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Would Charles Darwin Have Made a Good Congressman? 155

Posted by Soulskill
from the descent-by-natural-election dept.
sciencehabit writes "It's a good 130 years too late to answer that question empirically, but at least symbolically Charles Darwin has won support from more than 4000 voters in the 10th congressional district of Georgia, thanks to an initiative headed by James Leebens-Mack, a plant biologist at the University of Georgia in Athens. Like many others, Leebens-Mack was deeply troubled by a speech his Congressman, Paul Broun (R-GA), gave at an Athens church in October deriding teachings on evolution, embryology, and the big bang theory as 'lies straight from the pit of Hell.' Broun, a medical doctor, is a member of the U.S. House of Representative's Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, and chair of its Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight. Leebens-Mack says the 'protest vote should make it clear to future opponents that there are a lot of people in the district who are not happy with antiscience statements.'"
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Would Charles Darwin Have Made a Good Congressman?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:14PM (#41937137)

    It all comes down to this:

    Why doesn't Leebens-Mack run against Broun himself in 2014? "I am a scientist, not a politician," he says. "I enjoy my job as a plant biologist. It would be too big a sacrifice to give that up to run for Congress."

    Who doesn't feel the same way? That's not quite rhetorical; turns out you probably know someone who doesn't agree with that. But they're also someone you probably don't like, aren't they?

    • Part of the problem is that politics is now a career. I wouldn't mind doing the job for a year, maybe two if I could do it part time - say two days a week so I could keep doing stuff that's actually interesting as well. There's no way I'd want to spend even five years, let alone the 20-30 that most politicians seem to have to put in.
      • Exactly. That tells me that the politicians know the grass is greener where they are. Let's face it, they get a lot of amazing perks just for being a politician. I'm pretty confident those perks are more substantial than you and I think and those perks make working as a career politician far more lucrative than the "measly" job you and I have. And if you knew those perks were for the rest of your life, wouldn't you be willing to lie to a few people, maybe bend or break some rules, to enjoy those perks?

        Y

        • by hey! (33014) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @12:06AM (#41939913) Homepage Journal

          Actually, the job of Congressman is crap; you get egoboo but you're a slave to fundraising and spend as much or more time in shabby political boiler room offices calling around begging for money as you do in your nice government office. It's stunningly degrading, and the average person wouldn't be able to stand it. You probably helps to be a major attention-hound, but it still stinks. It's much better when you get out of Congress and become a lobbyist who can afford to screen his calls.

          • by TheLink (130905) on Saturday November 10, 2012 @06:29AM (#41941297) Journal
            Still better than President of the USA.

            1) One of the most dangerous jobs in the world - 9% die for job related reasons (get killed).
            2) Almost everyone blames you for everything even though you don't actually have that much power.
            • It sure is a crappy job, but hey, for $450k salary for LIFE, wouldn't you do a crappy job for 4 years? I sure as hell would. I'd even lie and tell everyone how awesome it was for that kind of pay! I don't know too many people that wouldn't be dishonest for 4 years for that kind of money, and that's the crappy reality of it.

              As much as I'd like to think I'm an honest and trustworthy person who would do the right thing, I think Presidents try to do the right thing. But at the same time there's limits(espec

          • by Shavano (2541114)
            The job of Congressman is crap only if you're running for reelection.
      • Actually, that's my opinion of how Congress should work. It should be like jury duty--your name is called at random from a nationwide pool of eligible voters to serve in Congress for a year or two. You, and the baker from Queens, and the auto mechanic from Des Moines, and the mini-mart owner from Phoenix, etc. You're there as often as the current Congress is. Your job is to pass the important legislation, balance the budget, and monitor and fund (or defund) the other two branches as necessary. Accepting mon

      • I can't find the original quote, but anyone who doesn't want political power should be obliged to have it.

  • by RichMan (8097) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:18PM (#41937167)

    Informed and educated opinions leading to decisions do not work with without rational politicians.
    A democracy cannot function without rational politicians and citizens.

