Republican candidates, global warming, evolution, and reality

Bad Astronomy
The entire universe in blog form
Sept. 8 2011 12:27 PM

Republican candidates, global warming, evolution, and reality

So, last night was another debate among the Republican candidates for President. While Ron Paul appears to have done quite well, at least according to an MSNBC poll, it was Rick Perry who is grabbing headlines.

Of course, that's because what he said was outrageously awful. About climate science, he said, "...just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell." That analogy is so ridiculous it's hard to know where to start; but a good place might be to simply say that Galileo had the advantage of being right. Just because a tiny fraction of people claim global warming isn't real, or that humans aren't responsible, doesn't make them correct. Especially when going up against the overwhelming evidence compiled by a consensus of 97% of scientists who study climate as their career.

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

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Also, the religiously conservative Perry should be a bit more circumspect on his analogies. It wasn't scientists who were fighting Galileo, it was religious conservatives.

Bismillah, no!

Jon Huntsman, as expected, stood up for science, as Sheril Kirshenbaum points out on her new Culture of Science blog. And while I disagree with Huntsman on a number of social and government issues, it's nice to know one of the Republican candidates is willing to at least dip his toe in reality. But how messed up is it that supporting actual evidence-based research is considered political suicide in the GOP?

If you're curious about where the other candidates stand on issues of global warming and evolution, Luke Scientiæ has compiled an overview. I've looked it over and that article falls into line with what I've read elsewhere as well. It's not a pretty picture; with the exception of Huntsman essentially all the currently viable candidates have gone out of their way to deny basic science such as evolution. That includes Ron Paul.

As Tom Chivers wrote for The Telegraph about this cohort of antiscience candidates:

Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution, as the old saw goes. Nothing: not anatomy, not biochemistry, certainly not genetics. Not species distribution or death or the immune system or sex. Nothing. It's like trying to explain the behaviour of football players without acknowledging the existence of a game of football.

As I've pointed out before, the same is true for climate science. It's de rigeur for Republican candidates to deny global warming, and it's even worse for Tea Partiers. That's not surprising as the noise machine rattles on; a recent study that did not link cosmic rays to global warming is being touted as saying exactly the opposite (you can find links to more about that on Greg Laden's blog). Heck, a paper that got lots of play in the global warming denial sphere was so flawed a journal editor resigned over it, saying it should not have been published. But that won't even slow things down.

As we get closer to the Republican nomination -- yegads, still a year off -- expect to see the noise ratcheted up and the rhetoric to get even more heated. This is going to be a very long process, and given what I saw last night, an embarrassing one.



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