Incompetent Elected Official of the Week: Georgia Rep. Paul Broun

Paul! See that guy holding the sign that says, “Atheists Go Back to Your Apes”? YOU COULD BE THAT GUY, PAUL!

An ignoramus and proud of it, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA.) is apparently serving in Congress while waiting for a juicy role as one of the fanatically religious townspeople in “Inherit the Wind,” should a local production materialize. For it was good people like Broun, with his level of education, certitude and Godly conviction, who occupied the town of Dayton, Tennessee during the Scopes “Monkey Trial,” the famous legal battle over the teaching of evolution that inspired the fictional stage adaptation of the event authored by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, perhaps the best high school drama club play that ever graced Broadway.

Those science-hating, God-loving people of Dayton’s  imaginary stand-in, “happy Hillsboro,” get to do a lot of revival meeting singing, and scream “Praise God” and “Read your Bible!,” and join in choral renditions of “We’ll hang Bert Cates from a Sour Apple Tree,” a reference to the play’s junior high science teacher, who, like the real John Scopes, dares to defy Tennessee law and teaches his students that the world isn’t only 9,000 years old, that Adam didn’t ride around on a triceratops and that mankind evolved from more primitive primates. Broun would be terrific at the singing and screaming, I’m sure.

What he wouldn’t be well cast as is a member of the House of Representatives’ Science Committee, unless he is the equal of Robert DeNiro or Daniel Day Lewis in playing characters completely different from himself….since, after all, he has the proud ignoramus thing going. And yet, disgracefully, that’s his real life occupation, just like his fellow committee member and good friend Todd Akin. Here’s Broun speaking to a 2012 Sportsman’s Banquet at Liberty Baptist Church in Hartwell, Georgia on September 27th:

“God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell. It lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see, there are a lot of scientific data that I’ve found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I don’t believe that the earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.”

Yup, that’s what the Bible says (sort of) all right, and Broun has every right to believe that if he wants to, just like the real townspeople of Dayton believed it in…1925, when Clarence Darrow got fundamentalist champion and three-time Democratic presidential nominee Williams Jenning Bryan to admit on the witness stand that those “six days’ were not “as we know them,” as Broun asserts, but in fact may have lasted millions of years. They were ignorant, all right, but DNA hadn’t been discovered yet, not had several thousand fossils of prehistoric creatures, nor had black holes and all sorts of other things that render the simplistic, metaphorical explanations of creation in the Bible an impediment to human progress, wisdom and advancement. Those townspeople had some excuse for trying spread stupidity far and wide. Broun does not, just as there is no excuse for House Republicans allowing such a science dolt to have any influence on national science policy whatsoever.

There are two more depressing facts to know about Rep. Paul Broun:

1. He is an MD, thus exploding the popular theory that an advanced degree means you are more trustworthy to make laws than your typical sanitation worker, and

2. He is running unopposed.

Take me now, Lord!

_____________________________

Facts: Huffington Post 1.

Source: Huffington Post 2

Graphic: Screen Insults

Ethics Alarms attempts to give proper attribution and credit to all sources of facts, analysis and other assistance that go into its blog posts. If you are aware of one I missed, or believe your own work was used in any way without proper attribution, please contact me, Jack Marshall, at  jamproethics@verizon.net.

 

25 thoughts on “Incompetent Elected Official of the Week: Georgia Rep. Paul Broun

  1. How do these people get elected? I’m seriously confused by this. Do we use the ability to color inside the line as the only means to weigh someone’s ability when politics are involved? Or do we just throw darts at the broad side of the barn and the person who misses gets elected?

  2. Jack, et al, If I am not mistaken, haven’t you in recent columns objected to the use of a stereotypical brush to paint groups of people in a bad light? That seems to be happening here. Whatever Mr. Brouns’ opinions may be scientifically, his expression of them at banquet doesn’t necessitate the label ‘incompetent’ especially if the people who elected him, feel the same way. He would not be operating under the Hollywood Lawyer principle then, but rather reflect his constituents take on the world. Your post also indicates the position that scientific truth is inviolable; and that is not realistic. Should I name you This week’s incompetent blogger?,

    • Ray, being scientifically ignorant, whatever the reason, is by definition disqualifying for a lawmaker charged with overseeing legislation involving science. There is no way around it. His constituent are welcome to their take on the world, but it is in direct contradiction with the facts of the world as scientific research has come to know it. There is no right to be incompetent and ignorant in the discharge of a duty affecting the whole nation because your constituents choose to embrace pre-Aristotle scientific misconceptions and mythology. Science is not a popularity contest. If they want him in Congress, fine, but he has no more business getting within 10 miles of science policy than I do flying a 747.

