Demi-gogs R Us

August 8, 2006 | By | 5 Replies More

I wondered recently, during an idle conversation, whatever became of that monumental media presence Rush Limbaugh.  Now I know.  He’s been upstaged.  Check out the following quote:

“They’re almost always biologists—the “science” with the greatest preponderance of women. The distaff MIT “scientist” who fled the room in response to Larry Summers’s remarks was, of course, a biologist. While I’m sure there have been groundbreaking discoveries about the internal digestive system of the earthworm, biologists are barely even scientists anymore. They’re classifiers, list-makers, like librarians with their Dewey decimal system. Except librarians don’t claim the Dewey decimal system holds the Rosetta Stone to the universe. There were once great biologists, but the morally vacuous ones began to promote their own at the universities. It was sort of intelligently designed devolution. Like Marxists gradually dominating the comp lit department, biologists will only be given tenure today if they foreswear any doubts about the evolution pseudoscience. Consequently, “biologist” almost always means “evolutionary biologist,” which is something like an “ESP biologist.”

Can anyone, for five points, tell me who said this?

I’ll save you the trouble and credit you the points.  Ann Coulter, in her latest screed “Godless”.

Rush used to combine some factoids and put a spin to it in ways that occasionally were very hard to find fault with, because he, for all his bombast, has a brain.  Ms. Coulter just screams any damn thing she thinks will fuel the fires of controversy.  To answer that one paragraph of destructive drivel would require a book or two and a couple of intelligent people who are well informed considerable time to undo.

But what intrigued me most was her insertion of the fact that WOMEN flock into biology, and this somehow makes the field suspect.  As if women cannot do the real hard stuff.  But even further, it’s somehow “natural” because women are all about biology anyway.  It’s just that, well, they don’t know anymore where the proper use of that essence lies.  You know…sex?  Making babies?

All of which is part of the tradition handed to us by that diva of privileged bias, Phyllis Schlafly, who chides “professional” women for abandoning their natural roles to have–god help us–careers!

Every time I hear a woman under 35–often quite innocently–condemn feminism, usually by associating them with lesbians or sexless scientist types or the like, I cringe.  I can now point to Ann Coulter and tell them “There lies your destiny if you don’t get your head out of your stereotypes!  The blond demigogue will take away your options and you will be cheerleaders, waitresses, and mommies and nothing else!

Coulter almost makes me wish for Rush to return as champion of rightwing reactionary screeding.  At least I felt there was some grasp in his nonsense.

But notice, in one paragraph–this is textbook stuff–she links moral vacuity, evolution, feminism, and science in general to cultural collapse in our society.  Joseph Goebbels would have been proud to have her as a student.

It is important for people like Ann Coulter to be challenged, and challenged thoroughly and thoughtfully.  It’s just that her nonsequiturs are so out of bounds that it’s difficult to know where to start.  But one might begin by recognizing that she in fact speaks for no one.  She is fueling her own fame.  Her books sell well.  She makes a lot of money.  And she’ll say anything to make more.  The best way to shut her down would be to ignore her.  But we can’t.  That doesn’t really work in this society.  We have to have an answer.

And what I have noticed is the latest trend of demagogues attacking biology–especially evolutionary biology–picked up when gene therapy began to appear practical.  Coulter and her ilk attack it now that something concrete is about to arise from it, which means they really do not see it as the nonsense–the non-science–they claim.

Interesting.  Maybe they really believe that stuff in Genesis about the Tree of Life, and that eating thereof will makes us “as gods” and never die…

Nah.  I don’t really believe she’s that smart.  Clever, sure.  But all her cleverness is destructive.  All she does is try to make people feel bad about what they have.

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Category: American Culture, Communication, Cultural Evolution, Culture, Current Events, Education, Evolution, Good and Evil, Language, Media, Medicine, Quotes, Science, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

Mark is a writer and musician living in the St. Louis area. He hit puberty at the peak of the Sixties and came of age just as it was all coming to a close with the end of the Vietnam War. He was annoyed when bellbottoms went out of style, but he got over it.

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    Jason:

    Yes, it takes a LOT more work to shoot down ignorance than to spew it out. It's a terribly unfair imposition on those who are sincerely and carefully trying to use science to understand the world.

    A few months ago, I addressed one possible way of addressing this problem–I suggested that an aggressive media could challenge such silliness with on-the-spot pop quizzes.  Such on-the-spot "quizzes" of basic background scientific information on a subject could leave drivel-spewers looking like the fools they are. Stephen Colbert recently did this well when he asked a congressman to NAME the ten commandments that his bills would require us to display in public places. The congressman could only name three of the commandments.  Unfortunately, most reporters lack the ability (either the intellectual ability or the support of their employers) to pull this off.

    Here's another way to combat such drivel: roll up your shirtsleeves and shoot lots of holes in false assertions.  Media Matters has done commendable and grueling work to show that the endnotes in Coulter's latest book (Godless: The Church of Liberalism) is rife with distortions and falsehoods.

    On July 7, Media Matters for America asked Random House Inc. whether it would investigate charges of plagiarism lodged against right-wing pundit Ann Coulter's latest book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism (Crown Forum, June 2006). Steve Ross, senior vice president and publisher of Crown Publishing Group and publisher of the Crown Forum imprint — divisions of Random House Inc. — responded to Media Matters by stating that charges of plagiarism against Coulter were "trivial," "meritless," and "irresponsible," and defended Coulter's scholarship by stating that she "knows when attribution is appropriate, as underscored by the nineteen pages of hundreds of endnotes contained in Godless."

