order to make what you think is a point.

Wow. Hostile much?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:27 AM on August 24, 2011


Wow. Hostile much?

Hostile toward people who are so anti-religion that they can't even see science straight, yes. Much.
posted by The World Famous at 11:28 AM on August 24, 2011


"To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."

How about I call you opportunistic in a way that makes you appear far saner than the other candidates running?

This is a meaningless statement. Science doesn't require BELIEF.

I'm being charitable here and choosing to interpret this as "I believe that the scientific evidence demonstrates that evolution is the best answer we have for the biological diversity we see today" but sound-bite'd into a format that will be acceptable by the Right.

But then, my charitablenesses might be blinding me here to a more dog-whistle intent that I'm not hearing.
posted by quin at 11:30 AM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thought I'd warn you guys, my dad, who's pretty far right, just mentioned John Bolton as someone whose writings I should look into. (I cut him off, citing "I'm at work" and "I'm familiar with the guy. UN hater sent to the UN by Bush, waterboy for Iran Contra actors, yepp....")

There's your surprise candidate.
posted by notsnot at 11:31 AM on August 24, 2011


People DO love Wilford Brimley...
posted by phearlez at 11:32 AM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


"And in order to do that, we need serious regulatory reform, not just repealing Obamacare, but ending the EPA’s regulatory reign of terror."

Damn me, but the Democrats need to shift the frame. Start referring to financial and environmental regulations as laws, as in "law and order;" in counterpoint, you might talk about constrictive, overly meddlesome marijuana regulations.
posted by Iridic at 11:33 AM on August 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


it'll be a while yet before someone's able to run for office in a meaningful way without at least claiming to be Christian.

Are you sure about that? Because I'm not quite as convinced.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:02 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was about to joke (for the West Wing fans) that I'd know Huntsman wasn't serious if he refused to sign the ethanol pledge. Turns out he did refuse.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:03 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


2bucksplus: "According to a University of Minnesota study atheists are America's most distrusted minority group"

That's something that I've quoted quite a bit to people. However...

New York Times:
Of course, politicians of all stripes are not faring well among the public these days. But in data we have recently collected, the Tea Party ranks lower than any of the 23 other groups we asked about — lower than both Republicans and Democrats. It is even less popular than much maligned groups like “atheists” and “Muslims.” Interestingly, one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right.
That gives me a bit of hope.
posted by brundlefly at 12:06 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Huntsman sheds moderate label on abortion
posted by homunculus at 12:12 PM on August 24, 2011


I am so goddamn tired of listening to batshitinsane crazy people being taken seriously as a potential leader of the US.

You can thank modern movement conservatism's decades-long project to portray the media as "liberal."
posted by Gelatin at 12:21 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


First, you're using a ridiculously narrow fake definition of the word "belief." Is that what the all-caps version is indicating? Second, it's not a meaningless statement. It's a meaningful statement that you've intentionally misunderstood in order to make what you think is a point.

...

Hostile toward people who are so anti-religion that they can't even see science straight, yes. Much.



Alright, you might be baiting me but, in case you're not, I really want to understand (NB: I'm not a philosophy buff). What's the issue:

1) I took "belief," perhaps incorrectly, to mean "faith," ie. acceptance without knowledge / proof.

2) The point I was making is that science is a process that iteratively converges on truth, sometimes over rather long periods of time. I think I summarized the process pretty tidily.

3) I said that some, not all, religions use the inherent incompleteness of scientific theories as an excuse to completely reject them.



And sorry 'bout the all-caps.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:22 PM on August 24, 2011


First, you're using a ridiculously narrow fake definition of the word "belief." Is that what the all-caps version is indicating? Second, it's not a meaningless statement. It's a meaningful statement that you've intentionally misunderstood in order to make what you think is a point.

This is ridiculous. There's nothing wrong or offensive about saying that science is not a matter of faith and that suggesting climate change is a thing one "believes in" is a facile argument to begin with. That you find it "anti-religion" (nice ad hominem there, BTW) is meaningless because I simply don't hold the same opinion as you. You may as well say that ZenMasterThis' comment offends you because you dislike the color of his shirt.

Instead of choosing the kneejerk act of self-defensiveness you might want to consider that insisting on labeling evolution, global warming, etc. as things to "believe in" is a specific tactic of the religious right for the sole purpose of equating fact and opinion in this argument. You have certainly picked the wrong side in terms of who is creating a "narrow fake definition." Right-wingers have written entire books on how they refer to "evolutionism" and "church of global warming." Are you aware of this?

