Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sarah Palin and the Dinosaurs

Well it's almost upon us ... the 2008 US presidential election is a mere 3 weeks or so away, and I can't wait for it to finish. It has been very exciting to follow, and at times, excruciating. For an update on where things stand, check out this awesome website where statistics are done right.

Sarah Palin (the current governor of Alaska) is McCain's pick for VP - and it's turning out to be the worst decision he ever made. In combination with the tanking economy, the McCain-Palin poll numbers have dropped to the point that some pundits are already calling the election for Obama-Biden. Only time will tell.

But why has McCain's pick not solidified a base and increased his numbers? Perhaps, in part, because middle america is worn out of religious fundamentalism that Bush has thrust upon us. Palin believes abortion should be illegal (including cases of rape and incest), beleves women should pay for their own rape kits, thinks creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the science classroom, believes that Iraq is a task from god, "tolerates" homosexuals and the choice they make, and believes in exorcisms (as she has had one herself) and speaking in tongues. This is just a sampling of the radical religious views Palin chooses to embrace.

Her lone media interview (with Katie Couric) was nearly unbearable - just to watch it I had to sit with my finger on the ON/OFF button because I just couldn't stand to hear her answers out of sheer embarrassment for her. How, in any way, did McCain think she was ready to be VP? One good thing that comes from this, is that she is a very inexperienced, fundamentally religious woman who has been thrust into the spotlight where she must answer to the scrutiny of the general public and mass media. Her fundamentally religious perspectives that are internally inconsistent are exposed in the national limelight. There have been times, that watching her answer a question with some religious rhetoric, she fumbles and almost seems to want to take it back, or change her answer - you can see her almost as if she realizes how stupid it sounds and she's about to change her view. Instead she continues to rattle it off, even though it just sounds utterly ridiculous.

This lame attempt to get peoples' votes by appealing to their religious/superstitious side is the case-in-point of how RELIGION is a very dangerous system. Most intelligent people I argue with about religion continue to rebut by saying, "But Matthew, who cares? At the end of the day, it's just a belief. Why do you care so much about what someone believes?" And my continual response is that it lays a foundation for someone to take absolute advantage of you. It never stops at 'just a belief in god.' There's always something attached - god thinks abortion is wrong, god created the world (he did not 'evolve' it), god guides our moral compass to attack other countries, god did not create marriage for homosexuals ... etc. Sarah Palin is using a dogma of superstition to connect with people and win their votes. It's despicable.

Of course she claims that her judgment is clear and that she is completely qualified to be not just the VP, but the Prez herself should John McCain pass away in office (which isn't hard to imagine seeing he's already 72 years old). Why should we questions her judgment? Aside from the fact that she says her foreign policy experience is sound because Alaska is right next to Russia on a map - the woman believes that dinosaurs lived with humans ... something science says couldn't have happened because we're separated by about 65,000,000 years of evolution.

Just remember - when you walk into the voting booth this November, ask yourself W.W.T.R.D.? (What Would Tyrannosaurus Rex Do?)


Nikolas said...

Yay! A post!

Do you know what I'd really like to see? Public national-office aptitude tests.

For instance general knowledge: "Bill A would cost X billion dollars to enforce over 4 years. Bill B would cost Y% of the budget to enforce over 4 years. (a) Assuming the national budget remains at its most recent level, and that both bills are equally effective, which would be the most cost-effective plan? (b) If the bills remain equally effective, but the budget did NOT remain at its most recent level, what dollar amount would the budget have to rise to or fall to in order to make the plan chosen in "part a" no longer the most cost-effective option?"

Give ethical questions too! Post situations like those featured in Moral Minds: How Nature Designed our Universal sense of Right and Wrong by biologist Marc Hauser. (Push a fat man off a bridge to save 5 people?)

I'm sure some standard American history questions would work too. Not sure what I'd include from science... I'd like to avoid "trivia" questions, e.g. "at what temperature does water boil in Kelvin?", and instead I'd like to focus on critical thinking skills. I'd have to sit down and think what general aptitude I would expect a national officer to display for this, of course.

I'd like the test to come in two parts. The first part should be a timed question and answer where the candidate must respond on their own knowledge alone. The second should be a take-home. Both parts should either include the same questions or very similar questions. Obviously, its important for a candidate to surround themselves with informed people so the take-home part will test that ability.

Finally, the results are made public along with an "answer sheet" that gives correct answers, where they exist, and critiques of answers where they don't.

What do you think?

Matthew said...

What a fantastic idea! I've never heard it developed in such great detail, but I'm definitely in favor. I agree that the science section would need to focus on critical thinking and not just simple regurgitation of facts. Probably short answer essay such as, "Explain why Lamarck's model of acquired characteristics was an apt characterization of the living world during his lifetime." Then the followup will be, "How do we know that his model is false?" It tests the basic understanding of how people come to conclusions based on evidence, and when they're wrong, how we go about modifying our theories to represent the actual world.

We need to hang out soon!