A big political story this last week has been the comments of Todd Akin, a Missouri Republican Congressman and US Senate candidiate, opining that women do not typically become pregnant as a result of rape. His comments, having absolutely no basis in science, have understadnably sparked criticism from both sides of the political aisle. And although this is a politically charged issue in an election cycle, the teachable moment form this incident is not at all political, but institutional.
Where does law come from? Is it organic or is it fashioned by human lawmakers? If law is constituted of human actio, what is the nature of the lawmaking process?
Akin has served 12 years as the Congressional Representative from the 2d Congressional District of Missouri. He serves on a number of committees - most notable in this instance is his appointment to the US House of Representative Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Yes, Representative Akin, whose scientifically fantastical statements about human reproduction got him into so much trouble is actually one of the people who we rely on to make good public policy about science. Is this like the fox guarding the hen house, or is this just the way law is made?
"Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made."
- John Godfrey Saxe University Chronicle. University of Michigan (27 March 1869)