Pseudo-historian David Barton shared some fascinating insights this week on religion in public schools.

YouTube video

For those who can’t watch clips online, Barton argued, “You go back to the Founding Fathers, as far as they were concerned, they’d already had the entire debate on creation-evolution. And you get Thomas Paine, who was the least religious Founding Father, saying you’ve got to teach creation science in the public school classroom. The scientific method demands that. Now, we’re opposite today.”

It’s hard to know where to start with such an argument. One could note, for example, that the scope of political leaders’ scientific knowledge towards the end of the 18th century isn’t especially relevant right now.

Or perhaps one should point out that Darwin didn’t write On The Origin of Species until 1859, making it unlikely that the Founding Fathers had “already had the entire debate on creation-evolution” nearly a century earlier.

Nevertheless, Barton is one of the most influential activists in Republican politics, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) recently called on Barton to “teach” members of Congress about how they should interpret the Constitution.

When I talk about the intellectual bankruptcy of contemporary Republicans, Barton helps prove the point.

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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.