Science is properly more scrupulous than dogma. Dogma gives a charter to mistake, but the very breath of science is a contest with mistake, and must keep the conscience alive. - George Eliot
As so often happens in American politics, a politician has said something incredibly stupid, and many people have reacted with either real, exaggerated or faux outrage. It’s inevitable that politicians will say stupid, ignorant, bigoted, offensive things because only a brutal savage wants control over other people; therefore only brutal savages seek power and we are governed by the most foolish, greedy, irresponsible, power-mad and least evolved among us. So it’s a bit tiring to see people behaving as though such statements are somehow surprising or shocking, and abhorrent that they ignore equally-outrageous statements from other power-mad throwbacks when it suits their political agenda to do so.
I’m speaking, of course, of the recent comments by a Missouri politician that victims of “legitimate rape” are somehow immune to impregnation:
Rep. Todd Akin, the Republican nominee for Senate in Missouri…justified his opposition to abortion rights even in case of rape with a claim that victims of “legitimate rape” have unnamed biological defenses that prevent pregnancy. “First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy from rape] is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in an interview posted Sunday. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Akin said that even in the worst-case scenario — when the supposed natural protections against unwanted pregnancy fail — abortion should still not be a legal option for the rape victim. “Let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work, or something,” Akin said. “I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child”…
This reaction to this moronic statement was as predictable as sunrise: the media had a ball with it, Akin’s opponent and others claimed to be “shocked”, Republicans distanced themselves from him, Democrats touted the statement as a purely Republican form of buffoonery, Akin claimed to have “misspoken” and feminists entirely missed the point and began an endless and dreary denunciation of the term “legitimate rape” based on the nonsensical but politically-advantageous concept that everything legally classified as “rape”, from teen sex to alcohol-fueled misunderstandings to aggravated rape by a stranger at gunpoint, is morally indistinguishable and equally traumatic. But the most revolting reaction of all was the one from partisans, academics, journalists, politicians and other pseudo-intellectuals who jumped on Akin for being scientifically illiterate, despite the obvious fact that they are every bit as willing to ignore science as he is when it suits them to do so:
For a party intent on closing a gender gap that could spell electoral disaster, the Republican Party sure keeps saying the most remarkable things. Put aside for the moment the persistent efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, the many personhood and mandatory invasive ultrasound bills, and even Mitt Romney’s selection of the vehemently anti-choice Paul Ryan as his running mate. Now we have this from Rep. Todd Akin…[who] informs us—based on fake science that he and others on the far right endorse—that the body can shut down a pregnancy in cases of “legitimate” rape, therefore abortion should not be legal in any case. For the record, about 32,000 pregnancies every year result from rape…
Now, I’m not surprised to see such blatant hypocrisy spewing forth from the likes of Eliot Spitzer, one of the filthiest and most disgusting hypocrites currently besmirching the Earth with his loathsome presence. Nor am I at all shocked to see he and others who can’t do simple math pointing fingers at others for being ignorant of biology. After all, they are politicians, the moral equivalent of the sorts of things one finds upon turning over a rock. But what does royally piss me off and fill me with righteous indignation are the number of partisan sheep currently polluting the blogosphere and the Twitterverse with their bleating about how ignoring facts, reason and science in favor of a faith-based dogma is only bad and wrong when it supports the ugly, hateful, repressive agenda favored by another “tribe”, but right and good when it supports their own equally ugly, equally hateful and equally repressive schema. Either one accepts the scientific method, or one does not; either one recognizes that the universe is innately knowable via the tools of research, data collection and rigorous testing, or rejects that view in favor of the doctrine that truth is revealed via the sacred pronouncements of authority figures. Anyone who has ever rejected cold, hard facts because they are inconvenient to his or her world view, or presumes the right to speak for others whose experience he or she does not share, or who proclaims that public policy should be based upon the way he or she would like the world to be rather than the way it is, has absolutely no damned business criticizing others for their equally false, pseudoscientific and faith-based beliefs.