    The first thing I would want in a politician is that they are rational.
    If they are corrupt then ok, we have to figure out what motivates them and we can work with it.

    • Re:Rational (Score:4, Insightful)

      by PraiseBob (1923958) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:31PM (#41937289)
      And therein the problem: What rational person would go through the political process, where they are attacked relentlessly for months, with political teams spending millions of dollars to damage their reputation, digging up every skeleton in their closet, casting them as some type of dangerous idiot, and trying to turn a person's community against them?

      That kind of job description has a hard time getting rational applicants who aren't motivated by goals of personal power.
      • Re:Rational (Score:4, Insightful)

        by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:47PM (#41938137) Journal

        And therein the problem: What rational person would go through the political process,

        Someone who thinks they can make a change.
        The 2010 batch of Tea Party representitives are a good example.
        Despite holding political views way out in the fringe, they ran for office because they thought they could make a change.
        They have: they've repeatedly stymied the Democratic agenda and, on more than one ocassion, have tripped up the Republican agenda too.
        And I wouldn't call them irrational. Within their framework of ideas, they are very rational actors.

        Elizabeth Warren is another example of a well meaning person who went through a bruising political fight to get a Senate seat.
        She created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Republicans refused her nomination to head the agency,
        so she ran for the Senate in Massachussetts.

        • If you start from fundamentally rational positions you cannot be considered a rational actor. You may be considered consistent, but not rational.

          • Most of the conflict in politics isn't about rationality, it comes from disagreeing desires. Some people want to have universal healthcare, others don't. There's nothing particularly rational about either one, it's about what people want.
            • Some people want to have universal healthcare, others don't. There's nothing particularly rational about either one, it's about what people want.

              There is something particularly ethical about universal healthcare and something completely immoral about a first world nation treating healthcare as a commodity. A good moral code is rational. Hence, universal healthcare is rational and our current system is not.

              • No doubt, it is always possible for people to come up with post facto reasoning to support their desires, like you have just done.
                • by Patch86 (1465427)

                  It is rational to point out that the US healthcare system was one of the most expensive per-head in the world, one of the least efficient per-dollar in the world, and had one of the lowest coverages in the world. Championing a policy of reform to solve those issues is rational.

                  Arguing "keep the gubbermint oudda my life!" as a reason to not reform it is ideological and irrational.

                  • Keeping the government out of your life is a desire. People have that desire, and they choose policies which they believe will lead to that goal.

                    Trying to get the highest coverage in the world is a desire. It is not rational, it is a desire, but people who have that desire can make rational choices to achieve that goal.
            • by beelsebob (529313)

              Most of the conflict in politics isn't about rationality, it comes from disagreeing desires. Some people want to have universal healthcare, others don't. There's nothing particularly rational about either one, it's about what people want.

              See... This is why the debate is off the rails in America.

              There absolutely is something rational about wanting universal health care. A healthy population is one that can work, and can stimulate the economy, so there's clearly a vested interest in being able to get all citizens as healthy as possible. It's been demonstrated in tons of other places that nationalised health care is a much more effective, and much cheaper way of achieving this. So yeh, it really is rational to want nationalised health care.

              • This is something I have never understood. What's good for the economy is a healthy workforce; with enough money to spend (but not so much that they can squirrel it away where it does nothing); the ability to get your kids an education (for the next round of workers); making sure those with power, be it political or financial, are kept in check (to maintain the level playing field so important to vibrant capitalism) and keeping the commons intact so that it can continue to be used.

                Absolutely none of those a

                • Uh, believe it or not, in general all those things ARE priorities of the right. I don't know WHO you've been listening to that makes you think otherwise, but I'm willing to bet they're also telling you the right is racist.
                  • by beelsebob (529313)

                    Well, that's kinda the point. If they're a priority of the right, and the right still doesn't want nationalised health care, despite economic and social arguments in favour of it, then they're not acting rationally, and I wouldn't elect them.

                  • If those are the priorities of the right, they are poorly reflected in their actions.

