One of the most difficult challenges for a scientist serving in the U.S. Congress is responding gracefully to the torrent of illogical and counterfactual arguments from the right wing message machine.And bunnies thought the Arctic melt was scary?
During my three years as a scientist in Congress, I had the pleasure of dealing with “Death Panel” attacks on health care reform, debates over the origin of herbicide-resistant weeds with Congressmen who did not accept evolution, and pronouncements by a right-wing colleague in Congress who believes the GPS system to be a shining example of the triumph of private enterprise.
Still, a new standard for ignorance seems to have been set by my former colleague Todd Akin, U.S. Representative from the Missouri 8th Congressional District and Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, when he said, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
As a husband, a father, a scientist, an American and a human being, I was disturbed on many levels by Akin’s comments. They are both offensive and factually wrong. (How wrong? Estimates by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) are that rape results in tens of thousands of pregnancies each year, even after many pregnancies are prevented by emergency contraception that Akin want to ban). It is discouraging to see how a person with those ideas could win elected office in our democracy, but it happens.
And then I remembered: Todd Akin sits on the House Committee on Science and Technology