Demon Haunted Congress

Carl Sagan Demon Haunted World

Among the many challenges facing the American Constitutional Republic in the 21st century is the rapid rise of arrogant ignorance. Few people exemplify this better than Georgia 10th District Representative, Paul Broun. He is a physician who serves on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. With his medical training, one might assume he would be a worthwhile and capable member of this committee. One would be wrong as Mr. Broun made clear during a speech Sept. 27, 2012, at a sportsman’s banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell. In this speech, Representative Broun declared:

“I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”

He then went on to say that he believes the Earth is about 9,000 years old and that it was made in six days. Such beliefs are held by Christian fundamentalists who purport to believe the creation accounts in the Bible are literally true.  It seems clear Mr. Broun’s critical faculties are in decline and he is positioned to lead the slide back into superstition and darkness.

Mr. Broun who is now running for the Senate summarily dismissed the sciences of biology, embryology, astrophysics, and geology in one spasm of splendid candor or shameless pandering depending on his level of sincerity.

Contrary to what Mr. Broun seems to think – belief is not enough. Every person on earth has an abundance of belief about myriad topics. Many of these beliefs are contradictory to beliefs held by others with just as much fervor. For example, Mr. Broun appears to believe “God’s word is true,” and that the Bible is God’s word. To believe means one to has confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something, but lacks absolute proof that one is right in doing so. One’s beliefs are a matter of how one feels, not of what one knows. Knowledge, in contrast, is acquaintance with facts, truths, or principles, as gained from study or investigation. Mr. Broun believes the earth is “but about 9,000 years old.” This merely expresses his feeling; it conveys no information whatsoever about the age of the earth! Mr. Broun thinks biology, embryology, astrophysics, and geology are “lies from the pit of Hell.”  This simply states his belief! It is devoid of information and conveys no knowledge or even the implication of knowledge.

On the basis of this rampant ignorance and credulity, Mr. Broun feels capable of sitting on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and deserving of a seat in the Senate. “The Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has jurisdiction over all energy research, development, and demonstration, astronautical research and development, civil aviation research and development; environmental research and development; marine research; commercial application of energy technology; National Institute of Standards and Technology, standardization of weights and measures and the metric system; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Science Foundation; National Weather Service; outer space, including exploration and control thereof; science scholarships; scientific research, development, and demonstration, and projects therefor.” What possible competence can a committee with jurisdiction over such matters as listed have with members who believe the earth is “about 9,000 years old and that it was made in six days?” Representative Broun also denies climate change and claims it is a hoax. What intelligent perspective can he bring to energy research, environmental research, and the commercial application of energy technology?

Contrary to Broun’s Bible based belief, Earth was formed by the colliding and coming together of massive space objects called planetesimals. The force of the impacts would have melted rock, leaving Earth molten for hundreds of thousands of years. Richard Carlson, a geochemist at the Carnegie Institution who has studied some of Earth’s oldest rocks, says:

“Nine thousand years after the last giant impact — there likely were several big impacts during the growth of the planet — the surface of Earth, to a considerable depth, likely was molten rock.”

Scientific research about the age of the planet reveals, Earth formed 4.54 billion years ago, not 9,000 years ago, and that the process took far longer than six days.

Like roughly 45% of Americans according to some polls, Broun wishes to challenge and supplant a theory with a story. In this, he and his co-believers reveal they have no understanding of that a theory is “a coherent group of tested general propositions, commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena.” A story, in contrast, is “a narrative that relates the details of some real or imaginary event.” Theories must be grounded in evidence; stories consider evidence optional. The Biblical account of creation is a story and nothing more. One can believe it instead of the scientific accounts, but one cannot claim to be informed or rational when doing so. We need to grasp the ideas that [1] theories are derived from data, [2] theories have to explain the data, and [3] theories make testable predictions.  Everyone can invent stories and creationism is one such a story.  There crucial differences between creationism and evolution are the accumulated evidence and the testable predictions.

