Don't confuse religious myths and science

Elise Patkotak

I think that under the heading of giving credit where credit is due, we should acknowledge the many, many Republicans who denounced U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., and his asinine remarks about women and rape. I am almost certain that the majority of them meant it and were not just saying the right thing to avoid election losses.

The lesson that really needs to be taken from this incident is not that this man is a complete blithering idiot. That's a given. The lesson that needs to be taken from this is that for so long as science is treated as opinion and not fact, for so long will people like Mr. Akin feel free to believe whichever Dr. Doofus comes along and makes some totally ignorant statement, no matter how egregious it may be.

I know my first thought on hearing his comment was wondering who the heck the doctors were who told him this because I wanted to be very sure they never treated me for anything more serious than a hang nail. And I'm not sure I'd even trust them to do that.

Because of the hue and cry over creationism versus any actual scientific theory of the universe, we are raising children being taught religious beliefs in science class as a viable alternative.

Every religion in history has its own creationist theory. And every religion is entitled to teach and believe that theory in its own setting. But they are not entitled to have it taught in public schools. They are not entitled to "agree to disagree" when the issue at hand is fact versus articles of religious faith. That just confuses kids about whether or not there are actual facts in life. It also means that we are becoming the laughing stock of the world for turning out students for whom science is a smorgasbord of alternative theories derived from ancient texts written at a time when people thought the sun revolved around the earth.

If this is what Akin says when answering a question for which his handlers have not provided him with a written response, then I have to believe that the statement represents his true beliefs and everything he has said since then has been damage control. That there are still men in this world who believe that there are "legitimate" or "forced" rapes versus... well, I don't know what other kind of rapes there are. If you aren't being forced, then isn't it just consensual sex? If Akin talks about "legitimate" rape, then it is clear that somewhere in his dusty attic, he has some idea that there is something that is not a legitimate rape. And that's just darn scary.

Conservatives claim that the Democrats are unfairly painting them as anti-women. Well, you can see when something like this happens why we might feel that way. Yes, a majority of Republicans and conservatives have condemned Akin and demanded that he drop out of the race. But for some, that's just self-serving because they fear the repercussions in the voting booth if this man stays on the ballot.

As a woman who has been educated enough to know the difference between science and faith, I have to admit that right now, the Republican Party is scary to me. I don't want my children to be taught that a religious myth holds the same validity as science. It doesn't. I don't want people in elected office who believe my body has some sort of magical power to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. If that were true, we'd never have another abortion in this country. Women would just use their magical power to keep from getting pregnant.

Being conservative in areas like the economy or government regulation is a legitimate position, even if it's one with which I tend to disagree. These are areas in which open and honest debate should be held so that when we go to the polling booth we have a clear idea of how our vote will affect our country's future.

Being conservative in the sense that you believe science shows women are magical creatures who can control their bodies during a "legitimate" rape is, quite simply, not only ludicrous but frightening in its implications.

It's something I hope women will remember when they vote this fall.

Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," a memoir of her 28 years in Barrow.