by Barry Kent MacKay,
Senior Program Associate
Born Free USA's Canadian Representative
Barry is an artist, both with words and with paint. He has been associated with our organization for nearly three decades and is our go-to guy for any wildlife question. He knows his animals — especially birds — and the issues that affect them. His blogs will give you just the tip of his wildlife-knowledge iceberg, so be sure to stay and delve deeper into his Canadian Project articles. If you like wildlife and reading, Barry's your man. (And we're happy to have him as part of our team, too!)
Why I Don’t Believe in Politicians Who Don’t ‘Believe in’ Evolution
Look, I’m a Canadian, and we have our own numbskulls in public office, but if I don’t speak out against something that worries and even frightens me, I deserve the consequences, and they are profound.
(Photo by Michael Johns)
Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell of Delaware recently was excoriated in the media for running an ad that begins by assuring everyone that she is not a witch. Apparently the thought that she could be derives from her once dabbling in the Wiccan religion. It is an odd way to start an ad and all that, but there is something else O’Donnell and far too many other politicians say that worries me far, far more than this or that religious belief or dabbling, all having some pretty bizarre mythologies attached to them and all evoked by some of their devotees to justify various forms of hatred, cruelty and bigotry. In fact, I’m glad she explored other ideas and religions; that’s a healthy option and what youth is for.
No, what bothered me far more was something O’Donnell said years earlier. In explaining why she thought evolution was a myth, O’Donnell reportedly said that if evolution was factual, “why aren’t monkeys still evolving into humans?”
By so demonstrating her ignorance she showed her lack of understanding that evolution is the inevitable result in a cause-and-effect universe. The physical reality is that certain traits are heritable and convey advantages or disadvantages. If you don’t understand the idiocy of her comment it means you are not schooled in the right area, surely no big deal so long as you don’t challenge those who have actually studied evolution. There are books and courses for anyone interested; here I’ll just quickly say that monkeys never did evolve into humans, but rather that the lineage of various primates can be traced back to common ancestry, if one goes far enough back.
Since O’Donnell has aspirations to be in positions of power, the fact that she demonstrates that she either cannot — or does not choose to — think logically and analytically should worry us when, as she did in 2006, she pontificated on what she saw as China’s desire to take over the United States, sans any proof beyond internal policies she did not like.
That’s her opinion, which is fine, but a lot of lives tend to get lost when ideology trumps rationality among those in positions of political power. I sadly recall my first visit to the black memorial wall in Washington, D.C., with all the names of American military men and women needlessly sacrificed because of the irrational fear, minus the slightest proof, that if South Vietnam were to fall to the communists in a civil war, the world would follow. The South did become communist, it did not lead to attempts at world domination, and Vietnam and the United States are at peace with each other. And for every name on that wall there are many others, human and animal, who needlessly died during that dreadful time, all of it quite unnecessary, but caused by blind ideology. I’m old enough to remember it well.
What has that to do with animals? Everything. This dangerous trend, very alive in Canada and around the world, toward irrational, extreme ideology, carries all manner of threats. Just after I read the news item about O’Donnell’s silly, if harmless, ad, the next news item I read was from Missouri, where citizens are being urged to approve Proposition B, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, aimed at eliminating 3,000 puppy mills. The item said that the something called The Alliance of Truth is opposing the proposition on the grounds that supporters of the bill are trying to force buyers to obtain more-expensive dogs from breeders.
Now here’s where an ability to think analytically comes in. In fact, the humane movement relentlessly begs people to adopt stray dogs from pounds and shelters and is critical of the snob appeal of “purebreds.” The fact is that puppy mills produce dogs who often are badly inbred and poorly cared for, although the puppies that are cheaply sold to pet stores look cute. Proposition B only seeks to establish professional standards, thus a level playing field, for all dog breeders. Sure it would preclude the kind of intensive breeding and minimal husbandry standards that go into those cheaper dogs, dogs who will, on average, either cost their owners much more than a shelter dog in subsequent veterinarian fees, or go untreated for any of a plethora of ailments that occur in inbred or poorly nurtured dogs.
So even if you don’t care how horridly puppy mill dogs suffer, if you really care about the consumer, you would support Proposition B. I was not surprised, therefore, when I also heard that the “Tea Party” both opposes Proposition B and supports people such as O’Donnell, not to mention Sarah Palin.
It matters because the appeal of such people is that they provide simple answers to complex issues, and subsequent false comfort. And anyone who points this out is, among those attracted to such simplicity, easily accused of being the liberal elite or, heaven help us, “socialist.”
I’m no less concerned about the economy or world affairs than anyone (Canada is intricately and irreversibly involved in the U.S. economy), but my expertise is in a plethora of environmental issues far, far more complex than Missouri’s Proposition B. Just as the deregulation of industries can cause such horrors as the Gulf Deepwater oil spill or, as I type, the horrific spill of toxic sludge in Hungary it threatens agonizing death to thousands of animals. But it also can create such threats as global climate change, international wildlife trade or massive deforestation. It can lead to the collapse of major fisheries, the drainage of aquifers, threats of the introduction of exotic flora and fauna — the list of complex issues that involve billions of animals and require logical, analytical thinking seems endless. Voters who can’t support something as directly beneficial to humans and animals alike as Missouri’s Proposition B bode well for people like O’Donnell or Sarah Palin, but ill for the rest of us, human and animal alike.
Barry Kent MacKay