Sunday, October 9, 2011

Science and Nature at the 2011 Values Voters Summit

(To read about homophobia at the 2011 Values Voters Summit, click here. To read about tensions between evangelicals and Mormons, click here. To read about reproductive issues, click here. To read about Glenn Beck's speech, click here.)

So far, this blog has covered anti-Mormon and anti-gay rhetoric at the 2011 Values Voters Summit. I'd also like to discuss what some speakers were saying about science and nature. Although science and nature did not figure as prominently as other issues at the summit, what two speakers said nevertheless deserve attention.

First, in his opening speech, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins listed several Obama administration economic policies he disagreed with. At the 15:00 mark of this C-SPAN Friday morning coverage video, Perkins insisted that environmental regulations were supposedly detrimental to job creation, saying "there's the EPA's global warming crusade that is choking out the businesses that create the very jobs that Washington promises."

Perkins thus tried to delegitimize climate change as a "crusade", framing the EPA's efforts as somehow inimical to America's economic health. Memories of Herman Cain's contempt for the EPA at the Fox News/Google debate immediately came to mind. The idea that unabated climate change could have a detrimental impact on the economy, not to mention public health, was never considered.

Second, the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer made the outrageous claim that a president who believes in evolution would not safeguard the people's rights.

"I submit to you that not a single one of our inalienable rights will be safe in the hands of a president who believes that we evolved from slime and we are the descendants of apes and baboons. Now if you doubt me, look at the nation-states in the 20th century which rejected the creator god of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Nazi Germany. Stalinist Russia. Communist China. The one thing all these secular states share in common is dead bodies."

First, Bryan, supporters of evolution do not posit that humans evolved from apes; they argue that humans and modern apes had a common ancestor. Second, there have been many non-Christian countries that did not devolve into fascism and mass murder. The leaps in logic were breathtaking.

In effect, Fischer was framing evolution as a moral issue. In Fischer's worldview, belief in evolution is incompatible with belief in the Christian God, and therefore incompatible with morality as he understands it. Unfortunately, such a worldview could make it very easy to demonize those who accept evolution.

Perkins is not alone in his antipathy toward climate change policies, and that Fischer is not alone in his views on evolution and morality. Indeed their rhetoric may shed light on why some right-wing people continue to look askance at evolution and climate change. Importantly, both evolution and climate change suggest that humans are not independent of or superior to nature, but part of it, and that our existence is intertwined with that of other life forms and our environment. This concept, I think, is what right-wing Christians such as Perkins and Fischer may find so unpalatable.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Right Wing Watch: Fischer: Rights Endangered if President Believes in Evolution

Little Green Footballs: Unreal: At Values Voter Summit, Bryan Fischer Says Rights Are Endangered if President Believes in Evolution

Thoughts from Kansas: Dispatch from the Values Voters Summit


  1. First with regard to the homophobia, their hypocrisy is stunning (if not at all surprising). What has really struck me in recent weeks is how out of touch the GOP is with voters. I predict it's going to bite them in the hiney. Hard.

    Second, I know many GOP supporters are uneducated and feel threatened by the science supporting/proving global warming and evolution. However, I get the sense their numbers are dwindling. Also GOP leaders seem to be clueless about the fact that many of the unemployed and uninsured in this country are ... wait for it ... REPUBLICANS. OMG. I don't think they've considered the possibility that unemployed hungry Republicans may, perchance, switch their party loyalties.

    Maybe I'm wrong but it seems to me the GOP is, perhaps, imploding. Let it be so (and please pass the popcorn!).

  2. Thanks so much for bringing us all this extra news we don't get on the tube. Fischer is a hateful and stupid person who plays to hateful and stupid people. He is stunningly wrong on the facts, but to the GOP facts don't ever matter.

  3. Sherry -- You're welcome. I agree that Fischer's words are beyond noxious.

    Cognitive Dissenter -- Agreed. While economic rhetoric abounded at the conference (see talks by Tony Perkins and John Boehner, for example), I didn't feel as it the speakers really GOT IT. Debt, unemployment, and homelessness weren't on the radar as much as gays, abortion, and nasty ol' Muslims.


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