    This was hardly the first time Coulter and her defenders have offered the large number of footnotes contained in her book as "evidence" of the quality of her scholarship. Also on July 7, Terence Jeffrey, editor of conservative weekly Human Events, defended Coulter's book on CNN's The Situation Room by citing her "19 pages of footnotes." And when similar questions were raised about her 2002 book, Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right (Crown, June 2002), Coulter repeatedly cited her "35 pages of footnotes" as evidence that her claims were accurate.

    Here’s what Media Matters found in Coulter’s endnotes: a “plethora of problems.” Among other things, Coulter:

    misrepresented and distorted the statements of her sources;

    omitted information in those sources that refuted the claims in her book;

    misrepresented news coverage to allege bias;

    relied upon outdated and unreliable sources.

    and invented “facts.”

    For the details, see here.

    What frustrates me is that the craziness that passes as news would never get to square one if the readership were minimally scientifically literate. Too many people out there are hopelessly ignorant.  In fact, many Americans are proudly ignorant; they wear it like a badge, just like their current president.   For instance, "one-third of Americans think evolution is “definitely false”; over half lean one way or another or aren't sure. Only 14% expressed unequivocal support for evolution."  In 2003, 21% of Americans said that they understood what a stem cell was, but only 9% could define it when asked.  This is, indeed, pathetic, especially when one considers that many upcoming elections will be influenced by the topic of stem cells, including a Missouri ballot issue that directly addresses the topic.  Back in 1996, only 47% of Americans knew that it took the Earth one year to go around the sun.  42% of Americans think that humans and dinosaurs simultaneously inhabited the Earth.

    No, what actually frustrates me more is that Americans willingly and gleefully pour hundreds of hours of their time attending to mindless amusements–watching sports and mindless television, for instance.  The daily paper covers sports in great detail for many pages; even pre-season contests are covered by multiple talented writers.  Imagine how much smarter we could all be about stem cells if professional baseball games were each shortered to 8 innings.  In the 15 minute free time made available during each game, imagine using the stadium monitors to show a educational video on a scientific topic.  Promote those science topics:  next thursday could be "Evolution Night" at the ole' ball park.  [I'm not serious about this–I'm merely making the point that many of us are ignorant because we make bad choices about how we spend our free time].

    My frustration amounts to a "what if."  What if we spent 10% of the time that we actually spend on mindlessly amusing ourselves on the disciplined study of important scientific issues?  If that happened even for a year, many people might still give the leggy blonde demagogue a second look, but when she opened her mouth, they'd treat her like the attention-addicted ignorant freak she is. 

  2. Erika Price says:

    Of course Ann Coulter uses the fact that biology has the highest preponderance of women to discredit the science's very merit. This same woman used the Abu Ghraib scandal as, "Just another lesson why women shouldn't be in the military." Yeesh.

    I found it interesting to note that Coulter actually considers biologist as "once great". I wonder which subset she found great- eugenics, perhaps?

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    Speaking of hopelessly ignorant, the editorial on Fox News last night defended Israel's disproportionate response against Hezbollah by comparing it to a scene in a movie where the characters talked about responding to mobster violence by responding with much greater violence against the mobsters. Conveniently omitted from the Fox News editorial was the fact that the movie characters weren't slaughtering fifty innocent civilians for every mobster killed. A disproportionate response that impacts only the enemy and no innocent people would obviously be a very different situation from what is happening in the Middle East. Unfortunately for America and the rest of the world, people like those at Fox News — who are apparently students of crackpots like Limbaugh and Colter — now control America's government. We see the results.

    Further to Erich's comment about the reporting of sporting events, I sometime wonder what would happen to the education level in America if local TV stations would glorify honors students and working professionals the way they now glorify "student" and "professional" athletes. Indeed, it would be interesting to compare indices of national prosperity in various Western countries to the number of sports stars that the countries produce, to see if there is an inverse correlation. For example, a recent survey found Denmark ranked as the best country to live in, yet when do we hear of Denmark's athletes dominating world competition? America, by contrast, where watching spectator sports is almost a religion, wasn't even among the top 20 countries in the survey.

    Speaking of religion, the notion of "Evolution Night" at the ole' ball park seems unlikely to happen anytime soon, because, in fact, exactly the opposite is now happening in the world of baseball marketing.

    I wonder what's next…a Jesus bobblehead?

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Thanks, Grumpy. I had forgotten that ballgames were actually already being used for indoctrination. In fact, MAJOR league baseball is now allowing "Faith Days." 

    OK, bring on "Evolution Day" at the ole' ballpark!

  5. grumpypilgrim says:

    I wonder if evangelicals will ever realize that they are just being targeted by clever marketers who are eager to take their money and their votes. Indeed, many evangelicals are a marketer's wet dream: they are gullible, they follow their herd, they enjoy being spectators at entertainment events (e.g., church sermons), they are easy to reach with advertising (i.e., church mailing lists), etc. What promoter of entertainment events wouldn't love to sell to an audience like that? Indeed, NASCAR (see here ) and Hollywood (Mel Gibson's 'Passion of the Christ') have already discovered the rich financial rewards of marketing to evangelicals, so it can only be a matter of time before other event promoters do, too. It's apparently an easy way to sell both tickets and merchandise. Indeed, there are already sales consultants who specialize in helping clients market to evangelical Christians.

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