                    Here in Canada, we have a government that is de-funding useful research programs, muzzling scientists, attempted to repeal banking regulations until the crisis hit (and then took credit for these same regulations keeping our economy from completely going down the toiltet), cutting education funding, reducing the government's ability to gather information about the populace so that informed decisions can be made...it's a lon

                    • I'll give you an example......What was Mitt Romney's plan for healthcare?

                      To repeal Obama's healthcare plan, and make a 'better' one. Obama ultimately took ideas from John McCain's healthcare plan.

                      One thing that confuses foreigners (maybe not you, though, I'm sure you're smarter), is the difference between federal and state funding. A citizen can completely oppose funding on education from the national government, and yet still favor increasing it on the state level, because he feels states can more effe
              • OK, be honest now, did you want nationalized healthcare before you thought it would be good for the economy, or did you realize it would be better later on, as a justification for your desire for nationalized healthcare?
                • by beelsebob (529313)

                  No, I already have nationalised health care, and have lived in countries which did not. I have many completely rational reasons for preferring the nationalised system. The economic arguments are just one of them, and the order that these arguments were realised in is irrelevant to how applicable they are.

                  • That's what I thought, you were already in favor of it, and later accepted arguments that support it.

                    There are plenty of rational arguments against nationalized healthcare, but I won't bore you on a topic where you are unlikely to change your opinion. If you are interested, Milton Friedman has done a good job outlining the opposing arguments, you can look him up.
                    • by beelsebob (529313)

                      Okay, so I went and looked up the talk, here's what I got from him:
                      1) "The spending for the provision of medical care inevitably leads to control over the fees that are charged for medical care"
                      This is simply false – a quick reccy at any other country with nationalised health care (I'm going to use the UK as my example, as I'm familiar with it, and because it's pretty much the poster child for nationalised health care), reveals that private health care providers are still going strong, and choosing th

                    • You're welcome to inform me if he had any better arguments, but I'd rather not waste my time further if he didn't.

                      I know, you already made up your mind before watching it. You only accept arguments in your favor as true, working diligently to find a way to reject any argument you don't like.

                    • by beelsebob (529313)

                      That's fair enough. If you don't have any valid arguments, you're free to not argue. I'd suggest that the person who is making reasoned arguments is in fact the one who's more likely to be flexible, and not the one who's simply made up their mind and is unopen to any other idea ;)

                    • In any case, my broader point still stands, politics is about preferences. Certainly there are societies that have chosen to eject their old people, rather than taking care of them. We would consider that barbaric and cruel, but it's very economical, and it's what they chose.
      • by Nemyst (1383049)

        You reap what you sow, in other words?

    • A democracy cannot function without rational politicians and citizens. ... The first thing I would want in a politician is that they are rational.

      Obviously a lot of your fellow citizens don't agree with you, or else they have a different definition of "rationality."

      The fundamental problem lies the morons who vote wackos into office in the first place. Which might lead to questioning of the assumption of a functional democracy -- is that even a rational possibility? Unless we're going to require a logic test before certifying anyone's ability to vote, the most rational people in a society will always be subject to the tyranny of the less rational

    • Informed and educated opinions leading to decisions do not work with without rational politicians. A democracy cannot function without rational politicians and citizens.

      Voting is intrinsically an irrational act, because the costs greatly outweigh the benefits, so if people behaved rationally, voter participation would be much lower than it is, and people wouldn't follow politics as much as they do. And no matter what you do, the vast majority of citizens is never going to understand science; they have neith

  • by Reverand Dave (1959652) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:22PM (#41937193)
    It sickens me that someone as blatantly anti-science as this broun asshat is even allowed to open his mouth in public, let alone have oversight on the subject. I don't care if that guy was just pandering to a bunch of hillbillies or if he really believes the shit that fell out of his ignorant mouth, it needs to stop.
  • Is this actually true? If so, isn't it utterly pathetic that nobody stood up to this guy by running against him?

