2012 Political Litmus Test
Update 2012-01-23 As the campaign progress, the politicians have begun pandering to their base and changing their tune. Go read the update to see how things have changed.
I've written before about my own political litmus test. Basically, it would be very, very difficult for me to support any politician who doubted evolution or advocated the teaching of creationism in schools, or who doubted the reality of anthropogenic global climate change. To nearly quote myself, for someone to take those positions requires that they lack knowledge of the issue, are willing to ignore the consensus of experts, and/or are willing to ignore evidence in favor of their ideology. None of those traits are something I want to see in the politicians representing me.
I use evolution and climate change in particular because they're well known issues - you can't claim that you've never heard of them, and, for evolution in particular, the evidence is simply overwhelming. I'm not trying to be a single issue voter. I view these issues nearly on par with things like the spherical Earth or heliocentricism. If, as a politician who will have to deal with a broad range of issues, you can't accept reality, I don't really care what you have to say on other issues, because you've already blown your credibility.
So, how are the current front runners looking on these issues? Here's a quick table. I put Obama on top (since I'm pretty sure the Democrats aren't going to run anyone against him), and some of the leading Republicans after that, in alphabetical order by last name. Note that I'm only trying to give a quick summary in the table below. Politicians are by nature slippery in stating their positions, or willing to say different things depending on the crowd, so it's sometimes a little hard to pin down their actual stances (not that a politician refusing to unambiguously come out in favor of either of these positions is much better than flat out rejecting them).
|Candidate||Evolution||Anthropogenic Climate Change|
|Michele Bachmann||Doesn't Accept||Doesn't Accept|
|Mike Huckabee||Doesn't Accept||Accepts|
|Sarah Palin||Doesn't Accept||Doesn't Accept|
|Ron Paul||Doesn't Accept||Doesn't Accept|
|Tim Pawlenty||Doesn't Accept||Doesn't Accept|
|Rick Perry||Doesn't Accept||Doesn't Accept|
|Rick Santorum||Doesn't Accept||Doesn't Accept|
So, out of the Republican candidates listed above, only three are even worth starting to consider. And honestly, only one of them, Romney, has much of a chance of getting the Republican nomination. It really does scare the hell out of me that the people who reject the science on these issues are even contenders.
Here's a bit more detail on the candidate's positions:
Here's what Obama had to say in his own words:
I’m a Christian, and I believe in parents being able to provide children with religious instruction without interference from the state.
But I also believe our schools are there to teach worldly knowledge and science. I believe in evolution, and I believe there’s a difference between science and faith. That doesn’t make faith any less important than science. It just means they’re two different things. And I think it’s a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don’t hold up to scientific inquiry.
Obama at least pays lip service to the threat of climate change, but it's disappointing that he hasn't gotten more accomplished in the time he's been in the White House.
According to a blog by the name of The Stillwater Tribune, Bachmann has a very, very muddled understanding of evolution:
Bachmann’s personal definition of what evolution is became unclear at that point, but she went on to say that a grain of wheat plus a starfish does not equal a dog, and that this was what evolutionists were teaching in our schools.
She's also pushed for the teaching of creationism in schools.
This quote from a speech Bachmann gave on the House floor reveals a very ignorant position on climate science.
Carbon dioxide is natural. It is not harmful. It is a part of Earth’s life cycle. And yet we’re being told that we have to reduce this natural substance and reduce the American standard of living to create an arbitrary reduction in something that is naturally occurring in the earth.
She also treads dangerously close to conspiracy theories, implying that much of climate science is "manufactured science".
Here's what Gingrich had to say in an inteview with Discover magazine back in 2006.
Do you view evolution as "just a theory" or as the best explanation for how we came to be? Evolution certainly seems to express the closest understanding we can now have. But it's changing too. The current tree of life is not anything like a 19th-century Darwinian tree. We're learning a lot about how systems evolve and don't evolve. Cockroaches became successful several hundred million years ago and just stopped evolving.
Where do you come down on teaching intelligent design in schools? Do you think the ruling in the Dover, Pennsylvania, case was appropriate?
