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Breathe.

November 1, 2008
by

If you feel like this could be the longest three days of your life, you’re not alone.

We’ve all been waiting for this year’s dirty-trick October Surprise. Bush’s most-politicized-ever Department of Justice attempted one earlier this month, illegally leaking information about an FBI “investigation” into ACORN (the investigation has yet to be confirmed; it just made for good hysterical headlines for the wingnuts). That didn’t seem to slow Obama’s momentum, so today they’ve leaked information about a Kenyan Obama relative’s immigration status – she was denied asylum by the US and remained in Boston illegally for four years, apparently unbeknownst to Obama. Conyers is looking into both leaks, for the good that does. Talking Points Memo has more.

A few other things:

  • California’s Proposition 8, so deftly dismantled by my friend Duff, is turning into a bit of a nail-biter. It has James Dobson in tears, and evangelical Bible-waver Rick Warren forgetting much of the Old Testament. A word of warning about that link: it’s a video blog post, and it might make you hurt your monitor. I listened so you won’t have to. Here are some of the gems: gay marriage goes against the “definition of Chr”(stops himself) “uh, marriage that has been going for five thousand years” (:26). He says he asked both presidential candidates at the Saddleback forum, and they both agreed to “the traditional, historic, universal definition of marriage… one man and one woman, for life” (1:02). Now, anthropologist and biblical scholar, he is not: “…every culture, for five thousand years, and every religion, for five thousand years, has said the definition of marriage is between one man and a woman” (1:04) (lest you think I’m taking him “out of context,” he says this again: “…a definition of marriage that has been supported by every single culture, and every single religion, for five thousand years” (1:38)). One man and one woman, for five thousand years. Conveniently, this overlooks a few significant biblical polygamists: Abraham, Jacob, David, Solomon… I’m sure I’m missing some. (And I’m no biblical scholar, either, so I looked up a timeline to make sure these fellows weren’t safely outside the 5000-year margin Mr. Warren cites.) Every culture in the last 5000 years has defined marriage as “one man and one woman”? I suppose that depends on your definition of culture. There are thoughtful biblical debates to be had on this issue; hanging your whole defense on the disputable claim that marriage has “always” been between one man and one woman puts you on some shaky ground from the outset.

No wonder the wingnuts love her. Proudly uninformed, proudly anti-science, proudly anti-“intellectual.”

I can’t top these two fellows for eloquent outrage. First, Newsweek’s Richard Wolfe: “I’m going to be as restrained and measured as I possibly can about this. But this is the most mindless, ignorant, uninformed comment that we have seen from Governor Palin so far, and there’s been a lot of competition for that prize.” And PZ Myers:

This idiot woman, this blind, shortsighted ignoramus, this pretentious clod, mocks basic research and the international research community. You damn well better believe that there is research going on in animal models — what does she expect, that scientists should mutagenize human mothers and chop up baby brains for this work? — and countries like France and Germany and England and Canada and China and India and others are all respected participants in these efforts.

Yes, scientists work on fruit flies. Some of the most powerful tools in genetics and molecular biology are available in fruit flies, and these are animals that are particularly amenable to experimentation. Molecular genetics has revealed that humans share key molecules, the basic developmental toolkit, with all other animals, thanks to our shared evolutionary heritage (something else the wackaloon from Wasilla denies), and that we can use these other organisms to probe the fundamental mechanisms that underlie core processes in the formation of the nervous system — precisely the phenomena Palin claims are so important.

(Update, 11/03/08: Just ran across Christopher Hitchens’ thoughts on the matter.)

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