Regular readers know I am no fan of Republican Presidential candidate Rick Perry. The reasons for this are legion, including his stance on evolution and global warming.
Now there’s evidence it’s even worse than I thought: The Guardian is reporting that Governor Rick Perry’s administration in Texas is actively suppressing science. A report about the environmental impact of global warming on Texas was apparently edited by officials, "… deleting references to climate change, sea-level rise and wetlands destruction."
This action smacks of scientific suppression and censorship. And before you accuse me of overreacting, the scientists involved in writing the report felt this editing was so bad that the original authors of the report asked for their names to be removed from the final version. Yegads.
This story was originally reported in the Houston Chronical, and Mother Jones has an example of the changes made. It’s starting to pop up in other venues as well like Climate Progress and Climate Science Watch.
Looking it all over, the charges that science is being suppressed hold up pretty well. John Anderson is a researcher at Rice University, and author of a chapter of the report heavily redacted by the agency in question, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). His opinion is clear:
That state of denial percolated down to the leadership of the [TCEQ]. The agency chief, who was appointed by Perry, is known to doubt the science of climate change. "The current chair of the commission, Bryan Shaw, commonly talks about how human-induced climate change is a hoax," said Anderson.
Terrific. I’m not terribly surprised by this; after all, Perry nominated creationists to head up the Texas State Board of Education not just once, but three times. Putting a climate change denier in charge of an environmental commission is par for his course.
When Bush was President, science suppression was rampant when it disagreed with political ideology (which was very, very common). If Perry is elected, we can expect more of the same. I’m very glad to see Perry sinking in the polls right now, but as far as science goes, the other options aren’t much better.
As I’ve said before, if you’re a Republican and you support science, you need to make your voice heard. It’s now long-since become de rigeur for GOP candidates to deny all manners of science if they want to get elected. It may not be too late. Speak up… or forever be denied your peace.
The antiscience stance of the Republican candidates for President is getting so chaotic I swear I need a scorecard to keep it all straight. The latest: Michele Bachmann goes antivax.
No, seriously. Generally associated with the far left, antivaccination rhetoric reared its head at the latest Republican candidate debate. In 2007, Governor Rick Perry of Texas — and current front runner of the cohort of White House contenders — issued an Executive Order mandating the Gardasil vaccination for girls. This vaccination prevents girls from getting the human papillomavirus, or HPV, a virus that is a major factor in contracting cervical cancer later in life. This cancer has a greater than 30% fatality rate once contracted, and is a horrible, horrible condition. 20 million people in the US alone carry the virus.
Representative Bachmann is not quite so subtle. During the recent debate, she tried to hammer Rick Perry on this issue, saying it’s wrong to mandate vaccines, saying that Gardasil "can have very dangerous side effects".
"There’s a woman who came up crying to me tonight after the debate," Bachmann said after the debate, where she had told Perry on stage that she was "offended" by his decision. "She said her daughter was given that vaccine. She told me her daughter suffered mental retardation as a result of that vaccine."
There has never been a single confirmed case of anything like this happening (in fact, a bioethicist has offered Bachmann $10,000 if she can come up with some evidence for her statement; no word from her campaign so far). Some people do have adverse reactions to vaccinations, but they are rare (like a girl who had an extraordinarily rare mitochondrial disorder which might — might — have caused a vaccine-related problem). But mental retardation from Gardasil is totally unheard-of.
The source is incredibly suspect, too. A unnamed woman came up to Bachmann and told her this unsubstantiated story? And Bachmann goes on national TV to score points with it? The line of evidence breaks down at every step here. Bachmann saying this during a nationally televised debate is nothing short of shameful. And reckless.
She’s not the only one making hay of this, either. A PAC backing Ron Paul has a video that calls Gardasil "an STD vaccine". That a pretty cynical spin on it; the issue of vaccinating against HPV is not about sex, it’s about health. However, because HPV is contracted through sexual contact, this also plays into the far-right’s morality issues.
Generally speaking, antivaxxers tend to be to the left of the political spectrum. I doubt Bachmann is sincerely trying to woo that vote. More likely, she is just displaying more of her antiscience predilections like creationism and global warming denialism.
