Posted by: rebeccajrobare | September 24, 2012

Warning: Contains Politics (as reposted from Facebook)

Warning: Contains Politics. Read at your own risk.

(Note: This post does not fit the categories of science, writing, and recovery that are (meant to be) the focus of this blog. However, inasmuch as science impacts on my political thoughts, I feel it is appropriate to post it here. In addition, this is a relatively lengthy piece of writing and as such I would like to include it on this blog for completeness’ sake.)

First, know that I am a scientist. I do not take that lightly. I was raised to respect reality, and went on to have advanced education in how to determine whether something is real or not. This is important because my political philosophy begins with empiricism: we must know the facts before we can draw any conclusions or set any policies.

The o

ther thing you must know is that I am female. I am a bit surprised that my sex has come into play in my politics, as gender identity has never seemed as important a facet of my personality as it seems for many people. In this season, however, the politics of these identities have become primary factors for me.

Fact: The climate of the Earth is getting warmer.

This is a fact; it has been demonstrated mathematically and through the evidence of diminishing polar ice caps and increased probability of extreme weather events. This fact should inform policy; it is critical that for human existence to continue in as comfortable a fashion as we know it, we must either alter this change or adapt to its effects.

The conservative element of our politics — broadly, the Republican Party, disputes this fact and argues against policy elements that would mitigate it. Some of this recalcitrance stems from a feeling of uncertainty about the human factor contributing to global climate change. As a scientist, I respect your uncertainty. We haven’t been keeping good data long enough, and climate data is difficult enough to extrapolate, that there may well be causes of climate change other than human activity.

I don’t care.

I like this planet; I hope to live here until I am quite old and I think my children and grandchildren might enjoy it too. Because this is my goal, I wish to mitigate the effects of climate change regardless of their cause.

Another factor in the hesitancy to enact climate change-reducing policy is a general feeling that policy is not a good way to solve problems, that an unregulated market is always preferred. My response to this is twofold. First, companies compete to make money, not to reduce their environmental impact. A company, if acting in its own self-interest, should choose a less expensive option over a more expensive option regardless of that option’s contribution to climate change. Sanctions imposed in the form if fines and taxation may drive change in manufacturing and recycling where straightforward sales cannot. Second, people, including people who run businesses, do not act in their own self interest.

People are greedy. They are also fearful, vengeful, compassionate, and altruistic. Research has demonstrated that these emotional qualities come into play when people make economic decisions. This is a fact. My conclusion based on this fact is that to expect an unregulated market to be a universal solution to the problem of human behavior is short-sighted and unrealistic.

The final argument I’ve heard for not intervening in climate change is that God promised Noah to never again destroy the world. Not only is this a misquoting of the Bible, but it is not an argument based on any sort of reasoning that can be informed by facts. If this is what you believe, then you have chosen to ignore the real world and there is no point to having a conversation with you.

I am worried that there might be a lot of Republicans like this, or who pretend to be like this in order to capture the votes of those who are. It frightens me because in giving up reason and logic they are giving up the very things that make us modern — that have brought us beyond the days of Inquisition, absolute monarchy, rampant disease, and slavery.

What frightens me more is the idea that some of these believers wish to go back to those days.

To continue: the second identity I have introduced is the feminine. To be clear, I was born female, and my body has the capacity of bearing a child. The Republican platform has given indication that, by virtue of this sole fact, I should not be permitted to make decisions about bearing children.

Let me be clear. In the past months, serious arguments have been made that requiring insurance companies to provide contraception without a co-pay is tantamount to violating the religious freedom of the employers who contribute money to their employees’ health care costs. Hormonal contraception has been equated to abortion. Abortion, protected legally by a woman’s right to privacy, has been further restricted, in some cases by requirements for unnecessary medical procedures (transvaginal ultrasound), waiting periods, or by requiring doctors to lie — to provide information that they know to be incorrect — to their patients.

Today, the Republican party has adopted as part of its official platform the position that abortion should never be permitted even in cases of rape and incest. Imagine that your body has been violated in the most intimate way possible: is it so difficult to find compassion for a person who does not want that violation to continue for nine months?

Fact: Approximately five percent of rapes result in pregnancy.

Fact: Most rapes are committed by a person known to the victim.

Fact: Many states permit a rapist to have parental rights over resulting offspring.

The discussion of rape is punctuated by one disturbing fact after another. To make it more repulsive, we have in recent days seen public arguments dismissing the validity of rape by acquaintances, by coercion, in any situation that doesn’t follow the script of a “bad girl” who goes to a “bad place” and is violently attacked. Further, we have seen arguments that defy medical science by stating incorrectly that women’s bodies prevent pregnancy in the case of a violent attack.

The repugnance I feel, that these facts are ignored, and that my personal body may be taken from me first by a rapist, and then by the state, is terrifying. And the additional implication, that I do not have the moral ability to make my own decision about childbearing following rape –. Forget that the more conservative elements of the Republican party think that I cannot even be trusted with the number and spacing of my own children when I am married. There appears to be a sincere belief that I am not moral enough to decide whether I can bear a rapist’s child.

The counter argument, of course, is that abortion, and maybe even contraception, are unambiguously morally wrong. But the only foundation for this argument is religious. And as a religious argument, it has no no place in rational discussion — there is no way to argue against it. Forcing a woman to bear a child she does not want, whether because of rape or any other reason, is different in scale, but not in kind, from forcing her to attend a church she does not believe in. Our country, and the Constitution these Republicans claim to venerate, does not impose religious laws on non-believers. To do so is to become that patronizing nanny-state that is so repulsive.

I may be damned, but I will be damned on my own recognizance. I will not allow my morality to be dictated by anything but fact, reason, and human kindness.

The above are not exhaustive, but they demonstrate why I feel it is so important that I vote Democrat in the upcoming election. I do not feel I need agree with everything implemented by the current administration in order to reach the conclusion that my interests are best served by the left-leaning party. Further, it is my hope that the Democratic party, as a party responsive to facts, may be swayed from some of their policies less conducive to civil liberties, through rigorous argument. Of the Republicans I have no such hope.


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