"Unable Even To Think In Empirical Terms"

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In response to the above video of Rick Perry repeatedly asserting that abstinence works in the teeth of evidence to the contrary, Jon Chait sums up the problem:

Perry appears completely unable not only to answer the question but even to think in empirical terms.

Steve Benan adds to Chait:

The problem here isn’t just that Perry has the wrong answer. The more meaningful problem is that Perry doesn’t seem to know how to even formulate an answer. He starts with a proposition in his mind (abstinence-only education is effective), and when confronted with evidence that the proposition appears false (high teen-pregnancy rates), the governor simply hangs onto his belief, untroubled by evidence.

Even worse than the regressive substance of Perry’s policy positions is the degradation of thought itself he and Bachmann and Santorum (and more Republican candidates) exhibit and proudly represent. They are so serious about bringing faith into politics that they go beyond just arguing in the public square for positions that are consistent with their faith, they turn political positions themselves into statements of faith. They “believe that marriage is between a man and a woman”. They do not make an argument for why excluding homosexuals from marriage would be a non-discriminatory policy or show any demonstrable benefits to society that would be gained from it. Instead they just assert a creed and treat an obvious social construct (marriage) like an invisible metaphysical reality in which they “believe” despite no evidence and with a contemptuous hostility towards the very demand for evidence.

While, in principle, I much prefer that people did not get their values from dogmatic faith traditions but reasoned them all out philosophically and in a scientifically informed way—I nonetheless respect people’s rights to settle difficult, ambiguous moral/political questions by erring on the side of what their tradition (faith tradition or otherwise advises) as long as in the public square they respect the demands of evidence and rationality when advancing their positions. The Republican party has gone well beyond encouraging people to settle difficult questions in accord with their faith-shaped consciences to the point of shamelessly making all moral and political matters into blind leaps of faith and all political utterances into confessions of faith. And in this context, because faith is elevated to such a virtue, disdain and indifference to evidence are becoming trumpeted and not even disguised.

Elsewhere I have tried to demonstrate how it is faith which more than anything else poisons religion. In the Republican party everyday we are getting more and more examples of how it poisons politics.

H/T: Unreasonable Faith

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.