For months now, I have been maintaining an elevated tone in this blog as I wrote my memoirs. But my friends know that there is a nasty little ideologue lurking beneath this gentlemanly surface, so the time has come to get some things off my chest. Let me begin with the 44%, or one hundred million plus, of adult Americans who, according to a 2008 Gallup survey, agree with the statement that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at sometime within the last 10,000 years or so." This comports well with a 2005 survey that showed roughly the same number [42%] claiming to be strict creationists.
These figures can in part be explained by sheer ignorance. This is, after all, a country in which very large percentages of adults cannot find Iraq or Afghanistan on a map, even though those same people will wear little yellow ribbons to show their support for the troops. But as the recent decisions of the Texas Board of Education make clear, the embrace of so-called Creationism, which is to say the denial of the fact of evolution, is grounded in Christian beliefs as well as in just plain ignorance or garden variety stupidity.
Now, I don't want to enter into a serious conversation with any of these folks, in which I adduce the experimental and observational evidence. Let Richard Dawkins do that. I just want to see a law passed that mandates that hospitals ask whether patients hold these views, and then, if they say yes, requires a doctor to explain the scientific basis of any procedure that the hospital is about to use in treating the patient. Here is how it would work:
A Fundamentalist Christian is brought into the hospital suffering from life-threatening colon cancer. On the forms he fills out at Patient Intake, he says he is a Born-Again Evangelical Christian who believes that the world is ten thousand years old. The doctors then tell him that his best chance of conquering the cancer is radiation therapy. However, they explain, radiation therapy rests on the theory of radioactive decay, and that in turn depends on the fact that the half lives of the relevant elements are millions of years long, etc etc. So, before they violate his most deeply held convictions by beginning the radiation therapy, they just want him to sign a release acknowledging that he no longer believes that the earth is ten thousand years old.
I mean, these are the people who pass laws requiring doctors to show pictures of aborted fetuses to women who want abortions, right? What do you suppose would have happened if someone had put my proposed requirement into the omnibus health care reform bill?
Then I want someone to ask Sarah Palin what she thought she was doing when she had amniocentesis to find out whether her unborn baby suffered from Down's Syndrome. Did she recant her rejection of evolution before the procedure, which, after all, depends on Genetics built on that theory?
We could save a ton of money nationally if all the Fundamentalist Creationists would forswear treatment that conflicts with their religious beliefs, and just die. Of course, we would have to require them to permit their children to be treated, but since we are talking about maybe one hundred million adults, you have to think that's a lot of expensive high tech treatment that wouldn't have to be delivered.
And it won't do for these folks to say, "Well, I am still a Fundamentalist Evangelical Born-Again Inerrant Christian about most things, but I am willing to make an exception for radiation." That would be like a triskaidaphobic saying, "I have a deep-rooted fear of the number thirteen, so although I accept addition and subtraction, multiplication and division generally, I draw the line at any calculation that involves the number thirteen." You cannot pick and choose the implications you like and the ones hyou don't like of a proposition whose general calidity you deny. [I love the fact that hotels routinely omit the number thirteen when labeling their floors. Do they not understand that the floor after twelve is the thirteenth, even if you call it Fred?]
I know, I know. You will say that secular humanist rationalists just don't have the stomach to let people die a hideous, unnecessary death simply because they profess ignorant, stupid beliefs that contradict the medical treatment that will save their lives. But I am not a secular humanist rationalist. I am an atheistical anarchistic Marxist, and we are made of sterner stuff.