ZenMasterThis is right: one does not "believe" in a scientific fact or not. The very language of that statement suggests an equivalency that not only doesn't exist but to which its non-existence is the entire point of the debate itself. To demand I accept this is to demand that I engage in a debate with you under the guidelines that something I know to be untrue is a possibility for the pure sake of you feeling that I'm not "anti-religion," and that makes you the unfair person here, not me.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:22 PM on August 24, 2011 [13 favorites]


According to a University of Minnesota study atheists are America's most distrusted minority group:

That's a survey taken in 2006. A more recent survey has different results. Atheists and Muslims remain low on the list, sadly, but there's another group that is even less popular than both those two as of this August:

The Tea Party.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:32 PM on August 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


When did belief and faith become synonyms? What did I miss?
posted by jsturgill at 12:36 PM on August 24, 2011


If we're going to end up with a Republican, I would prefer one who understands climate change is a reality, accepts evolution, and wants to build in exceptions whilst busy banning abortion. I continue to be STUNNED that these are qualities that have to be sought out in any candidate from any party. But, that being the case, resumably that means this guy is not electable.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:38 PM on August 24, 2011


thesaurus.com: Belief
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:38 PM on August 24, 2011


> Science doesn't require BELIEF.

I believe in gravity.

posted by mmrtnt at 12:52 PM on August 24, 2011


Scientist A: Hey, Scientist B, did you remember to turn the lights off in the lab when you left?

Scientist B: I believe so.

Scientist A: IMPOSTOR!!!!!!!
posted by The World Famous at 12:55 PM on August 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


I believe in gravity.

Well, no, you don't. That's my point. Unless you mean that gravity is running for Mayor and you believe in Gravity i.e. Gravity is an honest person.

Or you can say "I don't believe gravity exists" because that is a scientific hypothesis that counters a scientific theory which you must then prove. You can say "I believe in gravity's usefulness toward the act of keeping me from flying off the surface of the planet" because that is a reflection of how much you enjoy what gravity does. But you can't just say "I believe in gravity" as if that means.... anything. I believe in the color red. What luck; the color red exists. What a leap of faith!

I don't understand why there seems to be a nitpicky argument about this but I imagine it's going to descend into petty attempts to find clever gotchas on everyone so I guess I should stop contributing to the derail. Maybe you're trying to make a different point about this but I'm pretty sure that everyone here is intelligent enough to understand what mine is, and if you're choosing to pretend not to then we should stop talking to each other anyway.

OP: Guessed right.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:04 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, no, you don't. That's my point. Unless you mean that gravity is running for Mayor and you believe in Gravity i.e. Gravity is an honest person.

OK, so how do you say "I believe in evolution" in scientifically correct terms?

I don't think you'll be able to come up with something equally snappy in four words or less. Also, you want to keep the word "I" in there, because it will be more personal and appealing than anything without that word. Lose the "I" and you lose 90% of all people listening.
posted by sour cream at 1:18 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fact obviously doesn't require my belief. But "believe" just as often means "my best understanding based on the best evidence available to me" not just "have faith in." I believe it's cloudy but not raining because I'm looking out the window. If I walked out and learned there was, in fact, a fine mist I couldn't see, my belief would change in light of the new fact. My belief is just my current best judgement as to the state of the world, regardless of where it originates. It can be well-founded or based on foolish gullibility.


Nonetheless, "Science doesn't require belief" isn't too helpful. One can easily snap back "Creation by almighty God doesn't require your belief. Your proof will come when you burn in hell's fire."


And people's belief does matter, even if it's ill-founded. If my neighbor's belief in magic effects what my child is taught about basic biology, it matters a bit to me.
posted by tyllwin at 1:21 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Count me on the side of not understanding ZenMasterThis's point. From your own link to thesaurus.com: "putting regard in as true". Do you not feel this way about evolution? Am I misunderstanding you, or did you link to it because it includes "faith" as a synonym? What about the fact that it includes "certainty, conclusion, conviction, credence, hypothesis, knowledge, theorem, and theory"?
posted by neuromodulator at 1:23 PM on August 24, 2011


I don't understand why there seems to be a nitpicky argument about this but I imagine it's going to descend into petty attempts to find clever gotchas on everyone so I guess I should stop contributing to the derail. Maybe you're trying to make a different point about this but I'm pretty sure that everyone here is intelligent enough to understand what mine is, and if you're choosing to pretend not to then we should stop talking to each other anyway.

