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See Inside February 2010

Greenhouse Bananas: Non-Science Smear Campaigns

Two men tout stuff you didn't learn in school, if you went to a good school



Matt Collins

Here’s my conclusion: the only strong evidence we have that Oklahoma Senator James M. Inhofe isn’t a clown is that his car isn’t small enough. As I write in early December, the Copenhagen climate change conference has just begun. And Inhofe, that gleeful anarchist, says he is going to Copenhagen to try to sabotage the affair.

Inhofe has famously called climate change “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” (Actually, the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people was Lord Amherst’s distribution of smallpox-ridden blankets, but I digress.) But he has also called global warming the “second largest hoax ever played on the American people after the separation of church and state.” Well, it’s good to know that the senator is capable of revising his theories after he acquires new information, a necessary condition for a truly scientific worldview.

Inhofe’s attacks on climate change science have been so engrossing that until recently I was unaware of his influence in Uganda. Investigative reporter Jeff Sharlet points out that Inhofe influences Ugandan parliament member David ­Bahati through their common membership in the Washington, D.C. evangelical group called the Family. Bahati introduced legislation in Uganda that recognized “aggravated homosexuality,” punishable in some cases by death. (Scrutiny by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow led to Inhofe repudiating the bill as this issue went to press.)

“Aggravated homosexuality” ranges from being infected with HIV to failing to report a homosexual to authorities to supporting same-sex marriage. Passage of this bill would thus mean two things. First, I would have to call my father and come out to him that in Uganda I engage in aggravated homosexuality. Second, some gay friends of mine will have to change their own definition of aggravated homo­sexuality, which currently means having trouble getting Lady Gaga tickets.

Inhofe himself is so intolerant that he once proclaimed, “I’m really proud to say that in the recorded history of our family, we’ve never had a divorce or any kind of homosexual relationship.” Based on statistics, I’m betting that the Inhofes will welcome a homosexual to the family in the near future or that the senator’s use of the word “recorded” was strategic.

(And if I ever hear any of his family singing show tunes from the great American musical named for the state the senator represents, I’m calling the cop in the Village People to make an arrest. The charge: fabulousness.)

Inhofe may subscribe to the unscientific young earth view of creation, which puts the age of our planet at about 10,000 years. I called and wrote his office in 2008 to find out his belief about the earth’s age, as I suspected it might inform his views on climate and fossil fuels. After almost a year, I got an information-free reply, thanking me for my interest.

Which brings me to young earth creationist Ray Comfort. He’s the antievolution activist who, along with former child sitcom star Kirk Cameron, recently passed out copies of On the Origin of Species with a new introduction that in effect explains how Charles Darwin was wrong, a bigot, a misogynist, Hitler’s dad, a cribbage cheat and the true kidnapper of the Lindbergh baby.

Comfort himself has been accused of cribbing parts of that intro from the writings of University of Tennessee lecturer Stan Guffey, who told the Knoxville Metro Pulse: “[Comfort’s] introduction begins with a nice, sweet little biography, then degenerates into intellectually lame, lazy distortions, selective reading of the literature, picking and choosing of facts, and misreadings of the historical record.... [He] gently moves folks into the notion that they don’t want to read what comes after the introduction. He just wants his 50 pages read, 47 of which are anti-intellectual, dishonest drivel, the first three of which are pretty good because I wrote them.”

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