What qualifies an elected politician to sit on a representatives’ committee? At Westminster, some select committee members do have specialist skills and knowledge. Others apply themselves to getting knowledgeable, or use a combination of curiosity and persistence to tease the knowledge, in terms understandable to the layman, from expert witnesses.
The Stateside equivalent came under perhaps unwanted scrutiny recently, after Rep Paul Broun, who is not opposed in his campaign for re-election to Georgia’s tenth Congressional District, and who sits on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (which has some oversight on bodies like NASA), made a number of off-kilter remarks about evolution and how the earth came into being.
“All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell ... And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior” he told a church group, then doubled down by asserting that the earth was no more than 9,000 years old and had been created, literally, in six days.
Well, there’s always one, isn’t there? Apparently not just the one in this case: salon.com has examined the makeup of the House Science Committee and discovered that Rep Todd Akin, who recently told that pregnancy from rape was “really rare”, because “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down”. No, I don’t know what makes it “legitimate”, either.
Chairing the Committee is Rep Ralph Hall of Texas, who explained his scepticism of climate change thus: “I don’t have any science to prove that. But we have a lot of science that tells us they’re not basing it on real scientific facts”. His fellow Texan, Randy Neugebauer, drafted a resolution with his solution to recent droughts: “join together in prayer to humbly seek fair weather conditions”.
And taking the biscuit in style is California Rep Dana Rohrabacher, explaining his scepticism of climate events 55 million years ago: “We don’t know what those other cycles were caused by in the past. Could be dinosaur flatulence”. Along with Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, a climate change sceptic who talks of “scientific fascism” and describes climate research as an “international conspiracy”.
Yes, all of these people enjoy oversight over NASA. Behold the face of today’s Republican Party: just how far removed is this from long dead civilisations that offered the Gods human sacrifices in the belief that it would make the weather better? Not far enough. Organised religion and ignorance make for a potent brew in politics Stateside. Some might say that brew is a little too powerful.
And organised religion is not completely absent from politics in the UK, either.