It's simple: most people are not scientists and don't have the knowledge to properly evaluate scientific hypotheses. Even scientists are limited in this regard once they go outside their field. A statement of belief is not a disavowal of the scientific method, it's an acknowledgement of the speaker's trust in someone else's judgment of the subject - hopefully, that of a scientist.

I know basic mechanics and the theory of how and why an aerofoil works. I know a bit less about mechanical engineering, but a good bit more about statistics and engineering ethics and liability calculation. When I get on an airplane and fly somewhere I don't accept the hypothesis that the shape and structure of the aircraft is optimized to fly a load of size X over a distance Y with a Z probability of failure. I know there's a small possibility of failure (because planes sometimes crash), but basically I believe that the engineers, maintainers and operators of the aircraft know what they're doing well enough that I'll probably arrive safely despite the risks of flying through the air in a lightweight metal tube propelled at very high speeds by giant fans, the operation of which involves something like 100,000 subcomponents.

I love the scientific method. I use it all the time, because it's an efficient one for solving problems. But I still hold lots of beliefs because I'm too busy to investigate everything myself so I outsource the hypothesis-formation-and-testing process to other people with Ph.Ds and so forth. I don't think they're right because they have Ph.Ds, I think they have Ph.Ds because they have a fairly consistent track record of being right about whatever it is they specialize in, and there is only so much time in the day. Even Karl Popper talked about having beliefs, where the term 'belief' is synonymous with 'current opinion that I may change at some later time'.

tl;dr 'belief' =/= 'dogmatic religiosity', and your linguistic hall monitoring is not advancing the discussion.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:29 PM on August 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


ZenMasterThis was responding to my statement asking when the two words became synonyms. It was a fair response, as I didn't word my thought correctly.
posted by jsturgill at 1:31 PM on August 24, 2011


anigbrowl, if you want to keep me here about this fine, but I don't think I was the first person playing "linguistic hall monitor." It seemed clear to anyone without a kneejerky agenda that the original comment about "science isn't a belief" used "belief" in the sense of comparing it to the "belief" found in religious faith. A large group of people are now interpreting it differently, or perhaps merely choosing to pretend they don't get it to win at Internet Comment Hero. If I'm the person you're addressing as a "hall monitor" then please, rest assured that I truly do not have the capacity to take on every "well how about THIS example" argument being sputtered out here and I even more truly don't even want to- nor do I think the mods want me to.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:40 PM on August 24, 2011


Oh, I just saw the link without that context and thought it was supposed to stand as a total refutation of any objection or something. Apologies.
posted by neuromodulator at 1:42 PM on August 24, 2011


No worries. Your response is pretty on-topic and helps highlight the oddity of this situation in a way that my comment completely failed to do. I really don't understand why people are treating belief and faith as interchangeable words, when in most uses there are significant shades of difference in meaning between them.
posted by jsturgill at 1:47 PM on August 24, 2011


jsturgill: In many churches you'll find the opposite to be true.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:48 PM on August 24, 2011


I believe in the color red. What luck; the color red exists. What a leap of faith!

Dude, if most people from France denied that the color red existed, it'd be refreshing to hear someone from France say "I believe in the color red" even there is a better word to use there than "believe". Wouldn't it? Now replace "people from France" with Republicans. Replace "the color red" with "evolution".

This isn't a game of Simon says. Give the guy a break for not expressing himself 100% correctly.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:56 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, ZenMasterThis, let's hypothetically say that you are a candidate for President of the United States. You are standing at the podium in the first debate against your opponent. The moderator asks the first question: "Do you believe in organic evolution? Please answer only yes or no."

Do you answer that no, you do not believe in organic evolution?
posted by The World Famous at 2:00 PM on August 24, 2011


Worse, if you say it isn't a yes-or-no question, the cynic in the audience, like me, will assume you're too afraid to give an honest answer.
posted by tyllwin at 2:05 PM on August 24, 2011


He did express himself %100 correctly, though. I do take it a matter of faith, frankly, that everything I've read about evolution is more or less factually accurate, and that when the complexity extends beyond my ability to understand, that the experts are more or less correct. We all do that. I do believe in evolution.
posted by neuromodulator at 2:06 PM on August 24, 2011


the original comment about "science isn't a belief" used "belief" in the sense of comparing it to the "belief" found in religious faith

A kind of "belief" which Huntsman was not expressing in the first place, and the overly narrow definition of which has now derailed the discussion completely.

