Wednesday, August 29, 2007

David Limbaugh's Alternate Reality: The Securalists are coming!

David Limbaugh wrote a recent column accusing critics of Christianity and the Religious Right of being hypocrites. Amazingly, Limbaugh seems to be one of these people whose perception of the world is so biased by his religiousity that he can actually believes Christians suffer oppression in a nation where they hold all the political positions of power:

”It's no longer surprising that those screaming most loudly against Christianity and its influence on public policy in America often employ the same tactics and represent the same dangers they falsely attribute to Christians. Christians have far more to fear from the secular thought police than the other way around. “

It is telling that people like Limbaugh naturally assume nefarious motives on the part of his opponents. The idea that those of us critical of religion are so for the simple reason that we see it as 1) Baseless and 2) Often destructive, is not even considered. Despite Limbaugh’s claim to defend absolute truth, he is at heart a relativist, into which so many of the pious morph when “the truth” stops favoring them. He is correct. They are a social nuisance. They also seem blinkered to basic similarities between themselves and the Islamic culture they so revile. Believe me guys, from this atheist’s point of view, you are both basically loony. Sure the Muslims are loonier than the Christians, but they also have balls, so to me it’s a wash. Limbaugh would ignore all this with statements like this:

”The secularists' criticism goes beyond decrying the Christian Rights alleged hostility to church-state separation. They claim strong religious belief leads to oppression, tyranny and violence.

First, notice the dishonest demonization of his opponents, as if it is made up entirely of atheists. Fact is many who resist the cultural changes Limbaugh would enact are Christians, such as Barry Lynn, pastor and president of Americans for Separation of Church and State. But why bother with reality when one can pretend the battle is only against the godless? And yes sir, when one rules from an arbitrary book or prophet demanded to be taken on faith, oppression, tyranny and violence are inevitable. Whether it is faith in the God of Muhammad, Stalin and THE STATE, or Pol Pot’s Anka, the result is the same grisly tale. This is because there is no way to rectify differences in faith. There is no rhyme or reason, one either believes or one does not. You believe god came down to earth, died for man’s sins, and rose after 3 days, and, if you follow the theology consistently, that those who disagree will spend eternity in hellfire. Muslims believe you cannot make a picture of Mohammad, and to do so carries the penalty of death. There is no way to reconcile the two.

Once you give up civilized methods of dispute resolution: science, logic, chance, or arbitration, all that remains is violence, to gain power, oppression to maintain it, and tyranny as a result. It is not only historical, it is inevitable. Has it really passed Limbaugh’s notice that we have been at war, off and on, with the most religious nations in the world, for six decades at least?
From here Limbaugh completely jumps the shark, attempting to make the case that Christians clinging to an absolute truth based on faith is something we shouldn’t worry about, but the gods forbid if scientists take their evidence-supported provisional truths seriously.

”They even suggest the mere defense of absolute truth is dangerous…If anyone is guilty of wanting to foreclose debate and impose their values on others, it is these hyperventilating secularists.

They are the ones who have decreed there's a consensus on global warming and attempted to stigmatize dissenters as paid mouthpieces for ‘evil’ energy companies. With their absence of self-reflection it must never occur to them that in their professed monopoly on ‘science,’ they squarely violate the fundamentals of the scientific method by forbidding debate and insulating their theories from scientific scrutiny.”

Here again we see the problems with the religious mindset. Limbaugh can’t see the difference between evidence-based science and religious proclamations. All are mere decrees. The earth orbits the sun, Jesus was the Son of God, and the speed of light is constant are all equivalencies to Limbaugh. The fact is there is a large scientific consensus on global warming (which, as with all science, could change in the face of contrary data). Limbaugh may argue they are wrong, but to argue the consensus doesn’t exist, but has merely been decreed, is simply Limbaugh putting his fingers in his ears and shouting “La La La I can’t hear you!”, just as he does with the existence of his religious opponents.

Likewise, this “monopoly on science” exists only in Limbaugh’s head. Also, as I have asked before, what is it with conservatives and their obsession with scare quotes? There’s no reason to have quotes around “science” above. It’s just a way of attempting to poison the well when you don’t have the intellectual goods. Just imply the science isn’t really science, you don’t have to actually, you know, support your claims or anything.