      • And yet he claims to have founded his opinion not only on faith, but on scientific data, as well. Absurd as alternate theories may seem when compared to the generally accepted one, they should be viewed, measured, and tested on their own merits or faults – that’s science. What I see here is sadly, the mockery of a man who had the audacity to air an unpopular opinion. There is no ethics violation here – he has been up front and open about his belief. Incompetent? Does his belief on the orgin of species make him an unskilled representative? Should he hold a post concerning science? You seem to make the case that because he has made an informed choice, comparing theory to theory, and choosing an unpopular one as viable, he should not – when that comparison and analysis of data, disregarding popular opinion and the prevailing thought of the day IS science.

        Is his data wrong? Most likely. But if he has applied the scientific process to it, and come to a conclusion, he is as much a scientist as those politicians who make policy based on the flawed datum of global warming.

        • Evolution is not “popular opinion,” and the view that the earth is “9000” years old is unadulterated nonsense, certainly not the result of the “scientific method.” He is confounding faith with science. One can’t ignore the acumulted knowledge in geology, astronomy, chemistry, paleontology and anthropology, microbiology, chemistry and physics and say, “that’s science.”

          • Thank you Aaron for eloquently stating what my response would have been. Yes Jack, the notion that the earth is 9000 years old is absurd; to name any figure with that kind of precision is haphazard at best, but there are many scientific minds who don’s subscribe to the current theories and propose an age drastically less than the 4.7 billion years the powers that be want us to accept as fact. They also know the scientific community is very disingenuous when dealing with dissenting voices whether they arise from within the academy or from the outside. Recent revelations on the statistical manipulations and unduplicatable results in scientific studies highlight this. But let us not beat around the bush.; “Well-known atheist science writer John Horgan explicitly endorses lying for science in such cases as the effort to fight global warming: “It’s a war, and when people are waging war, they always lie for their cause.” http://bit.ly/SQ0oA9.

            • but there are many scientific minds who don’s subscribe to the current theories and propose an age drastically less than the 4.7 billion years the powers that be want us to accept as fact.

              This isn’t a popularity contest, and even if it were, that position would be dominated.

              They also know the scientific community is very disingenuous when dealing with dissenting voices whether they arise from within the academy or from the outside. Recent revelations on the statistical manipulations and unduplicatable results in scientific studies highlight this.

              Citations needed.

              But let us not beat around the bush.; “Well-known atheist science writer John Horgan explicitly endorses lying for science in such cases as the effort to fight global warming: “It’s a war, and when people are waging war, they always lie for their cause.” http://bit.ly/SQ0oA9.

              Individual bad actors do not reflect on the whole. Especially since this
              —–

              Science does work. Are the people doing it flawed? Yes. That does not mean that the scientific consensus should be ignored. If it did mean such, then all people should be ignored about everything.

              When you use invalid logic, you get invalid results.

            • Yeah, let’s not beat around the bush, there’s an enormous red herring in that bush!

              Incidentally, for evidence of your tangential claims, you linked to a magazine with a less-than-veiled Christian agenda, which, as near as I can tell, deliberately misquoted John Horgan in order to try to paint scientists as ideologues.

              Some notes about the article in which that quotation originally appears:

              The quotation apparently isn’t even from the person you attributed it to. Horgan prefaces it with, “I’ll give the last word to one of my students.”

              Nowhere in that article does he “explicitly endorse lying for science.” Even the mis-attributed quotation is merely descriptive, explaining the motivations behind the “Climategate” controversy. Note the absence of words like “should” or “ought” from the phrase “they always lie for their cause.” Reading comprehension is your friend.

              While Horgan does come across as forgiving of Peter Gleick’s missteps, he does acknowledge them as missteps: “Even if Gleick’s lie was morally right, it was strategically wrong.”