    • by sumdumass (711423)

      Yes, when he was speaking to some Methodist group (or some other religious entity) he made those comments. Why no one ran against him, probably because he represents his constituents well and someone else wouldn't be elected.

      BTW, the entire comments issue is blown out of portion. nothing he has done politically supports that ideology. It was pandering at its best but anyone who looks at his record doesn't believe he puts those views over science. It's more or less just a bunch of Atheists wanting attention

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Oh really?

        http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr212 [govtrack.us]

        http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hjres45 [govtrack.us]
        In 2008, Broun and 91 co-sponsors introduced H.J.Res.89, a proposition for the Federal Marriage Amendment. The proposed amendment to the United States Constitution would define marriage as "as consisting only of the union of a man and a woman."[

        Broun proposed failed legislation that would have proclaimed 2010 "The Year Of The Bible".

        When Broun explained his reasons for voting against climate change legi

        • by sumdumass (711423)

          Wow, gay marriage and anti abortion is the best you have against him? lol.. Those are not even scientific issues, they are social issues. You are not trying to say Science says Gays should be or have to be married and that Abortion must be available as birth control are you?

          As for the global warming, it is a belief held by many who are not what you consider religious either. The conspiracy surrounding global warming is very well documented. The entire science has been corrupted including attempts to mitigat

  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:35PM (#41937341)

    . . . and decide that humanity was not evolving, but devolving.

    • No such thing as "devolving." Any population-level adaptation over time in response to environmental pressures is evolution; given how succesful the H. sap. politicus subspecies has been in that adaptation (look at the re-election rate for incumbents) I'd say they're a nice example of evolution at work.

    • by Shavano (2541114)
      On the contrary, I think he would find it very familiar.
  • It's a good 130 years too late to answer that question empirically...

    So -you- say!
  • by Guppy06 (410832)

    At least not GA-10. For better or for worse, Paul Broun represents his district.

  • He might be perfect

    1 he is old enough
    2 currently resides in the correct state

    okay so he is a bit deceased but ask anybody in Chicago Illinois that is not a problem. He at least can't be bought and won't try to pass any of the stupid laws we are getting nowadays.

  • A good scientist's main concern is always the truth.
    A politician, in a democracy, does care about the truth just is instead a mediator and a interpreter of the public's will.

    A good scientist is unlikely to be able to turn off his knowledge and intellect and serve the peoples will, and instead would want to enact laws and projects that actually worked and were based on facts and truth.

    • A good scientist is unlikely to be able to turn off his knowledge and intellect and serve the peoples will, and instead would want to enact laws and projects that actually worked and were based on facts and truth.

      I'd argue that this is the definition of a good politician: one who acts in the best interests of the people even if is not exactly what they say they want. While I would agree with your description of a typical politician as a demagogue with mediation skills that does not make the typical politician a good politician.

      • Except that is not the definition of a democratic politician.
        You are talking about different, more totalitarian, government types.

        • No, he's talking about a representative democracy. You elect someone who represent your interests, not necessarily your opinions.
          • No, even in a representative democracy the idea is that your representative is supposed to exercise their powers for the wishes of the electorate.

            In real world situations you never have pure ideologies being practiced, so you will always find some amount of acting in the best interests of the people even if is not exactly what they say they want.

            But that idea is completely contrary to the democratic idea.

            • No, even in a representative democracy the idea is that your representative is supposed to exercise their powers for the wishes of the electorate.

              If that were the case why doesn't everyone have a system like Switzerland where the population has to vote on most issues? In fact with modern technology we could probably come up with a system where the population get to decide just about everything.

              I would argue that the reason almost nobody has such a system is because, while it would exactly mirror what people want, it would not represent their best interests. Hence we have a system of choosing who will govern us and those people are supposed to act

              • Well maybe everyone does not want a pure democracy. We absolutely could have most people vote on most issues, and that would be a pure democracy, but that does not mean that most people would vote for that or that that is a good idea.

  • That was Mary Shelley's department [wikipedia.org].

  • "...on evolution, embryology, and the big bang theory as 'lies straight from the pit of Hell.'"

