|Editor’s Note: This article
was published during the presidency of Bush the Elder in a magazine called
Quayle Quarterly. Unfortunately, that
fine publication had to close up shop when Bill Clinton
won the 1992 election. For those of you who may have
forgotten, Dan Quayle was once our vice president. His
greatest accomplishment was his courageous crusade against
fictional TV newswoman Murphy Brown, who, to this very
day, continues to work tirelessly and satanically (in
reruns) to undermine the moral fiber and family values of
our country. As the head of the National Space Council,
Dan also worked hard to break down the wall of
separation between Church and Space.
Dan Quayle: Space Cadet?
“Welcome to President Bush, Mrs. Bush and my fellow astronauts.”
Vice President Quayle addressing the 20th anniversary
celebration of the moon landing, 7/20/89 (reported in Esquire,
Is it just me, or is there something wrong with the match of man and job that enables Dan Quayle to play a major role in the exploration of space? As head of the National Space Council, Mr. Quayle is influencing scientific policy on some very high-tech projects. Now, I’m not attacking his intellectual or academic shortcomings: that would be like criticizing my grandmother for being old. The issue is not astrophysics, but metaphysics — specifically how his religious beliefs may shape our space program.
In a Barbara Walters interview, Dan and and his wife Marilyn identified themselves as “fundamentalist Christians,” who believe every word of the Bible to be literally true. How this ideology affects most of Dan’s nebulous vice presidential duties is moot, but as regards the space program, it raises a troubling question: When science and religion conflict — as they always do for fundamentalists — does the leader of the National Space Council get more confused than usual?
Fundamentalists reject much of the knowledge gained since the Dark Ages. The Jerry Falwell types view much of modern scientific knowledge as simple error, while some branches — especially the works of Darwin and Freud — are seen as being actively the products of Satan.
The basis of 20th-century biology is evolution. Reputable scientists debate its mechanics, but the basic idea that modern life has evolved over time from lower forms is considered fact, not theory. To reject evolution — as Jimmy Swaggart and Pat Robertson do — is to reject biology, as well as such related disciplines as genetics, botany and anatomy.
Biblical inerrancy totally contradicts paleontology and anthropology. Most fundamentalists believe that all the Earth’s species were created at once and have never evolved, and no new species have emerged since Creation. If fossils are not a joke played on scientists by a whimsical God (a view some fundamentalists have advanced), men and dinosaurs lived at the same time, rather than 63 million years apart as paleontologists insist.
In the early 17th century, Bishop Ussher used the ages of Biblical patriarchs to compute the date of Creation: October 23, 4004 B.C. at 9:00 a.m., give or take a minute or two. (Other born-again scholars place it between 1,000 and 1,500 years earlier.) This “fact” is contradicted by the geologic record, the fossil record, carbon-14 dating, astronomical observations and just about every branch of science you can mention.
Fundamentalists have invented Creation Science to explain away such discrepancies. This pseudoscience is based on the conviction that anything that contradicts the Bible must, of necessity be wrong, regardless of the evidence, and to hell with the scientific method if the results differ from their own literal interpretation of the revealed word. Creationism is part of the same venerated tradition that had Europeans believing that the Earth was flat more than 1,700 years after Eratosthenes of Alexandria discovered it is round. It is also part of the same scientific tradition that caused the Pope to send out the Jesuits to convince the masses that the Earth was the center of the universe, after Galileo, using the newly invented telescope, proved to His Holiness that it isn’t. By the way, is Creationism the science you believe in, Dan?
Admittedly, biology and paleontology have little to do with space exploration. If Dan believes man once hunted the brontosaurus ... so what? At least the Flintstones cartoons are more realistic for him that way. If he wants to believe that two of every single species on Earth once jammed into Noah’s Ark ... who cares? And ignoring geology isn’t likely to hurt his golf game any.
But religious beliefs also impinge on technologies crucial to the space program. The Bible says the Earth was created before the Sun and stars. Now, here comes the math. Since no star can be older than the Earth (6,000 to 7,000 years), starlight from more than 7,000 light years away has not had time to reach us (traveling at the speed of light). Yet astronomers view objects billions of light years distant — so billions of years must have passed in order for us to be seeing these objects. How is this possible, Dan?
Do you just plain reject the laws of physics; i.e., is the speed of light a whole lot faster than Einstein claimed? Or is it astronomy you’re dubious about? Are astronomers and physicists as misguided as those godless evolutionists? Do Einstein and Carl Sagan belong in that same circle of hell normally reserved for Darwin and Stephen Jay Gould?
Astronomy — Fact or Fiction?
Maybe the stars aren’t so far away . . . perhaps they’re lights stuck in the firmament, as the ancients thought. Maybe, with a tall enough building, we can reach them. In the Old Testament, this so concerned Jehovah that He scrambled the language of the builders of the Tower of Babel to keep it from happening. What do you think, Dan . . . a nice tall skyscraper (in Indiana), instead of that expensive space station those scientists want? But, be careful! God might get mad and turn us all into Democrats!
We should ask the VP some hard questions. Maybe he ignored science in college: astronomy is about as relevant to lawyers and politicians as a course in ethics. But if he’s in charge of exploring space, shouldn’t we find out what he thinks is out there? Here’s one for you, Dan: In the Book of Joshua, God made the Sun stand still. Did this happen because the earth stopped spinning or because the Sun stopped going around it, as primitive peoples once believed? Is your solar system fundamentally different from the one those heathen scientists at NASA are observing?
I think astrology is bunk, so I wouldn’t want the job of working on Nancy Reagan’s horoscope (unless it paid really well). Likewise, if Dan doesn’t believe in science outside a Biblical framework, he might not be the best man for the Space Council. Luckily, Mrs. Reagan showed little interest in outer space. I’d be uneasy exploring the planets with Nancy, since astrological tradition places the Earth at the center of the solar system. And for many years, Biblical scholars insisted the Sun went around the Earth, because the Bible seemed to say so. Do you think the Sun goes around the Earth, Dan? I’d hate to think that our astronauts might take a wrong turn at the Moon, because Dan believes those godless scientists have the solar system all wrong.
It’s hard for me to picture the vice president conferring with the scientists at NASA. Does he invite Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawkings over for lunch to discuss cosmology with his right-wing televangelist supporters? Maybe this is one aspect of that “big tent” the Republicans are always talking about.
If the space program is a big tent, there’s room in it for Flat Earthers and old-time religion, as well as astronomers and physicists. Just like there’s room in the GOP for both Freedom of Speech and gag orders that prohibit doctors from even saying the word “abortion.”
Maybe it’s all academic anyway. Fundamentalists, from Southern Baptists to Jehovah’s Witnesses, believe the Second Coming is at hand (isn’t it always?). So why spend money to go to the heavens when the Book of Revelations says the heavens will soon be coming to us? Let’s put that cash into the defense budget instead; then we can take part, like God-fearing Americans, in that old-time Armageddon that Dan and his churchmates have been looking forward to for so long.
are as many sites dealing with our former VP as there are
Republicans in The 700 Club.
One of the best features The Dan Quayle Quotes Page, as well as a link to the complete compilation of David Letterman’s Top-10 Lists dealing with Indiana’s favorite son.
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