In a little-noticed 2012 interview, Rep. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), the front-runner in Montana's open 2014 Senate race, expressed support for teaching creationism in public schools.At this point, I have no words left. There's no way to make a certain segment of our society, by which I mean the stupid segment, understand the difference between science and a belief. There's no way to convince them that something with evidence behind it is far more likely to be true than something with no evidence behind it. It's not just science vs. religion, it's science vs. propaganda, and plain facts vs. ideology, and all the other conflicts that make otherwise supposedly functional Americans get all pudding-brained when the obvious facts are irritating to their "core beliefs," where "core beliefs" are whatever they've cobbled together from watching television or family oral tradition.
In an interview that aired on November 2, 2012, Sally Mauk, news director for Montana Public Radio, asked Daines, who was then running for Montana's lone House seat, whether public schools should teach creationism. Daines responded, "What the schools should teach is, as it relates to biology and science is that they have, um, there's evolution theory, there's creation theory, and so forth. I think we should teach students to think critically, and teach students that there are evolutionary theories, there's intelligent-design theories, and allow the students to make up their minds. But I think those kinds of decisions should be decided at the local school board level." He added, "Personally I'd like to teach my kids both sides of the equation there and let them come up to their own conclusion on it."
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We can believe that the earth is balanced on the back of a giant space turtle. After we go to space and take pictures that show no turtle there, however, we can no longer "believe" that with any credibility. We don't (most of us) suggest that the turtle is simply invisible. We don't (most of us) say that the turtle only exists when nobody is looking at it. We don't (most of us) suggest that scientists have spirited the turtle away because they don't want us to know the truth about the giant space turtle, or that they are involved in the lucrative cash business of pretending there are no turtles in places that there are turtles. We don't (most of us) do that.
But some do. If the thermometers say the temperature is rising, they assert all the thermometers in the world must be wrong. If we can measure certain pollutants being output by smokestacks and can measure an increasing number of those very same pollutants throughout the rest of the atmosphere, they claim the two things must of course be disconnected, and that the increasing measured levels of pollution in the atmosphere at large must be because the invisible space turtle is farting. If we can find bones in the ground and determine via the known properties of radioactive decay that they have been there for one or two or ten million years, it is because all of the parts of science that are required to be wrong in order to reach that conclusion are, each and every one of them, coincidentally wrong, and only when applied to fossils—not less controversial things. Then that same science can be right again.
So we've got yet another actual maker of our laws and decider of the rules of our civilization saying that the space turtle theory must be taught, because while there is no actual evidence of the space turtle so far, students whose parents believe in the space turtle must not just be accommodated or treated politely, but given public validation, under rule of law, as "scientists" themselves. There is no equal demand that the government go into churches and forcibly explain to the congregation that their beliefs in the space turtle are only one theory, or that scientists be allowed to give slideshow presentations in those churches showing that clearly the Earth does not rest on the back of a space turtle, because that would be offensive. The demand is always that the unprovable be taught along with the provable, never the reverse.
What is there to say? This stubborn insistence on treating personal belief as exactly equal to known, demonstrable facts may be hardwired in certain people. If only we could keep them out of our government.