Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Intellectual Fundamentalism, part Deux, trey…what was the third one?

Rick Santorum has fired yet another salvo into the Presidential race with his insistence that “science should get out of politics.”

Crossposted to The Suicidal Cactus Hour

To say that Rick holds that politics should serve ideology as opposed to the public weal is nothing new. His own campaign for “family values” has earned him…let’s just say a stain on his public persona.  Rick is, after all, no stranger to the struggle to find definition…

The thing is, in his latest attempt to assert relevancy in this race, is that he illustrates a problem in the field of current GOP candidates. A willingness to side with intellectually stunted, yet ideologically “correct” folks. Climate change. Evolution. Crime statistics even. Part of this, is the result of the wedge issue of “Intelligent Design” that has allowed folks to take a window of belief and hold it as a “controversial issue of science” as opposed to “This is our belief and screw you scientists!”  It allows folks who fear vaccines to hold up papers that aren’t supported as a shield of belief, as opposed to good science. It allows discounted studies to be clutched to try to stave off the EPA, the FDA, or any decent thoughts of how to avoid catastrophic change in how we look at industry and the future of energy production in the nation.

Some of these issues are based in economics. Folks are invested in industries that are threatened by change and advances in technology and increasingly pointed studies that are showing systemic changes in weather patterns unlike anything in the previous hundreds of years. Some of these are based on a shifting of narrative to force discussion about religious indoctrination in our schools under the aegis of competitive theory.  Some of it is just hysterical natterings and support of these idiots only muddies the waters and creates enough chaos to try to force the other two areas forward.

In part, we can blame the Fairness Doctrine. The idea that there were always two sides, equal but opposite has been built into media narrative for some time. With the fall of the Fairness Doctrine, we still have that structure built into how we approach news–save that without the Fairness Doctrine, there is no onus to provide anything looking like a true balance.  Folks can advance anything as competing, and then nod sagely as folks spout rubbish, and appear to be “fair and balanced.”

Part we can blame on the Neocon’s favorite of subjective reality. So long as you believe it, it has to be so, in your world view. Twisted out of true, and promoted further, it allowed us to march on Iraq and pursue goals of questionable merit based on what amounts to belief that something has to be true, because I said so.

It is a sort of intellectual Fundamentalism that reduces thought away from fact, and into the realm of belief. It is a dangerous sort of thought process, especially when used to justify public policy on someone’s “gut feelings.”  Be that a gut that tells them that climate change is impossible, despite mounds of evidence. Be that a gut that tells them couples loving one another and marrying in different churches and ministries or faiths defines their own marriages. Be that a gut that says, “aquifers are pussies.” It boils down to folks who value narrative over facts. Who see science as a competitive force, because it keeps  refuting claims of belief, as opposed to arguments based in fact.

Good public policy has to be rooted in fact. Good public policy isn’t just rooted in ideology and belief of the greater good, but also rooted in practical solutions. Practicality demands that we base public policy in solid fact, and that we alter our course when conditions change. Be that tax policy, be that how we deal with other nations diplomatically, be that how we address energy policy, be that how we deal with crime. Instead, we have a rise of those who see belief as being equal to fact, and this sort of Intellectual Fundamentalism keep trying to shift narrative, as opposed to discussing facts. That they see science as an enemy only shows how poorly they can defend these policies. In a sane world, we would trounce them out of office, and laugh as they gnashed their teeth and pounded fists on podiums, but we are not in a sane place in our politics now, and if anything, we need to work to get back to a sane place where we can look at facts without trying to put up blinders of ideology to counteract them.  


  1. I have one word for you, Rick:


    Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. What we need to teach our children so our country will have any chance whatsoever of maintaining its position of global leadership.

    But, yes, let’s take science out of politics, because politics controls education. Let’s take science out of education.

    Your children don’t need bloody “science” – stupid “knowledge gained by systematic study”! They need my bloody knowledge! I will tell them what is knowledge and what is not, “systematic study” is for weaklings!!



    1. a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences.

    2. systematic knowledge of the physical or material world gained through observation and experimentation.

