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In Florida, the Republican war on science just went thermonuclear

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My family always valued education. My grandparents, who were immigrants from Russia, had little formal education, so when they raised their own three children, in the 1920s and 1930s in New York City, they made sure they went to public school and studied hard. That attitude, of a profound respect and yearning for knowledge, was passed onto me. As a kid, I loved going to school, and reading and writing, and I respected my teachers, who were often role models for me. I understood that there was a body of knowledge, accumulated by humankind over centuries, in fields as far-flung as history, astronomy, geology, chemistry, biology, archeology and paleontology, and I wanted to understand them all.

The shock of my adult life has been the Republican Party’s formal break with scientific knowledge. It seems to have emerged into public awareness, if I can pinpoint a date, with Al Gore’s 2006 “An Inconvenient Truth” documentary, which the religious right bitterly attacked. Although the phenomenon was bubbling beneath the surface well before then, the film exposed the deep skepticism in the Republican Party toward scientific facts that contradict their ideological, religious and corporate interests.

Re-reading what I just wrote, it occurs to me that the famous Scopes Trial (1925), in which John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution in public school, was an even earlier manifestation of the right’s war on science. But in that case, it wasn’t so much Republicans versus Democrats as Christians versus modernists: Christians didn’t want evolution taught in the schools because it flat-out contradicted their Bible’s demonstrably fake version of reality. Today’s problem is that the Republican Party, once legitimate, has now been taken over by the most conservative Christians in the country, rendering it a cult, not a real political party.

Which brings us to Florida House Bill 989, recently signed into law by the Republican Governor, Rick Scott. The new law, which is aimed at empowering Floridians to object to the use of specific instructional materials in the public schools,” is the most extreme form of religious interference in education ever approved by a U.S. state, and represents a dramatic escalation by the Christians running Florida of their war on science. Any parent who objects to the teaching of any particular subject is empowered to challenge it: and if enough parents in a school district object, the curriculum has got to be changed.

The two main topics the Florida Christians wish to expunge from school curricula are climate change and evolution, both of which conflict with a religion that demands faith, not reason, as the basis of thought. In the case of climate change, Christians for a variety of reasons do not wish their children to be taught about it, and they object to the notion that it might be caused by human activity. And, of course, outside dark money, for example from the Koch Brothers, who have heavy investments in fossil fuels, fuels this Christian war on science. In the case of evolution, we see that the far-right wing of Christianity in America continues to espouse the Biblical myth of creation, nearly 100 years after “Scopes.”

The sponsor of HB 989 is something called the Florida Citizen’s Alliance (FCA), which sounds like a grass roots group of citizen-activists but in fact is an astroturf front organization, one of dozens of similar-sounding fake groups in Florida funded by dark money. FCA’s ties to the Koch Brothers, Karl Rove’s Americans for Prosperity, the John Birch Society, Rand Paul and Breitbart News, as well as dozens of other shadowy tea party groups, have been well-documented.

FCA’s director, Keith Flaugh, is a longtime right-wing Christian activist: his Twitter profile decries “moral destruction” in America (read: homosexuality and abortion), he brags that FCA supports Christian groups promoting “the kingdom of God,” and he has vowed to continue FCA’s efforts to ban “instructional materials” in schools “that demonstrate a bias toward Islam and seldom mention Christianity…Darwin’s theory is a theory, and the biblical view is a theory, and our kids should be taught both in a balanced way,” Flaugh says.

Think about it: the theory of Six Days to Create the Universe (He rested on the seventh day) versus everything that science has proven. Which do you believe? This is the face of the Republican/Christian war on science. They don’t want “balance,” as Flaugh lies, they want to put their Christian thumb on the curricular scale and indoctrinate our kids in their peculiar cult. And Keith Flaugh is not an outlier: he is the modern Republican Party, in all its superstitious ignorance, fear, arrogance, authoritarianism and intolerance. Their most fervent wish is a Christianized America, a theocracy like Iran, where clerics are judges and juries, using the Bible, not the Constitution, as their guiding document. And this catastrophically backward group—the most fundamental threat to American liberty of our time–now has its own Pope in the White House, a (probable) agnostic who, until he needed evangelical votes, would sooner have groped a hot Christian woman’s pussy than prayed with or for her.

 

  1. Bob Rossi says:

    “FCA’s efforts to ban “instructional materials” in schools “that demonstrate a bias toward Islam and seldom mention Christianity”
    It’s been a long time since I was in school, but I find it hard to believe that school reading materials are biased in favor of Islam. But maybe this means that some reading materials recognize that Islam exists, which FCA probably doesn’t like.
    As to requiring balanced coverage of evolution and creationism, why stop there. How about balanced treatment of the existence versus non-existence of unicorns. Or whether the earth revolves around the sun or vice-versa.

  2. Great points Bob Rossi! As a matter of fact, I heard that Trump University is offering a graduate course in “Unicorns.”

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