So dogmatic religious types go around saying nonsense like 'science is just a belief' - well, so fucking what? That's actually the case for an awful lot of people, and they want to have the epistemological argument because it takes the focus off the substantial question. 'Hurf durf but scientific method!!' means you're now talking about philosophy instead of global warming/evolution/stem cells.

You know what works a lot better? 'Yes, that is my belief - because it seems to deliver reliable results (/jobs/growth/ponies).' If your goal is to maintain or secure funding for climate change, then your metric of success is the reliability of your predictions. I'm not interested in getting the dogmatic religious person to change his/her mind and agree with me, and that's just as well because it's probably not going to happen. I'm interested in getting the uncommitted listener to bet his vote/$ on the probability of the scientists being correct. It's politics, not philosophy. The goal is persuasion, not proof.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:06 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I believe in love.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:08 PM on August 24, 2011


they [= dogmatic religious people, not the unscientific public] want to have the epistemological argument
posted by anigbrowl at 2:09 PM on August 24, 2011


So, ZenMasterThis, let's hypothetically say that you are a candidate for President of the United States. You are standing at the podium in the first debate against your opponent. The moderator asks the first question: "Do you believe in organic evolution? Please answer only yes or no."

Do you answer that no, you do not believe in organic evolution?



I don't believe in politics.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:10 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


"To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."

That sounds like someone I'd trust to not screw people over because of a gross misunderstanding of basic science. Call me crazy.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:12 PM on August 24, 2011


I don't believe in politics.

I have collected data, created a model of reality that fits the data, tested the predictive power of the model, and revised the model as new data appear, and I can assure you with 100% peer-reviewed, empirically-provable, falsifiable, scientific-brand certainty that politics does, in fact, exist. It was a real road to Damascus experience for me. Would you like a pamphlet?
posted by The World Famous at 2:14 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


On evolution, just 23 percent of Republicans said in a 2009 Pew poll that human life had evolved solely through a natural process, while another 26 percent said evolution had occurred under divine guidance and 39 percent said life has always existed in its present form. When Gallup phrased the choices slightly differently last December, just 8 percent of Republicans said they believed human life had evolved without assistance from God, 36 percent said evolution had proceeded under divine guidance, and a 52 percent majority said God had created "human beings pretty much in their present form."

Republican leaders are making republican supporters believe what they claim to believe.

You can change that to any other political power from any time and place in history and it works.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:16 PM on August 24, 2011


Would you like a pamphlet?

Already read it. It was stuffed inside a tea pot I found orbiting Earth.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:24 PM on August 24, 2011


Already read it. It was stuffed inside a tea pot I found orbiting Earth.

Interestingly enough, there have actually been several teapots in orbit around the Earth since humans started putting stuff up there. I doubt any of them contained political pamphlets, though.

It doesn't matter whether or not you believe in politics. Politics exists regardless of your approval, belief, or acknowledgement. And politics is the context of Huntsman's statement. The context is also Twitter, which limits the number of characters in a statement.

On the subject of whether or not you accept organic evolution as fact (which is what "belief" means), and in the context of your initial comment, I'm curious as to just how many people you think are actually qualified to make any statement about whether or not organic evolution is a fact. I, for example, accept organic evolution as fact. And I do "understand the process of collecting data, creating a model of reality that fits the data, testing the predictive power of the model, and revising the model as new data appear." But I have not personally collected the data, created the models, tested the models, etc. with regard to organic evolution. I have participated in some very limited subsets of those things as a student. But my acceptance of organic evolution as fact is based primarily on my acceptance of numerous sources of information as credible and truthful.

Now, I suppose you could be the one person who walked out of An Inconvenient Truth saying "sure, it's an interesting film, but I can't accept any of its assertions until I gather and test data." But to genuinely and consistently approach matters - scientific or otherwise - with that level of skepticism and rigor would make life pretty miserable, wouldn't it?
posted by The World Famous at 2:38 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


(And you're going to have to take my assertion about teapots on faith, since I don't have a cite for it.)
posted by The World Famous at 2:39 PM on August 24, 2011


The linguistic nage-waza that's being practised here is the equation of belief (which is falsifiable) with faith (which is not).