    3. any of the branches of natural or physical science.

    4. systematized knowledge in general.

    5. knowledge, as of facts or principles; knowledge gained by systematic study.

    6. a particular branch of knowledge.

    7. skill, especially reflecting a precise application of facts or principles; proficiency.

    Just look at the evil in those words! “a particular branch of knowledge” – how do you know it is knowledge if I didn’t give it to you?!?!?!

    “skill, especially reflecting a precise application of facts or principles; proficiency” – facts and principles are not yours to define, they are mine. “skill” and “proficiency” mean what I say they mean.

    What astounding arrogance. What dictatorial, authoritarian, invasive, intrusive, Big Government Communism.

    Rick Santorum, you are not an American.

    You would have my children surrender to you the freedom of their thought. To give to you the power to define what skill and proficiency means to them, what branches of knowledge they are allowed to understand.

    Mao, Stalin, Gaddafi and you, Mr. Santorum. Ahmadenijahd, Jim Jones, David Coresh and you, Mr. Santorum. These are your peers.

  2. …but while all three party leaders seem to be atheists in the UK (a minor victory in my opinion after Blair) we have had a fillip with stem cell research. Cambridge (Cambridgeshire) is slightly ahead of the US in this field because of Bush’s asinine restrictions.

    And I’ve just come across this amazing recent poll which suggests that Americans distrust atheists about the same amount they do rapists

    A new study finds that atheists are among society’s most distrusted group, comparable even to rapists in certain circumstances.

    Psychologists at the University of British Columbia and the University of Oregon say that their study demonstrates that anti-atheist prejudice stems from moral distrust, not dislike, of nonbelievers.

    “It’s pretty remarkable,” said Azim Shariff, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon and a co-author of the study, which appears in the current issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

    The study, conducted among 350 Americans adults and 420 Canadian college students, asked participants to decide if a fictional driver damaged a parked car and left the scene, then found a wallet and took the money, was the driver more likely to be a teacher, an atheist teacher, or a rapist teacher?

    The participants, who were from religious and nonreligious backgrounds, most often chose the atheist teacher.

    The study is part of an attempt to understand what needs religion fulfills in people. Among the conclusions is a sense of trust in others.

    “People find atheists very suspect,” Shariff said. “They don’t fear God so we should distrust them; they do not have the same moral obligations of others. This is a common refrain against atheists. People fear them as a group.”

    Shariff, who studies atheism and religion, said the findings provide a clue to combating anti-atheism prejudice.

    “If you manage to offer credible counteroffers of these stereotypes, this can do a lot to undermine people’s existing prejudice,” he said. “If you realize there are all these atheists you’ve been interacting with all your life and they haven’t raped your children that is going to do a lot do dispel these stereotypes.”

  3. Rashaverak

    In part, we can blame the Fairness Doctrine. The idea that there were always two sides, equal but opposite has been built into media narrative for some time. With the fall of the Fairness Doctrine, we still have that structure built into how we approach news–save that without the Fairness Doctrine, there is no onus to provide anything looking like a true balance.  Folks can advance anything as competing, and then nod sagely as folks spout rubbish, and appear to be “fair and balanced.”

    I respectfully disagree. Neither the Fairness Doctrine nor the FCC decisions and policy statements that promulgated and implemented it ever said that there were only two sides to any controversial issue of public importance.

    The Federal Communications Commission has for many years imposed on radio and television broadcasters the requirement that discussion of public issues be presented on broadcast stations, and that each side of those issues must be given fair coverage. This is known as the fairness doctrine, which originated very early in the history of broadcasting and has maintained its present outlines for some time.

