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January 7, 2008
Mike Huckabee: Could This Man Be a Science-Friendly President?
Huckabee says he thinks it’s our responsibility to do something about
global warming, even if it’s not true. Could a President Huckabee put
his words into action?
There is good reason to doubt. The first thing a President Huckabee
would need to do is bring a new approach to how government and science
interacts, and this is perhaps the biggest stumbling block.
of the things that has made President Bush ineffective on global warming
isn’t that he denies it. On the contrary, he has acknowledged global
warming since he was running for the office, and even promised to do
something about it. The problem is that the Bush presidency is heavily
weighted down by a general hostility toward science.
of that hostility comes from corporate interests. His friends in the
energy industry are particularly keen on not taking the brunt for
addressing global warming. But the Republican coalition was also built
with so-called cultural conservatives, tied usually to conservative
Christian philosophy of Biblical literalism.
Those things have combined during the Bush years into creating one long
dark nightmare of scientific quackery. The science of things like DDT,
global warming, second-hand smoke and even evolution have been under
fire these last seven years.
of this has been aided by the president’s own words. At the beginning of
his presidency, when the EPA released a report outlining the problems of
global warming, he dismissed it as the product of a bureaucracy. A
couple of years later, he suggested that both evolution and Intelligent
Design had a place in science classroom curriculum, something a
conservative Christian judge he appointed to a seat in Pennsylvania
disagreed with when in rejecting Intelligent Design as something other
than Creationism with a new mask.
it comes to Huckabee’s public statements, there is something of a
conflict. On one hand, he says that we should act as though climate
change is real. On the other, he is credited for once having lumped
environmentalism in with drug use and abortion as having polarized the
country. On the third, there is what he says about evolution.
the first televised Republican debate, the candidates were asked who
didn’t believe in evolution. Three hands, including Huckabee’s, went up.
When asked about it later by television show host Bill Maher, Huckabee
said it was an inappropriate question because he’s not running to be an
eighth grade science teacher, and then waffled about how we really don’t
know if evolution exists.
true that the United States will not elect an eighth grade science
teacher in November, but science more complicated than what you’ll find
in junior high school is at the heart of a great number of issues.
Although the United States has a long history of hostility towards
intellectualism, its voters should ask about whether a candidate
understands basic scientific theories. This is the person, after all,
who will represent the nation to the world. Elect a rube who can quote
the latest Larry the Cable Guy monologue but who knows nothing about
basic scientific theories, and it reflects on the rest of the country.
Beyond that, science – a lot more complicated than you’ll find in junior
high textbooks – reaches deeply into issues that are critical to the
nation. For instance, would the nation be well served during a flu
pandemic by a president who doesn’t understand why a different flu
vaccine is manufactured every year?
Based on the last seven years, what is deeply needed in Washington is a
change in how science is viewed. It’s been badly politicized, mostly at
the behest of special interests, and faith in the process – unduly bent
out of whack by that – needs to be restored. It’s too important to mire
in a public relations war.
Whether that is possible with a president who has doubts about evolution
is probably a good question to ask.
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