In our personal lives, we determine what we believe and disdain. Each of us is the master of our own assent. We must understand, however, that belief is neither the parent nor guarantor of truth. If we are credulous in regard to unfounded propositions, our beliefs are delusions. Any choices and decisions made on the base of erroneous, mistaken, preposterous beliefs are correct by sheer accident. If we confine this intellectual recklessness to our own lives, it damages us for the most part. When we carry credulity and superstition into our public roles, however, we endanger our compatriots and our country.

As Neil deGrasse Tyson observes:

“One of the biggest problems with the world today is that we have large groups of people who will accept whatever they hear on the grapevine, just because it suits their worldview—not because it is actually true or because they have evidence to support it. The really striking thing is that it would not take much effort to establish validity in most of these cases… but people prefer reassurance to research.”

Adult Americans have a responsibility to seek the truth and demand that governance and policy be based on the best available information regularly updated. Once credulity and superstition [a belief or set of beliefs, not based on reason or knowledge, but in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like.] take hold, they spread like virulent viruses. Adult Americans have a duty to inoculate themselves and their children against such maladies. They have a duty to remove political leaders who have fallen prey to these infections. Once before in Western history, superstition, willful ignorance, and arrogant credulity reigned. This period has been called the Dark Ages and it was marked by frequent warfare, famine, disease, barbarity, and a virtual disappearance of urban life. If we are negligent about the nature of political discourse and indifferent to those holding political power, it can happen again and it can happen here. As Carl Sagan says, “Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.” We and those we elect abandon that way of thinking to our real and present peril.

Let Americans be Americans Again!

oneofmanyLet Americans be Americans again.

Let us dream once more the dream that made us see.

Let true patriots arise and renew their claim.

In the home of the brave and the land of the free.

Let Americans recall the Framers’ dream—

Let’s build together that bountiful land we have sworn to love

Where never tyrants strive nor traitors scheme

Nor anyone need bow to those above.

O, let Americans stand for a true land of Liberty

One marred with no false pride or gross pomposity,

Where opportunity shines bright enough for all to see,

And the air’s redolent with the scent of true Equality.

Rally the poorer White, incited, fooled and driven wild,

Rally the Black still stung and scarred from being slavery’s child.

Rally the Red from whom so much has been seized,

Rally Yellow once into interment squeezed.

Rally the immigrants clutching fast to hope in desperate need—

Fighting bravely against the same callous, vicious plan

Of hate, fear, spite and power crushing all who take a stand.

Rally the youth, all full of courage and hope,

Ensnared in that vast, far reaching web

Of propaganda, plots and profiteering gain, of treacherous deed!

Of seized resources! Of grasping ploys to satisfy rapacious greed!

Of drive the men! Of steal the pay!

Of everything for one’s own use and none for another’s need!

Rally the farmer, bound by depleted soil.

Rally the worker enthralled in corporate toil.

Rally the Black and Brown, estranged from the vaunted dream.

Rally the people, humble, hungry, of modest or meager means—

Struggling still today but fighting for their dreams.

Embattled even now—O, Patriots!

We are the ones who never got ahead of woe and fears,

The poor and struggling people battered and disregarded throughout so many years.

Yet we are the ones who bravely still dream the hallowed dream

In Olden Times where serfs then bowed to kings,

Yet dreamt a dream so bright, so brave, so true,

That ever more its mighty clarion rings anew

In all the stone and steel, in every channel done

To make America the land it must become.

We are children of those who sailed cross the storm tossed sea

In search of what might and ought to be—

All our forebears travelled from obscure and ominous climes,

And sailed in different ships at different times,

And arrived here from whatever strand they came

To make America and claim American as their cherished name.

Who among us now are the truly free?

The millions without recourse or hope today?

The millions without food, shelter, and a say?

The millions who work for next to nothing; the millions with no pay?