    By the way, it would be nice if the quote was an actual quote. Bear in mind that the Big Bang was initially proposed by a Catholic physicist/priest, and was roundly attacked as "anti-science" for sounding to much like Genesis, in contrast to the then-prevailing Steady State theory of the universe.

    It's not clear to me what would be objectionable about embryology per se from any theistic stance, and it's reall
    • by dl107227 (632747)

      "...on evolution, embryology, and the big bang theory as 'lies straight from the pit of Hell.'"

      By the way, it would be nice if the quote was an actual quote. When I see a semi-quote like this one, I tend to think there's a bit of bias involved with the citation...

      That was pretty much a direct quote. Here is a video [youtube.com] of him saying that and more.

      • by Empiric (675968)

        How about a fully-much direct quote? That's my personal preference for quotes, anyway.

        Though it's more a question of editorial integrity than convenience, and I have only marginal interest in what Rep. Paul Broun says, out of curiosity I watched it. Granted, including "all that stuff I was taught about" didn't add much in terms of clarity.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @07:13PM (#41937707)

    Would Julius Caeser have worked out in a boy band?

    Would Abraham Lincoln have been a good NASCAR driver?

    Would Queen Victoria have been a decent haberdasher?

    These, and the question posed by the article, are all equally important.

    • by 9jack9 (607686)

      However, Charles Darwin got 4000 votes in the recent election, hence the post. The incumbent, who won, is Paul Broun:

      Here's an interesting excerpt from Wikipedia:

      In a leaked video of a speech given at Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman's Banquet on September 27, Broun is heard telling supporters that, “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell.” Broun also believes that the world is less than 9000 years

  • Aboard the Beagle, Darwin visited Tenerife, the Cape Verde Islands, the Brazilian coast, Argentina, Uruguay, Tierra del Fuego, Chile, the Galapagos Archipelago, Tahiti, New Zealand, Tasmania and the Keeling Islands... He'd miss a lot of committee meetings.
  • So some congressman says some boneheaded thing. There's a big surprise. Now the correct respose is the boneheaded idea to elect Charlie Darwin to congress? Would Gengis Khan make a good hostess at the International House of Pancakes? Now that makes sense.

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      So some congressman says some boneheaded thing. There's a big surprise. Now the correct respose is the boneheaded idea to elect Charlie Darwin to congress? Would Gengis Khan make a good hostess at the International House of Pancakes? Now that makes sense.

      Until you ask for the Puree of Mongol soup.

      • by Genda (560240)

        All that raping and pillaging! Who knew all he wanted was a decent strawberry syrup!!!

      • by Genda (560240)

        First person to laugh at Ghengis when he repeats your Rooti Tooti Fresh and Fruiti order finds out how hard it is to get a waffle iron out of the back of your throat!

  • He's strong and intelligent, a sociopath so he doesn't care about the agendas of the rich or corporate America. And if some one disagrees with him in Congress and blocks his bill he'll just invite them over for dinner ending the Congressional roadblock by eating his opponent.
    • Ha! You made me chuckle. Now imagine how interesting it would have been for Darwin to observe that. The lobbyists would be deep in the organ market, and favabeans would be up.
  • by shadowrat (1069614)
    Thankfully, he wasn't a congressman and instead had time to galavant around the pacific looking at birds.
  • Would Susan B. Anthony have been a good taxidermist?
  • by tompaulco (629533) on Friday November 09, 2012 @10:17PM (#41939329) Homepage Journal
    As a fellow Christian and college educated person, I think that Darwin would make an excellent leader. Maybe not a great politician, but we don't need great politicians, we need great leaders. Now science is not the most import plank for a governmental platform, but I think he would properly fund science and research, which has not happened since the heyday of 50s and 60s, when, by a bizarre and surely unrelated coincidence, the United States produced the greatest technological advances in history.
  • Because that was the dumbest question I've heard all year.

  • That Darwin's moldering corpse would make a better representative than Paul Broun.

  • He was English, after all.

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