I consider myself to be agnostic/atheist. I am not a devout atheist who has an active believe that there is no God nor am I a true agnostic who maintains that it is impossible to know if there is a God. I am in the middle—I readily admit that I personally do not know if there is a God.
I must also confess that other than my public K-12 education, I’ve received no formal training in science. I am however, a science geek, and I’d like to point out a basic tenet of science and skepticism that I’ve learned:
A person should not assume something to be true until they have evidence to support it. We humans, especially politicians, have this incessant need to purport to know everything. When we don’t understand something, we often opt for a reason of convenience instead of just saying those three beautiful words: “I don’t know” or the three even more lovely words, “I wonder why…”
Politicians on both sides have been conditioned to act as though they know it all because ignorance appears weak, but this is wrong! Lack of curiosity is weak. Ignorance just means there is more to be learned!
Curiosity is one of mankind’s most amazing qualities. It’s the reason why we know how to cure a vast array of illnesses that befuddled us no less than a hundred years ago. Have you ever seen a bear solve a problem it couldn’t have solved a century ago? I didn’t think so.
To give you a practical example of why this is important, look no further than the American criminal court system where you are “Innocent until proven guilty”.
Imagine if John and Jane are at a party. Jane says to her friends, “John is a murderer”.
John will of course exclaim, “I’ve never murdered anyone!”
“Prove it” replies Jane.
Think about that. How would John PROVE he has never murdered anyone? The fact is that he can’t. Proving a negative is often impossible. So the burden of proof should always ride on the person making the claim.
This leads me to skepticism, a word that is often mischaracterized. I consider myself part of the skeptical movement thanks to people like Dr. Michael Shermer. Don’t worry—it’s not a club, cult, or anything else. It’s more of a mindset. The common misconception is that skeptics don’t believe in anything. The truth is that skeptics resist believing anything without supporting evidence. They gather as much data as possible, then make a decision if they believe they have enough evidence to do so.
What does all this have to do with politics you might ask?
The Democratic Party asserts that they are the party of science and skepticism while painting Republicans out as cavemen even though many conservatives, like me, embrace this philosophy as well. Because I’m a small government conservative, I get very annoyed when pseudo-intellectuals (people who assume they are smart with no evidence to support that claim) assume that I must be anti-science and therefore not very intelligent because I’m conservative.
Many of you are reading this and saying, “Yeah, I’ve had people assume that about me once or twice”. Right?
But conservatism and science have NOTHING to do with each other. Being a conservative should mean that you are for little government intervention in your personal and professional lives and that strict adherence to the constitution of the United States is important to you.
Many Republicans wrongly believe that, by acknowledging science, they are admitting to being aligned with atheists, man-made climate change proponents, etc. Don’t sell yourselves short!
The fact is, we as conservatives must embrace accepted scientific evidence. Things like eyeless/pigmentless fish that exist in caves, the human appendix, and countless other examples are proof of some form of evolution whether you believe in a creator or not. To deny evolution exists in some form means to deny much of which we learned in basic high school biology. Conservatives cannot afford to be seen as the “Flat Earth Society”.
Before you think I’m about to tell someone they should not be a creationist, stop! I always feel it is appropriate for me to tell you what I believe, but it is NOT acceptable for me to dictate to you what you should believe.
Here’s where science AND skepticism come in. It is possible that a creator put evolution in motion isn’t it? So it is possible to have a belief yet be open to new information. That open-mindedness is the definition of being an intellectual.
As for climate change: You have Al Gore doing his best Harold Camping impression. Convincing everyone the world is going to end soon rarely helps your career. But, if climate change is man-made (There’s evidence to support both sides), then it’s worth addressing with an open mind.
Democrats claim skepticism, yet they’re in lock step regarding this issue. Objectivity left them years ago. This is where conservatives should capitalize, but instead, Republicans are also in lock step, just in the opposite direction. Conservatives could hit a home run by acknowledging the data, acknowledging the claims are possible, but pointing out that it’s still a theory and not universally accepted fact.
Conservative should make a statement like this:
“I believe the data is real and worthy of concern. However, there’s still research to be done. Until that research is proven beyond any doubt and other contributing factors that we can’t change have been ruled out, I have no interest in breaking the backs of American businesses and bankrupting our country to combat it. Had we done so not that long ago when scientists believed there was an impending ice age, millions would have been wasted for no good reason. So I’m not about to do that to America now.”
My simple statement acknowledges the scientific data, yet responsibly demonstrates skepticism in a way that any reasonable party should welcome. I believe conservatives that do this will display a superior attitude and intellect than most, attract those who are also skeptical about such issues (most Americans are), and will bring the Republican party out of the “dark-ages” pigeonhole that Democrats have worked so hard to put us in.