              Finally, in Horgan’s editorial, he explicitly criticizes climate activists like Joe Romm, who seemed to favor suppressing scientific views that questioned dominant models. He says, “To my mind, Romm is faulting [Gleick critic Andy} Revkin—who is one of the most knowledgeable, conscientious, hard-working journalists I know–for doing his job well.

              I would recommend, Ray, that in the future when you try to redirect a conversation, you focus on the original context of cited remarks to whatever extent possible. Quoting ideological sources makes your position appear that much less logical.

          • If he looked at the science and said ‘this conflicts with what I believe, therefore I will disregard it’ then yes, I will concede that is unscientific. If, however, he looked at the science and said ‘this has flaws I cannot reconcile – this alternate theory does not,’ then that would be a scientific judgement. The thing is, one could reach the conclusion he has reached via either path – and it seems uncharitable to insist that he has obviously pursued the unscientific path, simply because he has reached a conclusion which runs counter to current scientific dogma. Isn’t challenging dogma in the pursuit of truth one of science’s goals?

              • Yes, Ray, that’s the way science works. We use logic, evidence, and tests of theory in order to determine what’s true. If a claim is contradicted by these things, it’s false.

                It’s interesting that you should criticize this argument by calling it a tautology. The funny thing about tautologies is that they’re always true. They just don’t provide any new information. So what you’re saying here is, “well, obviously unscientific claims aren’t scientific.” Which is exactly our point. I’m so glad you understand it.

                Good grief! I once had a lengthy argument with tgt in which I defended the idea that it’s possible to have faith without disregarding logic and science. I resent you so hard right now for providing fodder for tgt’s contrary view.

                • I don’t think Ray’s comment has any bearing on that argument. The existence of faith is itself a rejection of logic. Someone can have faith in X, and then logically believe Y with no problem, but their faith in X is still illogical.

                • Sorry to have failed you but I was using the term strictly as a rhetorical device. It, like all circular reasoning is true always because it always sets the criteria for truth. OOPS, I did it again.

            • You equivocated on the word dogma. Scientific beliefs are not in any way similar to religious dogma. Scientific beliefs are held on the basis of the evidence, and it isn’t a majority of the evidence kind of thing, it’s a beyond doubt standard.

              The theories about the age of the earth being in the thousands of years have holes all over the place. If one actually looked at the sets of evidence, and determined that Broun’s beliefs were better supported than evolution, the only conclusion would be that that person has the intellectual capacity of a flatworm. It’s like someone claiming gravity doesn’t exist. (It really is a good thing that Christians don’t think gravity is at odds with their religion).

        • Yes, he claims to have founded his opinion on scientific data as well as faith. But has he cited any? Todd Akin claimed that his understanding of women’s magical reproductive systems originated with “from what he understood from doctors.” Are Brouns views as scientific as that?

          Broun is undeniably incompetent. If, as pretty clearly seems to be the case, he sits on the science committee despite rejecting science in favor of what he prefers to believe, then he’s incompetent to have a hand in science policy. But if, in the unlikely alternative you’ve suggested, he has access to some revolutionary new data that contradicts centuries of established science and he’s keeping it a secret from the rest of the country, then he’s incompetent for that exact reason.

  3. Thank you, Rep. Broun for dispelling the popular misconception that physicians are trained in science. He is most likely on the committee because the rest of Congress considers him, as a physician, to be a scientist.

    When I check, it appears that there are about 8 scientists and engineers in Congress currently (roughly the same as the number of accountants). There are almost twice as many physicians. There are more congressmen who were foreign-born than there are scientists and engineers. Most members of Congress are attorneys. All of this makes it difficult to have informed scientific opinions in Congress. There is a science advisors program through the ACS or NSF that provides recent Ph.D. graduates in science to work as advisors for members of Congress, but I don’t know how well it is utilized and those are really the wrong people to do the advising (if I correctly remember what I was like as a fresh, 27 year-old Ph.D. graduate).

    The lack of representation from technical fields is a big problem in today’s world of technical advancement, serious environmental and infrastructure problems, and technological solution to problems.

  4. Well now that we have strayed from the original scope of the subject, Mr. Broun’s alleged incompetence as an elected official, I am going to check out of the discussion

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