Revolution Online, November 2, 2008

The Anti-Science Rantings of Sarah Palin

I really agree with what Revolution has been writing about how Obama conciliating with these extreme right-wing forces and their agenda. I wanted to address to the anti-science element of what those forces are about.

Last week Sarah Palin gave her first “public policy” speech on the topic of children with disabilities.

In the speech Palin ridiculed spending money on what she portrayed as frivolous government research projects saying with disdain, “And where does a lot of that earmark money end up? It goes to projects having little or nothing to do with the public good—things like fruit fly research in Paris France, I kid you not”.

Palin apparently thought the point of the research she was making fun of was to benefit fruit flies. The reality is that much of the research has to do with learning more about how to combat pests that are a major agricultural threat.

More to the point, science bloggers pointed out that research on related flies—Drosophila (commonly known as fruit flies although technically not), has led to major advances in understanding of human disorders and diseases. This includes studies that have been of real benefit to children with disabilities such as autism, who Palin claimed to be advocating for.

After Palin’s speech, scientists at the University of North Carolina put out a press release showing how their work in Drosophila on the protein neurexin, has led to new understanding of what can go wrong in the nervous system when this protein’s function is lost. Mutations in the human form of this protein have been identified as a genetic risk factor for autism.

Beyond this, Drosophila research has been a foundation of learning more about many biological mechanisms, including many that also function in humans. In the book Your Inner Fish, Professor Neil Shubin of University of Chicago discusses how study of genes in Drosophila , as well as research in many other organisms, has brought increased understanding of embryology and development in general. Because species have evolved—many genes throughout evolutionary history are related and so study of related genes in species like Drosophila can teach us much about similar genes and processes in all species, including humans.

But of course Palin doesn’t believe any of this.

As the article “A Christian Fascist Nutcase Runs for VP” (Revolution #145) pointed out, Palin is a biblical literalist who advocates the teaching of creationism in school science classes and believes the earth is 6,000 years old, rather than 4.5 billion years old as proven by scientific evidence, and that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time, rather than tens of millions of years apart as fossil evidence proves. She says she knows this because she once saw a photo of a human footprint inside a dinosaur footprint.

Palin doesn’t believe the scientific consensus that human activity is causing global warming and has played a major role in efforts in Alaska to prevent polar bears, whose population is threatened by melting of polar ice, from being listed as an endangered species.

Palin’s know-nothing dismissal of scientific research comes on top of other attacks on science waged through the course of the McCain campaign. McCain ridiculed grizzly bear research in the western U.S. that is aimed at protecting bears that are threatened with extinction.

In opposition to looking into and understanding of nature and the world based on science, Palin ridicules scientific research and inquiry and promotes and stands for the most extreme backwardness, refusal to think, and actual fear of thinking. Palin and the Christian fascist forces she is linked to want to cover up and even wipe out this type of approach and understanding of reality and keep people enslaved to a simplistic and wrong view that God just created all this so believe what you’re told and shut up.

It’s crucial to realize what are the implications of the fact that someone like this, after 8 years of the horror and criminality of Bush, is being thrust forward to a leading position in this country’s politics and cast as the future for her party. Palin’s comments on scientific research are further evidence these fascist theocrats are not going away, and that the attacks on science coming from Christian theocrats in key positions of power and with a base of unthinking millions, will continue in an unrelenting way. Whatever the outcome of the election, these people do not intend to give up, they are actually out to impose the a fundamentalist, obscurantist worldview and law on society in a complete and thoroughgoing way.

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