Thursday, October 6, 2011

Making the Distintction Between Personal Belief and Being Flat Out Wrong

I came across this video a couple of years ago, but it came back to mind as it is once again relevant given that Ron Paul is running for the GOP nomination in 2012.

When I first saw it, I was horrified that Ron Paul, a politician that is represented in the media as a perfectly rational, intelligent and sane candidate, one that is not afraid to support positions that are not necessarily 100% compliant with the usual Republican talking points, one that has a scientific background could not accept evolution. I commented on the video with the same surprise and outrage, and my comment got absolutely buried by the mass of the United Church of Ron Paul who were scandalized that I could be so critical (now the video is gaining much more traffic given the current political climate, so the tone of the comments section has changed quite a bit, so don't be shy to throw your opinion in there). Now I understand that when people find a politician, or any public figure that they like, they tend to defend said person even if they do or say things that they would not normally defend in others -- it's a personal prejudice and it is quite normal. However I thought I would take a few moments to address why I defend my harsh criticism of a candidate for taking this position, and why I would not vote for one that was a creationist.

Something that both Ron Paul says before answering the question and something that was said to me repeatedly boiled down to essentially this: creationism is a personal belief, and to decide who you are going to vote for based on what they believe is irrational and prejudicial. I would normally agree, if creationism qualified.

Now before we start arguing semantics here let me explain what I am saying. The word "belief" is often used as someone's personal opinion on just about anything. In that case, any position that any candiate takes on any policy would qualify as a "belief", and no one is arguing that you shouldn't choose who to vote for based on that. When I talk about "belief" here, I mean to say something that someone thinks is true, but there is no or ambiguous evidence for or against the matter, something that you choose to believe personally based on feelings, emotions and maybe some logic based on extremely circumstancial evidence. A belief that there is intelligent life on other planets would qualify. A belief in a higher power or a spiritual essence would also. Creationism does not.

The facts are in ladies and gentlemen. The scientific data has spoken. Evolution happens. We've seen it, tested it, not a single piece of evidence has been found that refutes it. So why does this matter?

Because a person that can look in the face of science, reason and evidence and say "nope, not buying it" because of a personal prejudice is not, in my opinion, someone that is qualified to hold the presidency of a country like the United States. Who knows what other prejudices he has. If you don't accept evolution despite the vast body of evidence behind it, what about climate change? stem cell research? vaccines? What about making a judgement call on another foreign leader based on their history? I'm not saying that Ron Paul is also a global warming-denying anti-vaxer, I'm saying he's setting up a precedent that indicates that he believes what he wants to believe, not what the evidence tells him to. For this reason, I think it's a perfectly legitimate question to ask a candidate.

He can't even use the ignorance excuse. You can say sure Rick Perry is a creationist, he almost failed every class he took in college, he just doesnt know what he's talking about. But Ron Paul is an MD for X's sake, he should fucking know better. Actually it's worse that he has this scientific background, because it lends legitimacy to his stance to his little fanboys. Go read the comments section, you'll see plenty arguing that because he's an MD his position on a scientific matter can't be completely moronic. Enough to make my head explode.

There is always the slight possibility that he's just bullshitting to please his Republican fanbase. However, since the whole reason that he has such a cult-like following is because of the fact that people think he's not a bullshitter and he says what he thinks no matter what. Whatever his motivation, I don't like it.

That's my take on the whole thing. Am I being too biased, since I myself come from a scientific background? Let me know

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