The essence of science is falsifiability.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:41 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


The essence of science is falsifiability.

That's true. But I don't have time to test the falsifiability of organic evolution right now. Does that mean I'm not allowed to have an opinion about it?
posted by The World Famous at 2:44 PM on August 24, 2011


Meantime, does it help or hurt Hunstman to position himself as the GOP's Science! candidate? Do investors on Wall Street carry more water than religious prophets? Are Mormons more concerned with living right than scriptural literalism? I ask because I can't help noticing that Huntsman and Romney, the two most sensible-seeming candidates in the GOP field, are both Mormons.

If Hunstman is serious about science, how does he plan to reshape the EPA - or does he really plan to do so? I know several Republicans who are heavily invested in clean/green tech because they figure that's where both the money and the future are at, so they have a strong financial interest in maintaining strict environmental standards and investing in energy infrastructure, as opposed to subsidizing fossil-fuel extraction or industries which rely on cheap energy. For that matter, are there ways we can speed up economic development without just trading it off against environmental degradation, because environmental review can be slow as fuck and (in California at least) is set to be become even slower due to the lack of funding for the court system.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:03 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Love to stay and chat, but I'm off to a Faith No More show.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 3:03 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


If Hunstman is serious about science, how does he plan to reshape the EPA - or does he really plan to do so?

It's possible to give credence to scientific results while still crafting ineffective policy to deal with the problems.
posted by grouse at 3:17 PM on August 24, 2011


That's true. But I don't have time to test the falsifiability of organic evolution right now. Does that mean I'm not allowed to have an opinion about it?
posted by The World Famous at 2:44 PM on August 24 [+] [!]


I don't have time to test the liveness of that electrical socket over there, but I'm still not going to stick a fork in it.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:27 PM on August 24, 2011


Meantime, does it help or hurt Hunstman to position himself as the GOP's Science! candidate?

It separates him from the herd. Since he doesn't appear to have much of a chance at this point, being different will at least keep him in the news.

Do investors on Wall Street carry more water than religious prophets?

For Huntsman, yes. Mormon prophets don't endorse political candidates. And even if they did, there just aren't that many Mormons electorally-speaking. Add to that the fact that non-Mormon Christianity's right-wing branch reserves a special, extra hot pocket of hate for Mormonism, and Huntsman is not actually throwing anything away by refusing to court the Evangelicals.

Are Mormons more concerned with living right than scriptural literalism?

Yes. Mormons don't even believe that the scriptures that they admit were written by Joseph Smith are literally true. There is certainly a genuine phenomenon of politically-conservative Mormons adopting some of the politicized religious views of Evangelical Christianity. But strictly speaking, Mormonism places almost no stock in Evangelical-style scriptural literalism. Mormonism's canonical-but-not-Biblical accounts of the creation not only contradict the Bible's self-contradictory accounts, but also contradict each other. If a Mormon claims to be a scriptural literalist, they don't know what they're talking about.

I ask because I can't help noticing that Huntsman and Romney, the two most sensible-seeming candidates in the GOP field, are both Mormons.

That's the interesting part, actually. On the surface, there's the facile "no, Huntsman's not actually Mormon" angle to it, since his responses to questions about his religion have been, shall we say, less than equivocal about whether or not he is a Mormon. But the issue is actually indicative (revelatory, even) of the much more important fact that people don't seem to grok for some reason: There are infinite gradations and variations of what it means to be a Mormon, just as there are variations within any other world religion. There is no question that Romney and Huntsman are not both Mormons in exactly the same way. The notion that, if someone is a Mormon (or a Jew, an Evangelical, a Catholic, a Muslim, etc.), that means that they personally believe X, Y, and Z in exactly one particular way is simply not true.

There are some Mormons who, upon hearing that Huntsman accepts organic evolution as fact, will think that Huntsman is not a good enough Mormon for them. There are other Mormons (like me, for example) who think that organic evolution is fact and that anyone who refuses to acknowledge that is wrong and, probably, uninformed.