I believe evolution should be taught as science, and intelligent design should be taught as philosophy. Francis Collins's new book, The Language of God, is a fine statement that combines a belief in God with a belief in evolution. I do not know enough about the Dover case to critique the judge's decision, but I am generally cautious about unelected judges establishing community standards—that is the duty of elected officials.
However, he has been a bit cagey recently in not trying to admit to accepting evolution, presumably in an attempt to not alienate the creationists among the Republican base.
Gingrich has not made it a secret that he accepts climate change is a real problem. As just one example, in an ad with Nancy Pelosi, he explicitly said, "We do agree our country must take action to address climate change."
There's the infamous example from the 2007 GOP debate, where Chris Mathews asked the candidates which among them did not accept evolution, and Huckabee raised his hand. He's tried to do a bit of back-pedaling since then, but he's never come out in full support of evolution, nor denial of young earth creationism.
Back in 2007, at least, when he was in support of a cap and trade plan, Huckabee said of climate change that "it’s all our fault and all of our responsibility to fix it."
Evolution & Climate Change:
In the wake of some of Rick Perry's anti-science statements, Huntsman made his now famous Tweet:
To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.
Source - Huffington Post (ugh, I feel a bit dirty linking there)
In her book, Going Rogue, Palin basically admitted to being a creationist (if you follow the evolution debate enough, you'll know that many young earth creationists treat 'microevolution' differently from 'macroevolution'.)
I believed in the evidence for microevolution—that geologic and species change occurs incrementally over time, But I didn’t believe in the theory that human beings—thinking, loving beings—originated from fish that sprouted legs and crawled out of the sea. Or that human beings began as single-celled organisms that developed into monkeys who eventually swung down from trees; I believed we came about not through a random process, but were created by God.
Back in July of 2008, Palin appeared to accept climate change. Here's what she had to say back then:
Alaska's climate is warming. While there have been warming and cooling trends before, climatologists tell us that the current rate of warming is unprecedented within the time of human civilization. Many experts predict that Alaska, along with our northern latitude neighbors, will warm at a faster pace than any other areas, and the warming will continue for decades.
However, once she hit the national spotlight, her tone began to change. In an editorial she wrote for the Washington Post in December of 2009, she had the following to say:
But while we recognize the occurrence of these natural, cyclical environmental trends, we can't say with assurance that man's activities cause weather changes. We can say, however, that any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far outweighed by their economic costs.
That editorial also reveals that she bought into the manufactured Climategate controversy.
Here's my transcript of a YouTube video of Paul speaking about evolution, leaving out a few stutters and ums.
I think it's a theory, the theory of evolution, and I don't accept it, you know, as a theory. But I think [video glitch or edit] the creator that I know, you know, created us, every one of us, and created the universe. And the precise time and manner and all [or you know] I just don't think we're at the point where anybody has absolute proof on either side.
In a November 2008 interview for New York Times / Freakanomics, Paul appeared to at least accept climate change and some measure of human effect, but he questioned just how much of an effect humans had.
It is clear that the earth experiences natural cycles in temperature. However, science shows that human activity probably does play a role in stimulating the current fluctuations.
The question is: how much? Rather than taking a “sky is falling” approach, I think there are common-sense steps we can take to cut emissions and preserve our environment. I am, after all, a conservative and seek to conserve not just American traditions and our Constitution, but our natural resources as well.
However, he later changed his tune, calling climate change a hoax in an interview with Fox Business.
You know, the greatest hoax I think that has been around in many, many years if not hundreds of years has been this hoax on the environment and global warming. You notice they don’t call it global warming anymore. It’s weather control.
Pawlenty both accepts creationism himself, and feels that it should be taught in schools. Here are some of his responses to a Newsweek interview.
QUESTION: Let me ask you about social issues your party has been dealing with. In her book, Palin claims that McCain’s handlers wanted her to be silent about her belief in creationism. How would you describe your view?
ANSWER: I can tell you how we handle it in Minnesota. We leave it to the local school districts. We don’t mandate a curriculum or an approach. We allow for something called “intelligent design” to be discussed as a comparative theory. It doesn’t have to be in science class.
