Fear and Loathing; The Radical Right is Panicking

The Petoskey News-Review prints my weekly column each Wednesday and it allows me to explore issues from a point of view that is challenging for a lot of people who don’t take the time to think through things but would rather spend their time repeating stuff they heard on Fox News.

When people respond to my column via email, I take great pains to answer their concerns the best that I can. Normally when people disagree with me in these emails, I thank them for their comments and I try to point out areas of where we disagree and why I feel my position is valid. I have no idea if these e-mailers take anything I say seriously, but I am not going to stop trying to talk sense to anyone willing to listen.

When someone writes a letter to the editor that gets published, however, I cannot address them directly. The PNR rightly doesn’t want their pages to be a forum for a back and forth between two individuals. They allow me to make my arguments on Wednesdays and they allow the rest of the reading public to take their shots at me throughout the week.

So while I can’t address each of these letters in my columns, I can use my blog to defend myself against the reckless rantings of those who don’t agree with me. It’s pretty clear that my column is causing a lot of grief among the local radical right.  Poorly thought out letters which attack things I didn’t actually say have now appeared two straight weeks. Such a letter appeared on September 26, 2013, written by Martin Pionk of Petoskey. Mr. Pionk uses some some nice vocabulary and a decent writing style (with some ridiculous redundancies mixed in for fun) in an attempt to challenge my claims that Michigan should avoid attempts by the radical right to keep global warming out of the classroom and to try to force creationism into the same science classrooms.

The problem with Mr. Pionk’s arguments is that, despite their fine construction, are completely devoid of logic and 100% unsupported by the facts. Let’s take a look at his letter. It’s full of the same tired arguments and faulty conclusions the radical right normally uses in the face of a truth they cannot bear to face.

First he accuses me of using the term “climate deniers” to invoke images of the Holocaust deniers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Holocaust deniers are a special kind of sick, and I never once thought of the silly climate deniers in the same light. Climate deniers are the people who refuse to allow science to run its course. They rely on their faith to explain things that the rest of us are seeking real answers to. They remind me very much of the advisers to the Pope during the early years of the Enlightenment who could clearly see their grip on telling people what to think (including that the earth was the center of the solar system) was quickly slipping away. Once people got to think for themselves and were not imprisoned or killed for such audacity, Europe could emerge from the “Dark Ages” and real progress toward the world we now know could begin.

He then makes a common mistake in saying that the “Theory of Evolution” is just a theory which he equates with a “best guess.” This is what non-scientists think theories are. Scientists know that theories and laws are nearly the same thing because they have been tested by countless hypotheses and generally there are no detractors. That evolution has risen to the status of “Theory” means that the vast majority of scientists have no doubts about things like natural selection. The problem with laymen like Mr. Pionk thinking that scientific terms mean the same thing as they do in the general vernacular is that they are showing their ignorance about what the human race has learned about its environment and its history.

As for his dismissal of the vast body of data about climate change because for a single year ice is up, he again shows his ignorance of the long term effects of an increasingly dangerous human carbon foot print. He might as well say, “Wow, it’s colder today than yesterday. Global warming is wrong.” It’s just that simple minded.

Mr. Pionk puts the finishing touches on his diatribe by saying that I claimed that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution concludes that life spontaneously arose and that all species descended from a single cell. Darwin never argued this. Not once. And if Darwin didn’t, either do I. No one knows how life originated and the Theory of Evolution only explains the process of natural selection. Schools teach evolution as a fact because it is a fact and no amount of foot stomping by uninformed people like Mr. Pionk will ever change that.

At the end of his letter, he says something with which I actually agree. I opposed the Common Core when it was first announced because I too feel local control of schools is important. But because of radical zealots who are trying to force feed their religion down the throats of our children, I have come to understand that only the Common Core will prevent the radical right from taking over our curriculum.

All real educators want is a chance to help students gain the skills to become critical thinkers, responsible global citizens, and the type of problem solvers that will give the next generation of the human race a fighting chance to improve the plight of mankind. People like Mr. Pionk are afraid of these things. Critical thinkers dismiss the zealots. If teachers are allowed to really teach Mr. Pionk and his ilk will soon find themselves ranting only at each other. The rest of us are moving on.

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One Comment on “Fear and Loathing; The Radical Right is Panicking”

  1. Richard Scott,D.O. October 2, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    Reasonable discussion. God and evolution more difficult. Richard Dawkins on a recent interview noted some of his best friends are bishops, not chess pieces. I watched a Ted X from a Grand Rapids college, known for conservatism, on god and evolution. Surprising but a charismatic fundamentalist preacher had convincing arguments that the two are not incompatible. His book, which I have misplaced, is short and moves on to more of the finer points of evangelical writings.
    That smart believers can also understand evolution, like Francis Collins who headed the study to unravel DNA , is true. There is hope and there are many believers today who are gradually moving forward. Would that those who worship to Dawkins and his friends who despise all with faith would be more accepting. Ross Douthat. Has a book, Bad Religion, how we became a nation of heretics”. Full of reasonable arguments were we all willing to listen to each other.

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