Bill Burr is a very funny man and he has a great bit about white sportscasters who try to comment on the disproportional racial composition of most of the popular American team sports (football, baseball, basketball, etc). Every single person who does so ends up getting fired – something of an exaggeration, but within comedic license – despite having good intentions and attempting to talk about the subject matter-of-factly. They bring up things like the higher density of quick-twitch muscle fiber in the average African-American, then something about slavery, then something about selective reproduction…and all the while the other announcers are slowly inching away from their self-immolating colleague. Quick cut to the next scene, a tearful white guy behind a podium apologizing and collecting his final paycheck.
The underlying truth that makes it funny is the compulsion some of these broadcasters feel to editorialize on a subject about which their knowledge is limited to bits and pieces of pseudoscience. Hell, it would take the collective knowledge of five or six different fields – sociology, biology, economics, etc. – to come close to a half-decent answer to a question like this. What you are going to get from a football announcer is the kind of appeal to common sense analysis that you'd find in a 200-word magazine sidebar on the topic. The bottom line, of course, is that if these guys were smart they would just keep their mouths shut. They don't know anything about the subject, their statements are likely to offend someone, and we don't tune in to a basketball game to hear a lively discussion of racial eugenics anyway.
As hard as it is to believe of a group of people who are supposed to be among the nation's elite leaders, I'm starting to think that Republican elected officials should adopt the same "Better silent than sorry" policy about anything having to do with reproduction, or perhaps the whole human body in general. For a group of highly educated people who in many cases are also quite wealthy and successful in non-political endeavors, I am not entirely confident that they'd do well as a group on a high school standardized test in science.
By now we've all heard Rep. Akin's explanation of how women cannot get pregnant if they are "legitimately" raped (The body determines whether it is being raped by looking at your clothing; if you are dressed like a whore you obviously had it coming and kinda wanted it) and my mind cannot shake the experience of listening to Rush Limbaugh explain how birth control pills work (apparently you have to take one every time you have sex).
This is about more than social conservatism, pro-life rhetoric, social stigmatizing, or misogyny – the more basic issue is that I really don't think that these two people understand how the female body works. I think people like Akin and Limbaugh lack the kind of 6th Grade Health Class understanding of the female reproductive system that no one should be able to leave adolescence without. I fear that for many of the ancient white guys attempting to legislate about abortion, birth control, and other similar topics, their explanations of the reproductive process would contain one or more major factual errors. Do we have any way to prove that? Of course not. But look at Newt Gingrich and tell me that you see a man who honestly knows what happens after he gets too drunk to pull out.
My guess is that any test of knowledge about reproduction in Congress, irrespective of party and possibly even of gender, would produce a series of responses ranging from "Hey, that's actually pretty good" to some downright medieval medical science. The most likely source of an answer including humours, bile, leeches, and a map of the human brain would be 89 year old Texas Republican Ralph Hall, although I'd pay just about any amount for the privilege of hearing John McCain's response.
The point is that an alarming percentage of these people appear to lack a junior high understanding of science or human physiology once we exclude Bible-based theories. So, you know, maybe shut the fuck up about it.