Ditto with the claim the denialists are forbidden from the debate. They had their day in the debate, and in many ways they still do. They aren’t forbidden to compete, they are simply competing and losing. The mainstream anthropocentric global warming theory isn’t insulted from the denialists’ competing theories. It simply is of much higher quality, ie, it explains the data in a superior way, on the rare occasions where the denialists proffer an alternate theory at all.

For a man who respects absolute truth disconnected from evidence, Limbaugh sure has a hard time understanding provisional truths based on evidence. It should be easy, but to him, all disagreements are merely matters of opinion. You know why? Because that is the case with religious arguments, and that’s the only kind he understands. Speaking of which, he of course falls for that religion masquerading as a science, Intelligent Design:

”They malign intelligent design proponents for daring to subject their dogma -- and distortions -- to the rigorous re-examination scientific methodology requires.”

This is a statement that brands the speaker as either ignorant of the subject, or a bald faced liar. Intelligent Design proponents have been invited, nay begged, to enter into scientific debate. “Show us your evidence!” they are asked. “Publish in the peer reviewed literature!” they are begged. They are maligned because they refuse these invitations, refuse to engage the scientific community on scientific grounds, instead ignoring the many substantive criticisms they have received, and choosing instead to conduct a PR campaign aimed at selling popular books, altering academic standards at the secondary level, and misrepresenting science and scientists at every turn. One of their most common forms of lying, taking scientific quotes out of context and presenting them as meaning the opposite of what they actually mean, actually has its own name: quote mining. Michael Behe’s irreducible complexity and Bill Dembski’s explanatory filter have been taken apart by scientists, with nary a substantive comment, or adjustment in the theories, coming from the IDers. The dogma dodging scientific scrutiny is that of the IDers, and if Limbaugh truly does not understand this, he is revealing poor editorial judgement opining on a subject on which he is so ignorant.

Limbaugh’s next gaffe is another one common to the Religious Right: the idea that being prevented from imposing their values on everyone else equates to values being imposed on them.

”The secular left condemns traditionalists for ‘legislating morality’ and invading our bedrooms. Their quasi-religious fervor apparently blinds them to their efforts to wield governmental power to impose their own values, whether on homosexual marriage, abortion, wealth redistribution or socialized medicine. “

So to reason as Limbaugh does, allowing people to marry who they choose imposes values on him, the same as telling them they may only marry those approved by Limbaugh. This is simplistic for-us-or-against-us nonsense, and applies equally well to laws allowing abortion. One could be forgiven after reading Limbaugh’s screeds for concluding that he thinks someone is going to try to force him to marry a man and have an abortion. Now that would be someone else imposing their values on Limbaugh.

The important thing to remember here is the problem is not battling values per se. Limbaugh is correct to note that socialized medicine and progressive taxation are based on values. But what makes the values he tries to impose on others a problem is that they are based solely on religious values, and we are supposed to have religious freedoms in this country. We have a constitutional amendment that addresses that issue, and it doesn’t favor Limbaugh’s view. In our private lives, we can make our decisions based on any values we like. The values behind our laws, however, are supposed to be based on secular purposes. Limbaugh wants none of that, and further exhibits his biased view of our culture:

”Alas, none of this should surprise Christians, who surely understand we are reaping the ravaging effects of a secularist, atheistic worldview that has finally become dominant in our postmodern culture and has claimed absolute truth as its casualty. “

Oh that his claims that the secular worldview dominates were true. Alas, we still live in a country where to be president, one must declare one’s piety, where religious organizations get favored status in the law, and science textbooks have their biology sections watered down, not because of any scientific controversy, but simply because they offend the sensibilities of fundamentalist Christians.

As far as absolute truth goes, it deserves to be a casualty of any advanced society. It is an embarrassment to our society that such a view still lingers on, despite the vastly superior option of provisional scientific truth which has proven itself time and time again. Doubt, not faith, is what has fueled man’s rise from the dark ages. You remember the dark ages right? It was the time when views like Limbaugh’s were allowed run rampant, unfettered by silly nits like constitutional limitations. I’d much prefer continued reaping of the progress we have made since then, but I guess I’m just a silly securalist.

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