Monday, September 27, 2010

Maureen Dowd Takes on the Anti-Science Tea Party

Here are some bits from a Maureen Down op-ed in the NY Times about the nutty anti-science positions of the Tea Party and New Jersey's Republican candidate for the US Senate, Christine O’Donnell:
Christine O’Donnell doesn’t understand why monkeys can’t turn into people right before her eyes.

Bill Maher continued his video torment of O’Donnell by releasing another old clip of her on his HBO show on Friday night, this time showing one in which she argued that “Evolution is a myth.”

Maher shot back, “Have you ever looked at a monkey?” To which O’Donnell rebutted, “Why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans?”


In 2007, O’Donnell frantically warned Bill O’Reilly, “American scientific companies are crossbreeding humans and animals and coming up with mice with fully functioning human brains.”

The field of human-animal experiments is dubbed “chimera” research, named for the she-monster in Greek mythology that has a lion’s head, a goat’s body and a serpent’s tail.

Dr. Irving Weissman, director of Stanford’s Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, did the first experiments injecting human brain-forming stem cells into the brains of immune-deficient mice 10 years ago.

He assured me that the mice did not suddenly start acting human. “There were no requests for coffee from Minnie,” he said. “The total number of human brain cells in the mouse brain was less than one in a thousand. I don’t think we would get a mouse with a full human brain. And even if the mouse made it to a human mouse it would still have a mouse-brain offspring.”

Dr. Weissman is sensitive to ethical questions and has tried to ensure that “the nightmare scenario” won’t happen: putting embryonic stem cells into mice at the earliest stages, which could give rise to every tissue in the body including human sperm and eggs, which could lead to two mice mating and the early formation of human fetuses in the body of a mouse.

He is working toward breakthroughs on multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injuries, strokes, breast cancer and a host of other diseases, and is worried by the retrogressive attitude about science and medicine among the new crop of Tea Partiers.


President Obama was supposed to be a giant leap forward in modernity, the brainy, rational first black president leading us out of the scientific darkness of the W. years. But by letting nutters get a foothold, he may usher us into the past.

Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, John Boehner, Jim DeMint and some Tea Party types don’t merely yearn for the country they idealize from the 1950s. They want to go back to the 1750s.

Joe Miller, the Palin-blessed Republican nominee for Senate in Alaska, suggests that Social Security is unconstitutional because it wasn’t in the Constitution. The Constitution is a dazzling document, but do these originalists really think things haven’t changed since then? If James Madison beamed down now, he would no doubt be stunned at the idea that America had evolved so far but was hemming itself in by the strictest interpretation of his handiwork. He might even tweet about it.

Evolution is no myth, but we may be evolving backward. Christine O’Donnell had better hope they don’t bring back witch burning.
It is incredible that in the 21st century, the rabid right wing is running people with an 18th century mentality. So much for "American education". And it shows you how dangerous demagogues are during stressful times. Desperate people turn to bizarre demagogues when they are without hope.


thomas said...

I like Maureen Dowd. I like her post, but a minor point is that we have focused on one statement from O"Donnell's past interviews and made it a part of our attack on her. We need to do better than that. I don't think the Democrats can win by making fun of her beliefs and past statements. Even though any sane person would not vote for her given her past and her silly beliefs. I hope our nation is better than the crazy right fringe.

Here is a good article on the Tea Party and their issues. It shows a history of our system in constant debate. The party of "NO" has bred the tea party (I think) because they do not know how to debate or even really what they stand for. We all know it is not smaller government or lowering the debt. The tea party is a result of their inadequacies as well as any other party or idealism that could be blamed..

I don't know if I could pretend to take the tea party serious and try to have a reasonable debate, but perhaps the Democrats should take them more serious and focus on the real issues and stop making light of their viewpoints.

Poor silly O'Donnell could win if we don't find higher ground to stand on..

RYviewpoint said...

Thomas: You are right in saying that taking one minor point and harping on that is wrong. That's Bill Maher's style because he is working a TV audience. Maureen Dowd also has a style that goes for the jugular. Both of these people are very smart and are making a serious point, but they know they have an audience with the attention of a gnat, so they don't go for a nuanced view hedged in with qualifications and they don't try to build an extensive case against somebody. That's too boring.

I actually like O'Donnell as a personality. She is quirky. I like Sarah Palin for the same reason. But they terrify me as potential leaders because they don't show any self-knowledge, any recognition of their ignorance and the great damage they could do if they controlled the levers of power.

I got a chuckle over Karl Rove's interview on the night of O'Donnell's victory. He was apoplectic. He was calling her incompetent, a danger, and he raised the issue of her abuse of political funds as a "personal piggybank". The head of the Delaware Republicans was also apoplectic. He saw her as a rogue element in his party.

Bottom line: there is a great schism in the Republican party. For years the smart money used the social conservatives, the religious right, as the engine to win elections that put politicians in place that rewarded the ultra-rich with tax cuts and favourable laws for business. The Tea Party is a revolt from below that is taking over leadership in the Republican party in some parts of the country. This could destroy the Republican party.

I'm hoping the Republicans self-destruct and that the Democrats have a split where the blue dog Democrats become the new Conservative party in the US while the more pregressive wing of the Democrats become the Liberals. (Or if you follow the Canadian style, the moderate Democrats become the Liberals while the more radical progressive form a Social Democrat party.)

thomas said...

I think your scenario for the new political parties has a chance of actually occurring (I hope something along these lines comes about). So, I will be cheering for anything or person that further destroys the Republicans.. We will soon see what direction these things will take, but the Democrats have a lot of the future in their hands as they do everything they can to save their jobs which will lead to them losing (I hope not).