Two things happened yesterday that underscore the danger zone in which we currently live. The more dramatic event, an earthquake in central Virginia felt by many of us along the East Coast, had the social media tweeting for some time. The second event took the form of an editorial in the New Jersey Star-Ledger concerning GOP hopeful Jon Huntsman. Huntsman is quoted as saying, “The minute the Republican Party becomes the anti-science party, we have a huge problem.” An even larger problem is that the clock has moved well beyond the future tense. The editorial cites GOP candidates who routinely dismiss the science of global warming, evolution and other certainties as mere “data-fixing.” Perry and Bachmann have both decided they “don’t believe” in global warming. The elephant in the room, however, goes without mention.
The elephant in the room is religion, and it is a killer elephant, one that has a history of stomping those who attempt to control it. Politicians attack religion—whether or not it is bad juju makes no difference—at their eternal peril. In this “nation under God” (really under God) even a finger pointed towards conservative Christianity becomes a dagger plunged into a candidate’s chest. The Religious Right has been doing its homework for decades: no voice of reason can speak loudly enough to be heard over the songs of praise of the self-righteous. Reason, as scientists have discerned, cannot impact religious fervor. Belief can withstand a full-frontal attack from logic, reason—all that is sacred to rationality—and emerge without a scratch or dent. It is time that those in the middle and left took religious studies seriously.
Then I felt the earth move under my feet. As our house swayed and I checked on my daughter, I couldn’t believe I was feeling my third earthquake. I checked the web to see what in the world was going on. Interestingly, no witch doctors or Fundamentalist soothsayers were being consulted, but the scientists were. The news stories emerging minutes after the ground shook from Pittsburgh to Concord to Chapel Hill rang with the refrain, “scientists say.” Where was Rick Perry and his dowsing rods? Where was Michele Bachmann and her chicken bones? No, the religious war on science was switched off for a moment and those who felt afraid listened to those who actually knew what they were talking about. It was the elephant moving around the room, I say. It will only be a matter of time, however, before it is claimed that the people of Mineral, Virginia did something evil to prod an angry god into action.