But back to your observation that the two Mormons in the GOP race seem to be the most sensible of the candidates, I'd say that that is attributable to the fact that Mormonism, as out there as it is, is nowhere near as loony as the Evangelicals that are currently pulling the strings of the GOP. I mean, look two posts up the front page at the post on Dominionism in the Christian wing of the GOP. Of course Mormons are the "sensible" ones in the group. Look who the other people in the group are!
posted by The World Famous at 3:30 PM on August 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


organic evolution

Is this some new dog-whistle term I'm not aware of? Are you framing "organic evolution" as opposed to "intelligent design"?
posted by dialetheia at 3:33 PM on August 24, 2011


Is this some new dog-whistle term I'm not aware of? Are you framing "organic evolution" as opposed to "intelligent design"?

No. It's the technically correct term for what people loosely and inaccurately call "evolution." See here. I used it as a more specific, technical term in an effort to avoid any argument about whether merely calling it "evolution" is, in and of itself, a breach of scientific etiquette.

I'm framing "organic evolution" as opposed to the broader term "evolution," which includes such things as the evolution of the modern computer and the evolution of ideas.
posted by The World Famous at 3:36 PM on August 24, 2011


dialetheia: "Is this some new dog-whistle term I'm not aware of? Are you framing "organic evolution" as opposed to "intelligent design"?"

"Of course, like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised." - Woodrow Wilson, 1922

I don't know if it's a dog whistle, but it's certainly not new.
posted by brundlefly at 3:37 PM on August 24, 2011


I used it as a more specific, technical term in an effort to avoid any argument about whether merely calling it "evolution" is, in and of itself, a breach of scientific etiquette.

Huh? Pardon my skepticism, but I'm an ecology major and I have never in my life seen that term used outside of contentious internet arguments about evolution with religious folks. Rest assured that you will not get in trouble with scientists for simply calling it evolution. A cursory scientific literature search for "organic evolution" yields a couple of book reviews from the 1940s and not much else. It is certainly not a dominant term of art in biology.
posted by dialetheia at 3:46 PM on August 24, 2011


A lot of this linguistic hand-wringing could have been avoided. Just define belief as something akin to the subjective mental acceptance of a claim(s) . Then we can all move on to the more interesting question of what epistemic support -- if any -- said belief enjoys. Seems like a lot of folks grokked this and jumped to step two. Which is good.
posted by joe lisboa at 4:00 PM on August 24, 2011


Huh? Pardon my skepticism, but I'm an ecology major and I have never in my life seen that term used outside of contentious internet arguments about evolution with religious folks.

Consider your life officially changed.
posted by The World Famous at 4:16 PM on August 24, 2011


Pardon my skepticism, but I'm an ecology major and I have never in my life seen that term used outside of contentious internet arguments about evolution with religious folks.

I'd ask for some of my tuition money back then: Wiley, McGraw-Hill, and Elsevier all seem to think that it is a current term of art in biology.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:26 PM on August 24, 2011


The World Famous:
"Consider your life officially changed
"

Ahm.. considering the majority of those results seem to be for the title of one specific journal, and the ones that aren't are mostly either reffering to > 50 year old publications or specifically contrasting other uses of the word 'evolution', I feel rather underwhelmed by this life changing event.
posted by HFSH at 4:31 PM on August 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, I seriously don't want to derail the thread over this, but The World Famous, nearly every one of those results dates from before 1980, and most before 1950. The few modern results are references to a single international journal you reference, which includes it in the subtitle "Evolution: The International Journal of Organic Evolution." anigbrowl, your last link is from the computer science discipline, and the first refers to the same single journal. I am done derailing, but I stand by my assertion that this is not a widely-used term within the discipline.
posted by dialetheia at 4:31 PM on August 24, 2011


I am done derailing, but I stand by my assertion that this is not a widely-used term within the discipline.

We're not "within the discipline" here. We're in an internet discussion where someone decided that the word "belief" can only ever refer to religious faith. I'm sorry I offended you by using the term out of concern that that same person would attack ny terminology if I was not abundantly clear. And the question was not "is this a term that is widely used within the biology department at your university." It was "Is this some new dog-whistle term I'm not aware of?" It is not a dog whistle term. The further question was asked - directed specifically at the person who used the term (i.e. me) "Are you framing "organic evolution" as opposed to "intelligent design"?" And I answered that question: No.

nearly every one of those results dates from before 1980, and most before 1950.

