Read Eric's bio and previous columns


January 7, 2008

Mike Huckabee: Could This Man Be a Science-Friendly President?


Mike 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.


One 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.


Much 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.


Some 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.


When 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.


At 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.


It’s 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.


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


Click here to talk to our writers and editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.


To e-mail feedback about this column, click here. If you enjoy this writer's work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry it.

This is column # EB029. Request permission to publish here.

Op-Ed Writers
Eric Baerren
Lucia de Vernai
Herman Cain
Dan Calabrese
Alan Hurwitz
Paul Ibrahim
David Karki
Llewellyn King
Gregory D. Lee
David B. Livingstone
Nathaniel Shockey
Stephen Silver
Candace Talmadge
Jamie Weinstein
Feature Writers
Mike Ball
Bob Batz
The Laughing Chef
David J. Pollay
Business Writers
Cindy Droog
D.F. Krause