Cherry Picking24 March, 2009
As I follow discussions on various blogs, I have noticed a certain, shall we say, tendency among certain conservatives (Christian and Republican, religious and political) to cherry pick. Yes, I know I am covering quite a few people with a very large blanket, but, bear with me. I think it is a valid blanket statement.
This cherry picking can be seen on many levels.
The Bush/Cheney misadministration (infested with fundogelical Christianists) cherry picked intelligence to justify invading Iraq. They ignored reams of contrary evidence and picked out a very few ‘facts’ — aluminum tubes, Nigerian yellow cake, a meeting in Prague — to show that Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in the al Qaida attacks on 11 September, 2009. Of course, the tubes were for cheap rockets, the meeting in Prague never happened, and the Nigerian yellow cake was as believable as the emails from the oil minister’s widow. Six years later, we are still neck deep in the big muddy, and the big fools still say to push on.
Evolution denialists will cherry pick the fossils, or published papers, to make demonstrably false statements (almost always with a relgious agenda). Recently, some beautiful, magnificent, wonderful fossil octopus files were found in the Middle East. They showed a mixture of primitive and derived morphology. Of course, creationists immediately claimed that, since there were derived (modern) aspects, evolution is a lie (PZMyers, over at Pharyngula, does a good job with this particular, and serendipitous, instance).
Other areas where this cherry picking denialism is common includes (but is not limited to): abstinence-only sex education, human rights (including gay marriage), global warming, reproductive medicine and history.
I am tossing creationists (or Intelligent Design Scientists, or whatever the hell they are calling themselves this week) and neocons together in the same pot, but the goals and the tactics are, if not identical, at least very, very, very similar. All argue dishonestly. All start with a conclusion and then cherry pick the data to fit. And all are very dangerous.
Neoconservatives used authoritarian arguments (you little people don’t know the whole story (and we won’t tell you)) to start a war which may have cost over a million lives. They used an argument of horrible results — Condi Rice’s famed mushroom cloud threat.
Creationists also cherry pick. They also use variations on the, “Stalin (or Hitler, or Pol Pot, or fill in the blank of some other bad person) was a Darwinist, so evolution is a lie.” Add in the authoritarian argument from God, and you get a trifecta. And now, our underfunded schools are hit with legal bills as they try to defend teaching religion in public schools.
Where does religion fit in this though? Specifically, Christianity? Aside from the overlapping of fundamentalist, Christianist, and dominionist religious groups with the GOP and the Discovery Institute, there is the root of Christianity itself.
Early Christianity was chaotic. The question of Jesus (spirit, human or both), the crucifixion (essential for salvation or not important at all), resurrection (a spirit cannot be resurrected), Judaism (should Christians become a Jew first? are Jews Christian pre-cursors? or are they totally unrelated?), even the number of gods (1, 2, 30, 100s), were all vigorously debated. Not until the Council of Nicaea did early Christians even agree what a Christian was. They came into the meeting knowing what they wanted Christianity to be. The council members then cherry picked the gospels and acts in order to justify their version of Christianity.
Acts of Hecla? No, we can’t have women thinking that they can teach about Christ. This gospel makes Jesus look too human. Toss it. That one makes him look to much like a total spirit. Toss it, too. Those added chapters in Paul? Leave them in to keep the women in their place.
The modern descendants of Christianity — the modern churches, the theo-political marriage that is the GOP, and the attempt to subvert science and schools through the woo-science that is Intelligent Design — continue to use the same tactics. They know the answer they want. They pick and choose the data and ignore or suppress the contrary ideas, interpretations and evidence.
Curious that the conservative tactics really haven’t changed all that much in 1700 years. Then again, it has worked this long, right? Of course, for the last 1700 years there has been no serious alternative to Christianity. Now, 15% of Americans are irreligious. And many of them are atheists.
Let’s stop them this time.
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