Despite all the dreams we’ve dreamed

And all the songs we’ve sung

And all the soaring hopes we’ve held

And all the brave banners that we’ve hung,

Though millions now have lost so much there almost nothing left to lose—

Of the many yet striving to be one

Except the dream has never died and will not die while we rightly choose!

O, let Americans be Americans again—

The people who have as yet almost never been—

And yet now must be—the ones to insist that we are all free.

The land we have is the land we make—

Through the truths we tell and the risks we take,

Through the struggles, stands, and solemn pleas, through faith and pain,

Through anger’s roar and power’s strain,

We must learn to dream the invincible dream again.

Out of the rack, rage, and ruin of the plundering class,

Who rape and pillage through graft, stealth, and lies,

We, the people, must arise

We must recall the meaning of ideals we once cherished

We must again renew the vision before we the people have perished

And as Americans boldly, yet solemnly, reclaim

Our promises, principles, purposes, to reach the higher plain.

Where men, women, Black, Red, Brown, Yellow and White—

All, come together to awaken and carry on the fight—

And as Americans unite and truly be Americans again!

Introducing – Let Us Go Forth to Lead

The American Republic and the American people find themselves in the fifth crisis of the 236 year epic expedition from daring revolution to global power.  These are again times that try our souls; once again the Republic and its citizens must confront the issue of whether a nation “conceived in liberty” and dedicated to the proposition of human equality can long endure. Will we nobly save or meanly lose government of the people, by the people, for the people?

The political consensus that had held throughout most of the 236 year history of the Republic has been ripped asunder by two cooperating but not identical groups . First, are the Economic Royalists who have labored behind the political scenes for at least eighty years. They have used their vast fortunes to manufacture a conception of the government as the enemy of the country and to hire commentators and politicians to work on making this warped perspective a powerful spell cast on the minds of many Americans. The Economic Royalists want to replace the Republic, of, by, and for the people, with a Plutocracy, of, by, and for the wealthy.

The second group in this unpatriotic alliance, goes by many names, but the most applicable to their current persona is the Rapture Reactionaries. This group seeks to transform the American Republic into an American Theocracy fixated on a twisted and religiously bogus version of Christianity.  The Rapture Reactionaries strive to demonize some segments of the American populace in order to evoke holy wrath in the segments they deem to be Real Americans.

Despite the pretensions of these two vociferous and abundantly financed factions, they are both mortally wrong. They are both genuinely menacing. They are neither patriotic, nor beneficent.   They have surfaced before at other times and in other guises.  They have always been defeated, but never eradicated.  We the People, must now do what we should have more thoroughly done in decades past. We must recall the premises, principles, and purposes upon which the Republic is founded and framed by those who gave us the Republic to keep.  We must remember and redeem the promises expressed and implied in our founding documents up through and including Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. We must heed the reiterations in speeches of great presidents and other authentic American leaders who spoke the truth in stirring terms and were assassinated for their candor, clarity, courage and commitment. We must understand and exercise the sovereignty that inheres in the people, all the people. We must answer the trumpet that summons and rise up and realize the true meaning of the genuine American Creed – We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.  We must bind up the nation’s wounds and show malice toward none and charity toward all.

In our hands, my fellow citizens, rests the final success or failure of our Republic. Since it was  founded and framed, each generation of has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Can we forge against the Economic Royalists and the Rapture Reactionaries a grand  alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more bountiful politics of principle and purpose for America and all Americans regardless of race, color, creed, gender, economic status or sexual orientation? Will we unite in that historic quest?

In the long storied history of the Republic, only a few generations have been called upon to defend the Republic in an  hour of maximum peril. We must not shrink from this obligation — we nustI welcome it.  We must wish to  exchange places with any other people or any other generation. With a clear conscience and a true heart as our guides, with history the only real judge of the caliber of our deeds, let us go forth to save the Republic and lead the land we love. Knowing as we do the energy, the faith, the devotion we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

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