By now, many people have seen a still photo or video footage of Rep. Paul Broun (R-Georgia), standing in front of a wall full of deer heads, proclaiming that evolution, embryology, and the Big Bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell.” According to the Congressman, “it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior.”
Readers might shrug these statements off as merely absurd. But Rep. Broun is a member of the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and he’s running unopposed for re-election.
Broun is just one of the members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology whose unusual views should give voters pause. His colleagues on the Committee include Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin (R-MO), and Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), whose congressional record is most notable for introducing a resolution that “people in the United states should join together in prayer to humbly seek fair weather conditions.”
Some attention has focused on the fact that Broun, Akin, Neugebauer, and several other members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, also sit on the Congressional Prayer Caucus (CPC). It has been suggested that, when 25% of the only Congressional committee charged with thinking seriously about science also are members of a prayer caucus, our science policy is being shaped by religious zealots. This concern is bolstered by the fact that the CPC’s agenda includes using “the legislative process – both through sponsorship of affirmative legislation and through opposition to detrimental legislation – to assist the nation and its people in continuing to draw upon and benefit from this essential source [prayer] of our strength and well-being” and “to preserve the presence of religion, faith, and morality in the marketplace of ideas.”
However, this focus on religious affiliation is too narrow. Surely, people of faith—as well as non-believers– can serve responsibly on a scientific committee. Foolish people need not have any theological basis for their nonsense, and people from a variety of religions contribute significantly to the fields of science, technology, and medicine. What we really should be worried about is the extent to which the Committee members’ public statements suggest they are capable of rational thought and sound judgement.
Without consideration for who prays and who does not (or, for that matter, which god[s] they may pray to), the members of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology are expected to analyze facts, weigh evidence, and act in the best interests of the people who elected them. As statements made by Broun, Akin, and Neugebauer are not consistent with reality, their ability to perform such duties must be called into question.
It is essential that voters pay close attention to what candidates say about matters of science, and that they go to the polls. Merely praying for change will not alter the composition of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.