First: No, you're only looking at the first pages of the results, apparently (or you have a very different definition of "nearly every one" than I do).

Second: I don't fault you, a current ecology major, for not using the term. Can you extend me the courtesy of not faulting me for using a term that you, a current ecology major, apparently think is out of date?
posted by The World Famous at 4:39 PM on August 24, 2011


If you are overly specific about what is commonly called natural selection you are possibly a Secret Creationist.
posted by shii at 4:39 PM on August 24, 2011


I feel rather underwhelmed by this life changing event.

But you're not the person who had never seen the term in that context before. So of course your life is not changed.
posted by The World Famous at 4:40 PM on August 24, 2011


I have a PhD in molecular evolution and I, too, have no recollection of ever seeing the "organic evolution" term. I would suggest the term "biological evolution" if you feel the need to distinguish between it and something like the evolution of ideas. It's not widely used either, but at least it won't leave people scratching their head trying to figure out if you are playing some sort of semantic game. (I don't think you are here, for the avoidance of doubt.)
posted by grouse at 4:41 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh for crying out loud.
posted by The World Famous at 4:46 PM on August 24, 2011


Ah, I knew I'd heard the term before.
The concept of organic evolution was elaborated fully for the first time in his famous essay "The Developmental Hypothesis," published in the Leader in 1852. In a series of articles and writings Spencer gradually refined his concept of organic and inorganic evolution and popularized the term itself. Particularly in "Progress: Its Law and Cause," an essay published in 1857, he extended the idea of evolutionary progress to human society as well as to the animal and physical worlds. All nature moves from the simple to the complex. This fundamental law is seen in the evolution of human society as it is seen in the geological transformation of the earth and in the origin and development of plant and animal species

Natural selection, as described by Charles Darwin in the Origin of Species (1859), completed Spencer's evolutionary system by providing the mechanism by which organic evolution occurred. Spencer enthusiastically elaborated on Darwin's process of natural selection, applying it to human society, and made his own contribution in the notion of "survival of the fittest." From the beginning Spencer applied his harsh dictum to human society, races, and the state--judging them in the process: "If they are sufficiently complete to live, they do live, and it is well they should live. If they are not sufficiently complete to live, they die, and it is best they should die.".

posted by HFSH at 4:51 PM on August 24, 2011


I was not playing a semantic game. I was trying to head off anticipated semantic games from someone else by being overly specific.

Y'all are making me feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

Grouse, you have a PhD in molecular evolution and you have no recollection of ever seeing the term "organic evolution?" I'm not going to argue with you about what you do or don't recall. I don't have a PhD in anything, and I do have a recollection of seeing the term.

From now on, I won't refer to "organic evolution" unless I'm specifically referencing evolution that comes from grass-fed, antibiotic-free cows.
posted by The World Famous at 4:55 PM on August 24, 2011


Hey, I just said I didn't think you were playing a semantic game1. Obviously "organic evolution" is a term with a long pedigree. It just doesn't seem to be used much anymore within the field.

1 The suspicion arises from the fact that when people use terms that are not used within the field, often they do so to create meaningless and unscientific distinctions that they use to argue against the theory and fact of evolution. You are not doing this. I'm just trying to explain the reaction.
posted by grouse at 5:02 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Clearly, use of the term 'organic' compounds confusion.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:02 PM on August 24, 2011


I was not playing a semantic game.

Thanks, and I apologize for any insinuation that you were.
posted by dialetheia at 5:03 PM on August 24, 2011


I like the phrase "I find evolution convincing". Pithy, four words, captures the fact that evolution is a theory which has a convincing body of evidence to back it up, not an unfalsifiable axiom of "sciencism". If you think evolution is the correct theory of the origin of the species, but you don't really know enough about it to be convinced one way or the other, you could say "I believe the scientific community when they say evolution is convincing".

It's fine if you want to say "I believe in evolution", but it definitely will remind me a lot of the harping of the creationist propaganda machine which is strident in its insistence that evolution is a religion just like creationism. It an irritating mantra of theirs.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:03 PM on August 24, 2011


I WANT TO BELIEVE FIND SOMETHING CONVINCING
posted by 23skidoo at 5:09 PM on August 24, 2011


THE TRUTH CONVINCING BODY OF EVIDENCE IS OUT THERE
posted by Salvor Hardin at 5:14 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]



“We don’t make things anymore in this country. We need to start making things in this country. And in order to do that, we need serious regulatory reform, not just repealing Obamacare, but ending the EPA’s regulatory reign of terror.”


christ,


Oh. You mean the little dashboard christs. Cool.
posted by notreally at 5:32 PM on August 24, 2011


I thought we were calling it Romneycare now.
posted by box at 6:14 PM on August 24, 2011


Obamneycare? Something.

