Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Political Science, or, Amateur Human Nature Theorists and Practitioners (Politicians)

“It’s interesting that that question would even be asked of someone running for president. I’m not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth grade science book. I’m asking for the opportunity to be President of the United States.”

This was the beginning of Senator Mike Huckabee’s response to the question, “You’re on record saying you don’t believe in Evolution, but if not, then what? Is it the story of creation as described in Genesis?” Huckabee goes on to state that yes, he does believe the story of Genesis, and that the particulars of the method and duration of this creation he doesn’t know.

Yes, Huckabee isn’t planning on writing the curriculum to a science class, but he is volunteering to be a primary decision-maker in a scientific experiment with irreversible consequences.

I was thinking about what the essence of politics was the other day, and when you strip away all the jargon politics (and government) is just the practice and theory of how to manage and control human beings. Every time a politician opens his or her mouth, he/she is stating their preferences in government, but digging deeper, they are saying what they think motivates and influences the actions of human beings, and how government can harness, inhibit, encourage, or snuff this behavior.

What makes human beings tick?

Are we creatures that were created to love and serve our creator, creatures that each house a struggle between spiritual godliness, and ‘animalistic,’ desires of the flesh that include greed and lust? Or are we animals that, like every other animal, operate under an evolved nature that promotes behavior resulting in the largest amount of children? Somewhere in between?

Mike isn’t writing a science class book, but he is aspiring to manage and control a vast community of these creatures about whom he has theories (scientific we could say) on how they operate. What if Mike is wrong about his science? What if his theories about what makes humans tick isn’t correct? What’s at stake?

There is one big reason why Huckabee, or any other brave amateur ‘human nature theorist’ (politician) should be concerned about science today: the continuation of our species on this planet. Paul MacCready puts it perfectly in this quote: “Over billions of years on a unique sphere chance has painted a thin layer of life, complex, improbable, wonderful and fragile. Suddenly we humans, a recently arrived species, no longer subject to the inherent check and balances present in nature, have grown in population, technology, and intelligence to a position of terrible power. We now wield the paint brush.” Science informs us of our world, and if we don’t understand how our world works how are we to make informed decisions on how to interact with it? (See Dan Dennett's speech as it relates to MacCready's quote here.)

Global warming and nuclear war at the hands of terrorists (or nations led by men who don’t understand the ramifications of their actions); these are the two big political questions in America today that have everything to do with science. On the most powerful country in the world, in an unprecedented period of population and technology, having the proper information about how our planet, and how we as an animal work and relate to one another is important. This president doesn’t have to be a scientist to properly rule this country, but this president should at least have the respect and understanding of science to realize that in this age, science is synonymous with power, and whoever wields this power will be able to do or undo everything our species, and life in general, has worked so hard to achieve.

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