QUESTION: Where are you personally?
ANSWER: Well, you know I’m an evangelical Christian. I believe that God created everything and that he is who he says he was. The Bible says that he created man and woman; it doesn’t say that he created an amoeba and then they evolved into man and woman. But there are a lot of theologians who say that the ideas of evolution and creationism aren’t necessarily inconsistent; that he could have “created” human beings over time.
In an interview with the Miami Herald, Pawlenty said that he thinks the climate is changing, but that it's a natural occurrence and that humans aren't' influencing it.
Well, there’s definitely climate change. The more interesting question is how much is a result of natural causes and how much, if any, is attributable to human behavior. And that’s what the scientific dispute is about.
But I think it’s fair to say that, as to whether and how much -- if any -- is attributable to human behavior, there’s dispute and controversy over it.
At least this is slightly more sensible than the people who just completely flat out deny climate change altogether.
Of course, there's the recent example where he told a little boy that evolution was "a theory that's out there", and continued with "It's got some gaps in it. In Texas we teach both Creationism and evolution." (BTW, creationism isn't taught in Texas schools.) But previously, back in July, he was even more explicit.
There are clear indications from our people who have amazing intellectual capability that this didn't happen by accident and a creator put this in place.
Now, what was his time frame and how did he create the earth that we know? I'm not going to tell you that I've got the answers to that. I believe that we were created by this all-powerful supreme being and how we got to today versus what we look like thousands of years ago, I think there's enough holes in the theory of evolution to, you know, say there are some holes in that theory.
Not just does Perry doubt climate change and humanity's influence, he's come out and basically said it's part of a conspiracy:
...there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects.
Here's what Romney had to say during a 2007 primary debate.
I believe that God designed the universe and created the universe, and I believe evolution is most likely the process he used to create the human body.
I’m not exactly sure what is meant by intelligent design. But I believe God is intelligent and I believe he designed the creation. And I believe he used the process of evolution to create the human body.
Here was Romney's response to a question on climate change during a Town Hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire.
I don't speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that. I can't prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer.
No. 2, I believe that humans contribute to that. I don't know how much our contribution is to that, because I know there's been periods of greater heat and warmth than in the past, but I believe we contribute to that. And so I think it's important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and global warming that you're seeing.
Here's part of what Santorum wrote in an editorial for the Washington Times.
This opposition to intelligent design is surprising since there is an increasing body of theoretical and scientific evidence that suggests an alternate theory is possible. Research has shown that the odds that even one small protein molecule has been created by chance is 1 in a billion. Thus, some larger force or intelligence, or what some call agent causation, seems like a viable cause for creating information systems such as the coding of DNA. A number of scientists contend that alternate theories regarding the origins of the human species - including that of a greater intelligence - are possible.
Therefore, intelligent design is a legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in science classes.
It's the standard creationist canards.
As for solutions like carbon taxes, cap-and-trade legislation and other government efforts to control our energy consumption, however, I think most Americans don't believe Al Gore and the hysterics (good rock band name) have made the case.
Could it be that Americans know that over time the Earth goes through natural cooling and heating cycles?
Could it be that they recognize that most of the doomsday scenarios are not scientifically supported and that even the "consensus" projections are just that - projections based upon highly interactive questionable assumptions over long periods of time?
Or could it be they suspect that no one really knows the role that man-made carbon dioxide plays in the larger scheme of climate change?
Or maybe Americans are coming to understand that global temperatures have actually cooled over the last 10 years and are predicted to continue cooling over the next 10.
I suppose I should explain my confidence in evolution and anthropogenic climate change.
I've written extensively about evolution on this blog, so there's a lot of information if you just look around. One of my posts that originally was fairly minor turned into a good source for external links to information on evolution.
Here are a few of the better entries I've written on evolution. Of course, there's far more than this.
- Ray Comfort - Still Ignorant on Evolution
- Book Review - Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters
- Book Review - God- or Gorilla? (a series)
- Creation Museum/Creationist Rule of Thumb with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics
Here are two articles I wrote on this blog concerning climate change: