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Maybe thinking he was safe in friendly territory with a group of Tea Partiers, Rep. Todd Akin held forth Thursday on the topic of evolution:

I don’t see it as even a matter of science because I don’t know that you can prove one or the other. …

I imagine that must come as a surprise to most scientists who tend to believe that all biological science depends on the theory of evolution. (Yes, I said theory – and if you want to know just what theory means in science, read this.) Further, understanding the crucial role the theory of evolution plays in biological sciences has practical consequences for us all. This extract from a letter written to their administration by members of the Biology faculty at the University of Texas to defend the teaching of evolution makes the scope opf evolutionary theory quite clear:

Evolution education is more than an academic question. Biotechnology is a key player in our economy, and biotech firms move to places with well trained biologists. Evolutionary biology has made fundamental contributions to drug synthesis, medical genetics, and our understanding of the origins and dynamics of diseases. Principles of evolution are at the basis of human genomics and personalized medicine and are applied daily by people working in medicine, agriculture, engineering, and pharmaceuticals. In contrast, anti-evolutionary ideas like intelligent design have yet to produce any medical or technological advances.

The crux of the issue seems to be the word “proven.” Like theory, however, proof doesn’t mean the same thing in science. It would help, don’t you think, if Akin bothered to learn something, anything at all, about science before he shoots off his mouth – even among Tea Partiers?

I know you’ve already heard it ad infinitum, but his fellow Republicans appointed this guy to the House Science and Technology Committee. Really. And he’s not the only crank on that committee – check out Jon Stewart’s take on Todd Akin and a few of his congressional peers.  Stewart suggests some hard truths about Missouri voters:

How do these fucking crazy people make it to the national stage?” Stewart asked. “Easy. By being less crazy than the guys on the state level.