I can't really watch the Republican debates without a few drinks in me.
posted by box at 6:15 PM on August 24, 2011


The reason that Perry, Bachmann and Palin appear to be mentally ill, while Romney and Huntsman do not, is easy to understand. The former have volunteered for their local beliefs and spite the rational and secular world they left behind. They are not normal in any mental sense to want this. The latter, however, have been brainwashed into a personality cult, from generations ago, and are personally threatened with all kinds of consequences if they try to leave their local views. So, they go the opposite direction and try to reconcile their views with the world, They try to make the best of it for themselves, desiring to be normal human beings. In other words, the former need to prove how much they hate the world as mentally ill absolutists, while the latter have nothing to prove in that regard, and everything to prove otherwise.
posted by Brian B. at 6:27 PM on August 24, 2011


I'm back from the show. How's everyone getting along?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:59 PM on August 24, 2011


We're evolving nicely, thanks!
posted by tyllwin at 8:23 PM on August 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


The interaction is very organic.
posted by grog at 8:30 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


It says a lot about where we're at, that saying that this country was founded on taking land by force, using forced labor, and a long history of violence and human rights violations = crazy.

I don't think it was ever different. Doomed from the start, I'm afraid.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:58 PM on August 24, 2011


my dad, who's pretty far right, just mentioned John Bolton as someone whose writings I should look into

I celebrate his entire catalog.
posted by flabdablet at 1:49 AM on August 25, 2011


cthuljew: Don't get the Church of the Mighty Hurricane people angry.

I know you were being facetious, but now that I look at it, "§" is clearly a symbol for the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:45 AM on August 25, 2011


Republicans Against Science: To hear some of the G.O.P. presidential candidates talk, it would seem as if willful ignorance has become a litmus test.
posted by homunculus at 11:02 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ron Paul: I don't accept the theory of evolution
posted by homunculus at 11:27 AM on August 30, 2011


Huntsman Campaign Misfires on China
posted by homunculus at 6:48 PM on August 30, 2011


Sorry, what do Hunstman's views on China's one-child policy have to do with whether Republicans support science or not? I know you like to tie up loose ends in political threads days or weeks after the thread has ground to a halt, but this is really not relevant. It would be better as part of an FPP on the GOP campaign or suchlike.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:23 PM on August 30, 2011


Sorry, what do Hunstman's views on China's one-child policy have to do with whether Republicans support science or not?

Huntsman raised the issue as a campaign tactic, and this post was also about his motives as a candidate for doing so. Huntsman has always touted his foreign policy experience, so I figured anyone who was interested in his candidacy might find this interesting too, like I did.

I know you like to tie up loose ends in political threads days or weeks after the thread has ground to a halt, but this is really not relevant. It would be better as part of an FPP on the GOP campaign or suchlike.

I like to add relevant links to threads until they close, but I'm not going to start a new one for a minor update when it fits nicely in an existing one. I really don't think adding this link to this thread was inappropriate.
posted by homunculus at 8:51 PM on August 30, 2011


Huntsman raised the science issue as a campaign tactic...
posted by homunculus at 12:18 AM on August 31, 2011


Will the anti-science Republicans kill conservatism as Americans know it?
posted by homunculus at 2:24 PM on August 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


‘Moderate’ Jon Huntsman Is a Very Conservative Business Republican

Seriously, Jon Huntsman Is Not a Moderate
posted by homunculus at 12:37 PM on September 1, 2011


Sorry, homunculus. When we see any Republican that has even a smidge, a teeny bit, a speck, even an an iota of non-crazy, I think that qualifies them as Moderate.
posted by jabberjaw at 1:57 PM on September 1, 2011


Conservative pundits grapple with ‘anti-science’ charge, flail
posted by homunculus at 5:50 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rick Perry's Galileo Metaphor Is Totally Backwards

Republican candidates, global warming, evolution, and reality
posted by homunculus at 2:08 PM on September 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


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