QUOTE OF THE DAY…. There’s nothing quite as bewildering as listening to the right try to explain their hostility towards modern science.

On his radio show today, Glenn Beck pondered the significance of biology. “I don’t think we came from monkeys,” he told listeners. “I think that’s ridiculous. I haven’t seen a half-monkey, half-person yet. Did evolution just stop? There’s no other species that is developing into half-human?”

This got me thinking about a story President Obama told about a year ago, after he returned from a trip to Asia. He shared an anecdote about a luncheon he attended with the president of South Korea.

“I was interested in education policy — they’ve grown enormously over the last 40 years,” Obama said. “And I asked him, ‘What are the biggest challenges in your education policy?’ He said, ‘The biggest challenge that I have is that my parents are too demanding.’ He said, ‘Even if somebody is dirt poor, they are insisting that their kids are getting the best education.’ He said, ‘I’ve had to import thousands of foreign teachers because they’re all insisting that Korean children have to learn English in elementary school.’ That was the biggest education challenge that he had, was an insistence, a demand from parents for excellence in the schools.

“And the same thing was true when I went to China. I was talking to the mayor of Shanghai, and I asked him about how he was doing recruiting teachers, given that they’ve got 25 million people in this one city. He said, ‘We don’t have problems recruiting teachers because teaching is so revered and the pay scales for teachers are actually comparable to doctors and other professions. ‘

“That gives you a sense of what’s happening around the world. There is a hunger for knowledge, an insistence on excellence, a reverence for science and math and technology and learning. That used to be what we were about.”

Yes, it was. Now, one of the nation’s most influential media personalities tells his minions, “I haven’t seen a half-monkey, half-person yet,” as part of an effort to get conservatives to continue to reject the foundation of modern biology.

We all hear talk from time to time about “American decline,” but I hope people appreciate the ways in which stupidity spreads like a cancer, undermining our ability to thrive, prosper, and compete in the world.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.