BILL MOYERS: The battle never ends. And the choices we make in democracy often pit religious or partisan beliefs against scientific evidence that contradicts them. And beliefs can be stubborn, hard to give up. They even determine which facts we choose to accept. Partisans, especially – and who among us is not sometimes a partisan – will twist the facts to fit their preconceived notions. So, when people do stupid things, journalists and politicians included, cherished beliefs are often driving them, sometimes right over the cliff. As people in recovery say, denial is not just the name of a river in Egypt. And that’s what makes it dangerous.

Right now, two powerful belief systems have converged to counter facts staring us right in the face. Just as the number of Americans who question the science of evolution has gone up, so too has the number who deny that global warming is happening, and that human activity is causing it. This, at a time when the global scientific community is more certain than ever that you and I, and everyone else, are helping to turn up the heat and seal our fate. And here’s the scary political reality: on both fronts, evolution and climate change, radical right Republicans have made denial a litmus test. You can see it embodied in this man, Paul Broun, Republican congressman from Georgia, and a physician with strong religious beliefs:

PAUL BROUN: I've come to understand that all that stuff I was taught about evolution, and embryology, and Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior. You see there are a lot of scientific data that I found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young earth. I don’t believe that the earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.

BILL MOYERS: And when he took on the science of global warming, his fellow Republicans in the House of Representatives enthusiastically applauded:

PAUL BROUN on CSPAN: Now we hear all the time about global warming. Well, actually we’ve had a flat line temperatures globally for the last eight years. Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human-induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community. It is a hoax.

BILL MOYERS: Not true, simply not true. Up to a point, we might agree that Representative Broun’s personal beliefs are his own business, even when he is telling the extremist John Birch Society that this entire concept of man-made global warming is a conspiracy to, and I’m quoting, “destroy America.” But remember, this man is chairman of oversight and investigations for the Science, Space, and Technology Committee of the United States House of Representatives, passing judgment on public policy and science. God help us.

Bill Moyers Essay: When Congressmen Deny Climate Change and Evolution

Bill Moyers takes on radical-right Republicans for denying the science behind evolution and climate change, showing a video clip of Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), chairman of oversight and investigations for the Science, Space and Technology Committee of the US House of Representatives, who says evolution is a lie “straight from the pit of hell” and climate change, a hoax.

This essay was originally broadcast with part three of Bill’s interview with Neil deGrasse Tyson on January 24, 2014.

  • submit to reddit