God, the Constitution, and Huckabee

My modestly soft spot for Mike Huckabee may completely harden up if he keeps up with comments such as:

“What we need to do, is to amend the Constitution so it's in
God's standards rather than trying to change God's standards so it
lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how
we treat the family.”

Salon's Tim Grieve draws out the logic to show just how absurd this statement is:

In an interview with Fox News — Crooks and Liars has the video
— Huckabee says an amendment banning abortion and another banning
same-sex marriage “are the two areas I'm talking about. I'm not
suggesting that we rewrite the Constitution to reflect tithing or
Sunday school attendance.”

Fair enough, but why not?

If it is, as Huckabee said the other day, “easier to change the
Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God,”
what's the basis for stopping at abortion or same-sex marriage or even
at tithing or Sunday school? Why not push for an amendment outlawing
homosexuality entirely? On the other hand, maybe God would be
interested in passing the Equal Rights Amendment. How about an
amendment banning the death penalty? Or maybe an omnibus amendment
outlawing preemptive war, the touching of pigskins and the getting of
haircuts?

Who should be the arbiter of “God's standards”? How do we decide which
of those “standards” can be ignored and which are important enough that
we “need” to address them by amending the Constitution? And how would
Mike Huckabee feel about having someone else — say, Hillary Clinton or
Barack Obama or John Edwards or Dennis Kucinich — making those
decisions for him?

Here's an idea, let's leave God's laws to God (and churches) and America's laws to American citizens.

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It’s all about the bacteria

This week's science news that a particularly nasty strain of MRSA (a highly antibiotic resistant staph bacteria) is becoming the scourge of gay men in San Francisco has given me the push for finally posting on the best non-fiction book I read last year: Good Germs Bad Germs by Jessica Snyder Sachs.  This book helps explain how we got to the point where we have a previously easily-treated type of staph that is now resistant to 6(!) potent antibiotics.  At first, the book was quite distressing, as we learn the story of how the amazing hubris and shortsightedness of modern medicine has led us to a point where, after a golden age of antibiotic success, it seems that we may again be facing many bacterial diseases for which there is no effective treatment.  The good news, is that scientists are using a variety of truly amazing (and smarter) techniques to come up with new ways to fight bacteria that should not lead to this current cycle of creating resistance.  What I found most interesting about the book, though, is the emphasis on “good germs.”  In truth, the human body is really a complex ecosystem that has evolved symbiotically with hundreds of bacterial species over tens of thousands of years.  I've been telling everyone I know my favorite fact from the book– for every one of your own cells, you have ten cells of bacteria.  The vast majority of these are quite beneficial to you, though.  A clear lesson, both in terms of antibiotic resistance and autoimmune disorders, is that we should be very careful in messing with this ecosystem.  I've also mentioned to a number of people that I've never been on antibiotics and I've been quite surprised at just how uncommon this appears to be.  I'm also bummed that I have my own (very minor) autoimmune disorder (seasonal allergic rhinitis, i.e., hayfever) despite this fact.   Last factoid: children are less likely to acquire autoimmune disorders if they: spend time in daycare, have a family dog, and have older siblings– all of which expose people to a broad range of bacteria. 

I could go on, but I'll stop.  The book is great– I actually stayed up and lost sleep several nights while I was reading it.  For a short auditory introduction, check out the podcast on it from Quirks and Quarks

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