Thursday 2 October 2008

Leadership and belief.

There's a nice post here from Tim Newman about how baffled he is that believing in Creationism attracts so much more opprobrium than believing in any other stupid, ignorant, nutty, ridiculosity.

Sarah Palin believes in creationism, and she might one day be president. Yet the incumbent president, and our own glorious leaders, believe in trade tariffs. Putting all the evidence together on a table, which belief is more irrational? And which belief causes more harm?

Sarah Palin chooses to defy scientific findings, close her ears, and believe the earth was created 6,000 years ago. Most of the world’s leaders choose to defy an awful lot of scientific findings, close their ears, and believe the earth is heating up uncontrollably, and we the public must stump up billions in taxes to do something about it. Which is the more irrational? And which is most likely to cause me, you, and everyone else serious harm?

This prompted me to look up this old piece by John Derbyshire and — lo and behold — I find that he need do little more than change the word "Bush" to "Palin" and he could republish it tomorrow as is, topical as ever.

My ideal nursing-home attendant, auto mechanic, or president would be a cheerful, capable, well-motivated person who was thoroughly au courant with the theory of evolution — and indeed with all the most recent advances in astronomy, biochemistry, cosmology, dendrochronology, endochrinology, fluviology, geomorphology, hydrodynamics, ichthyology, jurisprudence, kinesiology, limnology, microbiology, neuropathology, ophthalmology, psychometrics, quantum chromodynamics, rocket science, seismology, trichology, urology, virology, wiretapping, xenodocheionology, yachting, and zoology.

Life, however, often consists of making a choice between unsatisfactory alternatives. Invited to choose between having my kids educated, my car fixed, or my elderly relatives cared for by (a) people of character, spirit, and dedication who believe in pseudoscience, or (b) unionized, time-serving drudges who believe in real science, which would I choose? Invited to choose between a president who is (a) a patriotic family man of character and ability who believes the universe was created on a Friday afternoon in 4,004 B.C. with all biological species instantly represented, or (b) an amoral hedonist and philanderer who “loathes the military” but who believes in the evolution of species via natural selection across hundreds of millions of years, which would I choose? Are you kidding?

I'm sure I've said this before, but at least Creationists, as a rule, have some understanding of evolution — and they disagree with it. In my experience, most of those who agree with it haven't got the faintest clue how it works and will give laughably bad explanations if asked to explain, for instance, why peacocks have such elaborate tails or why there's a gap in the fossil record. The gleeful derision towards Creationists by those who are every bit as ignorant, if not more so, but who are confident that The Truth they believe in has been certified by experts, always strikes me as a rather good illustration of the essential repulsiveness of mobs.

There's more to being right than believing something that happens to be true.

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