The Mars Curiosity Rover has more than 1 million followers on Twitter. Todd Akin, the Senate candidate who believes rape victims have a biological defense against getting pregnant, has a little over 5,000.
The Curiosity Rover has inspired Earthlings to further scientific exploration and research. The Missouri Republican has inspired leaders of his party to beg him to drop out.
Guess which one has more influence on our nation's science and space policy?
It's Akin, who sits on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, and he's far from an outlier among the majority on that committee. At a time when our economy and the future of this planet depend upon scientific consensus and advancement, Republicans who don't believe in the scientific method are running the House Science Committee.
It's one thing to hold moral views that run contrary to science. Anyone who believes in the resurrection, for example, holds an anti-scientific view, as does anyone who believes that by eating a tiny cracker that they are eating a piece of someone's body. In fact, faith -- the belief without proof -- is anti-scientific. That's not what I'm talking about.
The Republican members of the House Science Committee hold anti-scientific views of such towering ignorance that they make you question evolution.
Holding the gavel is 89-year-old Ralph Hall, an East Texan who's not sure whether the planet is getting hotter or not. "We have some real challenges; we have the global warming or global freezing," said Hall. On behalf of Texas, we're sorry about Hall. We thought Congress would be a safe place to keep him and never intended for him to be given sharp objects or a position of actual importance.
Then there's Dana Rohrabacher, bless his heart. When he learned that decaying plant matter emits greenhouse gasses, he asked, "Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rain forests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases?"
Georgia's Dr. Paul Broun -- the kind of Republican who compared Obama to Hitler and then apologized "for putting it that way" -- betrays no ambivalence about global warming or why he's on the science committee. "I very much would like to debunk this myth that there is a scientific consensus that we have human-induced climate change," he said. "I want to focus on what the truth is, instead of this blanket statement that there is this scientific consensus that this is occurring, which is balderdash."
Note to Broun: There's so much scientific consensus that our planet is cooking that even a study funded by the Koch brothers reached the same conclusion. But again, we're talking about a medical doctor who, when the Center for Disease Control urged people to eat more fruits and vegetables, said, "This is socialism of the highest order!"
Pity the poor scientists who testify before their committee, for their words are wasted. It is a liberal conceit that the world's problems can be solved through education. Raise your hand if you've ever said, "Education is the magic bullet." Now slap yourself with that hand. The anti-scientific congressmen who run the House Science Committee are educated. They have all the facts at their disposal. They choose, with purpose and determination, to hold beliefs contrary to these facts.
In this case, evidence will not give light to darkness. We can't simply sail over the horizon to prove to them that the Earth is round. They have globes, scientific consensus and personal experiences to draw from, yet these guys are drawing curtains against the Enlightenment. The truth isn't setting them free when it comes to conservative hostility to science.
This is where you come in. A blogger for Wired magazine tried to find Democrats on the House Science Committee who shared similarly anti-scientific views but came up empty. This is one reason I become murderously angry with cynical observers who falsely blame both parties for what ails our body politic. You may not agree with everything the Democratic Party believes -- and in fact, I don't know a Democrat who does -- but we do believe in science.
Follow Jason Stanford on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JasStanford