I also doubt Bachmann would’ve gotten the Republican nomination even before she said something like this, but mirroring the thinking of the far-left could very well sink her once and for all inside her own party. We’ll see. But don’t forget: even if and when she’s gone, we’ll still have a coterie of antireality candidates to deal with on that ticket.
A lot of folks on the web are buzzing about Paul Krugman’s NYT OpEd today about the antiscience convictions of the current cohort of Republican candidates running for President of these United States. I find little fault in what Krugman wrote. Each candidate on the right is simply scrambling to be even more antiscience than the next.
Of course, if that "next" is Rick Perry, then I doubt anyone could sprint away from reality more than he does. He’s a dyed-in-the-wool creationist who apparently has no problem narrowing or stepping well over the line with separation of Church and State, and when it comes to denying climate change he also apparently had no problem with simply making things up (Krugman calls his statements "vile", and the Washington Post blog The Fact Checker rated his claims as "whoppers"). Perry’s stance on other big issues is similar.
And he’s far and away the front runner, which leaves me shaking my head.
Where Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum stand is obvious. Newt Gingrich — who claims he’s a fan of science — equivocates when it comes to Intelligent Design and evolution as well as global warming, and was instrumental in defunding the House Office of Technology Assessment in 1995.
Even the candidates people are calling "moderate" are falling over themselves to appease the base when it comes to science and the lack thereof. Mitt Romney tried to eat his cake and have it too about accepting evolution, and even Ron Paul has now distanced himself from evolution.
Which brings up Jon Huntsman, which is where things get truly maddening. He recently said he thinks both evolution and global warming are real. This makes me sad, and scared. Why? Because this statement is considered bold.
How can it be bold to accept reality, to not deny the overwhelming evidence, and to agree with the vast, vast majority of scientists studying the very topics of discussion?
Huntsman wants his party not to be "the antiscience party". But that shouldn’t be bold. That should be common sense.
As it happens, Huntsman is trailing in the polls by a nearly insurmountable distance. That’s certainly not caused by his statement — he’s been behind for a long time — and may not even be correlated directly; as one Republican strategist commented, he may simply be saying things to try to stand out from the crowd.
But if true, think on that: he’s making clear, logical, rational statements in order to separate himself from the other candidates.
And that’s where we are.
To say I am not a fan of Rick Perry, Republican Presidential candidate, is to seriously underestimate my antipathy toward him. He is anti-science in almost every sense of the word, and his stance on nearly every issue on which I’ve heard him speak is the exact opposite of where I stand.
But then something like this comes along, and shows just how far outside of reality he is. In this video, a little boy asks him how old the Earth is, and Perry then gives an astonishing answer:
After equivocating about the age of the Earth, Perry — a man who, if elected President, will swear to uphold the U. S. Constitution — says, "In Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools."
This is a jaw-dropping assertion. I find it difficult to interpret this as other than him saying he supports blatantly violating the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by teaching religion in public schools. Gawker does take a different tack saying, " Texas does not, in fact, teach creationism, or anything like it." But even if that’s true, it means Perry is — at the very least — woefully out of touch with his own state’s school system, and — at the worst, which is where I think we stand — he is unfamiliar with the very first amendment of the document upon which all the laws of the United States of America are based.
I could go on and on — though apropos of this it’s worth reminding you that Perry appointed creationists to be the head of the Texas State Board of Education three times in a row. It’s very clear that this man has no concern at all for science (like, say, global warming, about which the Washington Post strongly implies he’s a liar) or for doing and saying whatever it takes to push his religious agenda.
Every day, it seems, Perry says something similar to this, and it’s very early yet in the campaign process. Yet, incredibly, he’s leading in the Presidential candidate pool among likely Republican voters in the primary next year. We have a long, painful election journey ahead of us.
Tip o’ the Burgess Shale to Ken Plume.
– Update: reality wins for sure in Texas!
– Sorry Texas, you’re still doomed
– Texas creationist McLeroy spins the educational disaster he created
– Texas State Board of Education confirms irony is dead
– Michele Bachmann needs to check her ID