    There is a twofold duty laid down by the FCC’s decisions and described by the 1949 Report on Editorializing by Broadcast Licensees, 13 F. C. C. 1246 (1949). The broadcaster must give adequate coverage to public issues, United Broadcasting Co., 10 F. C. C. 515 (1945), and coverage must be fair in that it accurately reflects the opposing views. New Broadcasting Co., 6 P & F Radio Reg. 258 (1950). This must be done at the broadcaster’s own expense if sponsorship is unavailable. Cullman Broadcasting Co., 25 P & F Radio Reg. 895 (1963). [378] Moreover, the duty must be met by programming obtained at the licensee’s own initiative if available from no other source. John J. Dempsey, 6 P & F Radio Reg. 615 (1950); see Metropolitan Broadcasting Corp., 19 P & F Radio Reg. 602 (1960); The Evening News Assn., 6 P & F Radio Reg. 283 (1950).

    Just as the Government may limit the use of sound-amplifying equipment potentially so noisy that it drowns out civilized private speech, so may the Government limit the use of broadcast equipment. The right of free speech of a broadcaster, the user of a sound truck, or any other individual does not embrace a right to snuff out the free speech of others. Associated Press v. United States, 326 U.S. 1, 20 (1945).

    When two people converse face to face, both should not speak at once if either is to be clearly understood. But the range of the human voice is so limited that there could be meaningful communications if half the people in the United States were talking and the other half listening. Just as clearly, half the people might publish and the other half read. But the reach of radio signals is [388] incomparably greater than the range of the human voice and the problem of interference is a massive reality. The lack of know-how and equipment may keep many from the air, but only a tiny fraction of those with resources and intelligence can hope to communicate by radio at the same time if intelligible communication is to be had, even if the entire radio spectrum is utilized in the present state of commercially acceptable technology.

    It was this fact, and the chaos which ensued from permitting anyone to use any frequency at whatever power level he wished, which made necessary the enactment of the Radio Act of 1927 and the Communications Act of 1934, [note 16] as the Court has noted at length before. National Broadcasting Co. v. United States, 319 U.S. 190, 210-214 (1943). It was this reality which at the very least necessitated first the division of the radio spectrum into portions reserved respectively for public broadcasting and for other important radio uses such as amateur operation, aircraft, police, defense, and navigation; and then the subdivision of each portion, and assignment of specific frequencies to individual users or groups of users. Beyond this, however, because the frequencies reserved for public broadcasting were limited in number, it was essential for the Government to tell some applicants that they could not broadcast at all because there was room for only a few.

    Where there are substantially more individuals who want to broadcast than there are frequencies to allocate, it is idle to posit an unabridgeable First Amendment right to broadcast comparable to the right of every individual to speak, write, or publish. If 100 persons want broadcast [389] licenses but there are only 10 frequencies to allocate, all of them may have the same “right” to a license; but if there is to be any effective communication by radio, only a few can be licensed and the rest must be barred from the airwaves. It would be strange if the First Amendment, aimed at protecting and furthering communications, prevented the Government from making radio communication possible by requiring licenses to broadcast and by limiting the number of licenses so as not to overcrowd the spectrum.

    This has been the consistent view of the Court. Congress unquestionably has the power to grant and deny licenses and to eliminate existing stations. FRC v. Nelson Bros. Bond & Mortgage Co., 289 U.S. 266 (1933). No one has a First Amendment right to a license or to monopolize a radio frequency; to deny a station license because “the public interest” requires it “is not a denial of free speech.” National Broadcasting Co. v. United States, 319 U.S. 190, 227 (1943).

    By the same token, as far as the First Amendment is concerned those who are licensed stand no better than those to whom licenses are refused. A license permits broadcasting, but the licensee has no constitutional right to be the one who holds the license or to monopolize a radio frequency to the exclusion of his fellow citizens. There is nothing in the First Amendment which prevents the Government from requiring a licensee to share his frequency with others and to conduct himself as a proxy or fiduciary with obligations to present those views and voices which are representative of his community and which would otherwise, by necessity, be barred from the airwaves.

    Red Lion Broadcasting Co., Inc. v. FCC, 395 U.S. 367 (1969).

    Note: One of the cornerstones of the Fairness Doctrine is that there will be a limited number of radio and television stations.  This “scarcity” premise is certainly true in the context of over-the-air broadcasting.  Whether the scarcity premise retains any validity in the age of the Internet is an interesting question.

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