CW: This post began as a comment, but I wanted to give it greater prominence. Many thanks to author Akhilleus for reminding us that churchmen once were leaders in scientific inquiry in stark contrast to the Santorums & Gingrich's who would take us back to primitive explanations for natural phenomena.
The antipathy towards science and truth regarding the natural world on shocking display in the warped funhouse mirror that is the Republican Presidential primary campaign represents a new low in the right’s never-ending search for more and more insidious ways to grab onto power with every sucker on each of its slimy tentacles.
The Rick Santorum quotes about the environment offer a chance to consider how far we've come -- and how low we've sunk.
The contemporary hatred and distrust of science by the religious right and right-wingers in general has not always had this kind of power, even in the Dark Ages during which the pursuit of scientific knowledge was highly regarded among many religious teachers, scholars, and leaders. Robert Grossteste, an English bishop and master of theology, wrote extensively on optics, mathematics, astronomy, and even composed a treatise explaining the scientific basis for tidal activity (Bill O’Reilly’s mental capacity has yet to rise to the level of a guy who was writing on parchment paper in the 13th century).
The rise of methods of investigating the natural world and which prompted several scientific revolutions was supported and, largely, created by medieval churchmen like Grossteste, Roger Bacon, Albertus Magnus, Henry of Ghent, William of Ockham, and one of the big guns in Church history, Thomas Aquinas hisself.
Aquinas, at least according to my reading of his work, would kick the intelligent design people down the stairs. They just don't fit in with his understanding of the workings of the natural world. This isn’t to compare Aquinas with Einstein as a pure scientist, but it is a recognition that for these scholars, science and religion could live together. In fact, many of them went toe to toe with the less enlightened clerics of their day. They didn’t always win, but in some cases (Roger Bacon) they were even supported by the pope (Clement IV, I believe).
These guys laid the groundwork for what became the empirical method eventually taken up by beacons of enlightened thought such as John Locke and David Hume, neither of whom were buddies of reactionary religious troglodytes.
So why the regression? Why is today’s religious right and their political enablers and supporters like Santorum and Gingrich even more benighted, more backward than ignorant, uneducated pissants who lived nearly a thousand years ago? Why do today’s religiously (un)informed right-wingers scream bloody murder at the very mention of climate change, stem cell research, natural selection, and a myriad other scientific topics when many of these same fields of study were avidly pursued by prominent members of the Church centuries ago with an eye toward increasing, rather than diminishing, humanity’s knowledge and understanding of the natural world?
The best guess is power and control. Empowering ignorance is a useful way to to stave off the sovereignty of truth. Holding up science as a straw-man/boogieman enables the right to distract the masses from the real problems facing them, problems often directly caused by right-wing policies. The religion vs. science screamfest is a handy smokescreen for the right as they attempt to divert scrutiny away from their actual plan of taking control of the country away from anyone who is not of their tribe and handing it to the wealthy, the oligarchs, and those whose motives are firmly grounded in their book of rules, the right-wing quarto of money, power, war, and control.
There’ve been a number of pieces written recently pointing out the strategic problems of this scheme. First, by elevating the ignorant, they have inadvertently ceded a certain amount of power and now the ringmasters are the ones having to jump through hoops of fire and stumble around the big top after tumbling out of their primary season clown car. The masses, fired up with the fury of imbecility, hatred, and ignorance, now want their show trials in which their enemies (science, truth, rationality) are hung in effigy, if not in reality. And what the rest of the country is left with is the very real possibility of an uninformed, willfully ignorant, hate-spewing birdbrain like Rick Santorum, as President of the United States.
It’s one thing when hypocrisy and rank desire for power cause you to foul your own house with the stinking sluice of sluggish stupefaction and feeble-minded ineptitude, but when you drench the rest of the country with this effluence, you deserve nothing less than perdition and infamy.
And demanding that schoolchildren learn magical thinking in place of scientific truth is more than a step backwards. It’s a descent into insignificance and complete collapse.
But that's the Way of the Right: If we can't be in charge, we'll burn it all down.
Any better reason to go out and vote against these monsters?