Democracy Under Assault
Theopolitics, Incivility and Violence on the Right

Michele Swenson

Revisionist Science:
Confusion of Fundamentalist Ideology and Science


Since 1988, "Biblically Correct Tours" of Littleton, Colorado has offered a biblical perspective in its guided tours of secular sites. On a recent scripturally-based tour of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, student participants were informed that the museum's prehistoric exhibit is a "lie," that "Hitler was an evolutionist," and that "Ph.D." applied to evolutionists stands for "Piled Higher & Deeper." Columnist Cal Thomas expressed literalists' overall opposition to evolution: Because it teaches that humans evolved from "slime," every policy or behavior denounced by fundamentalists can be traced to the evil of evolution.

The long tradition of scientific method is compromised by the purposeful confusion of science with ideology by the right. The "religions" of evolution and environmentalism, as well as scientific evidence, have been mocked as challenges to literalist beliefs. Unsuccessful at interjecting creationism or "intelligent design" into science classes, some have declared evolution a "religion," which also should not be taught. Teaching evolution, sex education or "nonbiblical" roles for males and females is portrayed as "un-Christian" - the source of "immoral acts" like abortion and homosexuality that contribute to an alleged pattern of "Christian oppression."

The application of a moral code for preservation of planetary integrity has prompted accusations of anti-Christian "earth worship," or veneration of "creation instead of the creator"óreason to exclude their mention in public schools. Environmental activism is "eco-socialism," charged Robertson, naming the ultimate evil any suggestion of the need for population control, and warning that environmental curricula serve to indoctrinate children into "left-wing causes" like global cooperation - another perceived threat to the sovereignty of Christian nationalists. True stewardship of the earth demands "controlling the earth instead of being controlled by the earth," preaches Robertson. Recycling was mocked as Americaís "new established religion" at the 1997 annual Christian Coalition conference.

Nor does anticipation of imminent Armageddon leave any reason to solve world problems, since environmental blight, poverty or overpopulation represent temporary interludes. Interior Secretary James Watt and author Hal Lindsey (The Late Great Planet Earth) share the fundamentalist conviction that theirs is the last generation preceding the biblical end times, thereby justifying corporate exploitation of the earth by clear-cutting timber and mining national parks for profit. Christ will return when "the last tree is felled," testified Watt before Congress in the Ď80s.

As literalism is invoked to nullify science, even speculation about intelligent life elsewhere in the universe has been denounced as "new age" demonic diversion by Pat Robertson. "Messianic alien intelligence" is the invention of those "worshiping at the altar of Carl Sagan," declared a Robertson guest. Another explained that we have been Carl "Saganized" ("Saganís soul probably isnít in heaven",) evidenced by the "religion of mathematical possibility" that posits the development of life elsewhere among countless galaxies. Popular movies like "Contact" and "Men in Black" are castigated as efforts to condition humans to the idea of aliens as highly evolved spiritual beings, substituting the myth of UFO saviors for salvation through Jesus Christ alone. Speculation about foreign planetary life challenges biblical literalists' vision of earth as a unique planet and man as "the apple of God's eye" - a special, noble creature, "just a little lower than the angels," explained an evangelical. Distant galactic life represents an affront to the story of creation and Christian salvation. Jesus would have had to go "planet-hopping," undergoing incarnation, death and resurrection on each planet in order to save its inhabitants, ran the argument on Robertson's "700 Club."

As politics trumps science, inconvenient scientific findings are simply cast aside. Such manipulation prompted the Bush administrationís removal of accurate information about condoms from the CDC website, replaced with inaccurate claims about the high failure rate of condoms. Flawed science on the right wrongly links abortion with breast cancer, and teaches that women cannot become pregnant from rape ("fear prevents ovulation"). Some sex education classes, limited to abstinence-only, teach that "women need financial support, men need adoration." Policy that denies access to emergency contraception is steered by those seeking reclassification of contraceptives as abortifacients, and re-definition of pregnancy as the point of fertilization instead of the medical definition, implantation.

Global warming theory was denounced as "a hoax" by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla) ó "nothing less than environmental socialism," charged Rep. John Doolittle (R-Ca). Ridiculing promotion of fuel-efficient automobiles, Inhofe mocked efforts "to mold the behavior of U.S. businesses to conform with the "global warming ideology." Ultraconservative legislators voted in 1998 to slash $200 million earmarked for energy efficiency initiatives and renewable technologies research, while essentially forbidding any discussion of global warming and climate-related issues.

During the Reagan administration, the Centers for Disease Control ceased maintaining records regarding mortality and morbidity rates of poor minority women denied access to legal abortion. Subsequently, tracking gun morbidity and mortality statistics was likewise halted. The politicization, manipulation and suppression of science by the Bush administration reportedly led to heavy editing of the 2002 Environmental Protection Agency report on pollution, resulting in the removal of a section on global warming. Journalist Tom Yulsman reported that the "National Assessment" of potential consequences of climate change in the U.S., produced by hundreds of scientists after extensive review, was relegated by the administration to a "black hole" (The Denver Post, 8/21/05).

In the spirit of political inquisition, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) has demanded that three scientists relinquish records of every study related to climate research they have completed, every source of funding for their work, the location of all of their data archives, a description of everything they have done with the data, and all of their computer code, observed Yulsman. The "crime" of these scientists is a reconstruction of climate history demonstrating warmer temperatures in the latter half of the 20th century than any period during the past 1,000 years. Barton himself is reported the beneficiary of more than $1.7 million in campaign contributions from oil, gas and electric utilities. The purposeful corruption of science by ideologues in service of absolute political power and patronage portends regression to a new dark age in America.