Presidential candidates’ positions on science-related issues

| 37 Comments

Just a day before a handful of candidates dropped out of the race, Science ran an article on the candidates’ positions “on some select science-related issues (keeping in mind that the candidates have yet to sound off on many topics of interest to researchers).” The article was necessarily a little shallow but gives a good idea where most of the candidates stand on critical issues like science policy, the space program, climate change, vaccination, and genetically modified organisms.

37 Comments

Good for Science. We should force the candidates to each declare a position on the important scientific issues. We should know what we are voting for. They will always try to avoid making policy statements, because every time they do they will lose some votes. But they should also understand that when they refuse to declare a position or when they have a vague position or when they change their position according to the audience, there will also be consequences. In order to be president, you should have a good grasp of the scientific issues and a vision for the future of science in this country. If there are going to be forty seven debates over a two year period, there is certainly time for that discussion.

And where was the discussion of evolution and evolution education in all of this? You can understand why some would be hesitant to discuss the issue. After all, they all seem to think that everyone will be fooled if they just say the words “God bless America” often enough. But seriously, it’s a critical issue that has been completely ignored. If we are going to elect a science denying creobot, at least we should know what he stands for before we vote. That way, we won’t be able to complain when science education goes down the crapper.

I think the issues go much deeper with the Republican candidates. Republicanism these days has devolved into a set of ideological beliefs that don’t connect with reality but instead pander to ignorance and fear.

Look at the situation in Flint, Michigan. A dogmatic and ideological band of Republicans gained control of the State Legislature and Governorship and immediately rammed through a new set of laws that not only shut off critical objections to their bullying, it gave them total dictatorial control by law over cities through politically hand-picked managers appointed by the governor.

Flint is quite literally the result of an ideological dictatorship that has stepped in, bullied, and overruled local officials and experts in the name of a single ideological goal called “fiscal responsibility.” This ideological goal is nothing more than giving tax breaks to rich cronies and raising taxes on those who are poor and jobless like many of those in Flint.

Flint has been through hell over the years; and the current crop of Republican ideologues think they have sound-byte ideological answers to everything; but not one of them has a clue about what it takes to keep anything running. So, over the objections of elected city officials and the experts in water supply, they switched Flint’s water system over to one of the most poluted rivers in Michigan. And they even ruled out treatments to the water to protect the pipes. When what was predicted to happen actually happened, they immediately tried to cover up the problems they caused. What they did is criminal; but they changed the laws so it isn’t. The FBI is investigating, but we are seeing a Republican Congress balking at taking any action.

This is what Republicanism has become in recent years; a pack of ideological idiots who know nothing but think they deserve to rule over everyone else by fiat.

Put them in charge of the entire country and we will end up with a nationwide equivalent of Flint.

I strongly agree with the above comment by Mike Elzinga. The question only a mind-reader can answer is, did the Republicans responsible for Flint want to give poor people in Flint impure drinking water, or were they brainwashed by their ideology to the extent of believing that what they were doing would work? I believe what is going on is an alliance of both types. Well meaning brainwashed authoritarian ideologues in unwitting alliance with amoral nihilistic schemers, the latter with a bit of a sadistic streak. But of course I may be too harsh, it might just be all brainwashed ideologues.

If I have time I’ll try to put the data from the Science article in tabular form, and also add known statements about evolution.

I wonder how many responses would be received if Science or SciAm or someone sent out a simple 10-minute questionnaire to every candidate, with the promise to publish the answers and refusals to respond.

1) How old is the Earth? A) less than 10,000 years B) maybe a few million years C) around 4.5 billion years.

2) There is good reason to think vaccines may cause autism. A) true B) false

3) Climate change is occurring and human activity is probably contributing to it. A) true B) false

4) Human beings are descended from earlier, nonhuman species. A) true B) false

5) A) The Earth circles the Sun B) The Sun circles the Earth

etc.

Perhaps one of the answer choices should always be “I refuse or decline to answer that question.” Also, the actual candidate should be required to sign, signifying that he or she actually filled it out, so that they can’t later blame it on a staffer.

Just Bob said:

I wonder how many responses would be received if Science or SciAm or someone sent out a simple 10-minute questionnaire to every candidate, with the promise to publish the answers and refusals to respond.

1) How old is the Earth? A) less than 10,000 years B) maybe a few million years C) around 4.5 billion years.

2) There is good reason to think vaccines may cause autism. A) true B) false

3) Climate change is occurring and human activity is probably contributing to it. A) true B) false

4) Human beings are descended from earlier, nonhuman species. A) true B) false

5) A) The Earth circles the Sun B) The Sun circles the Earth

etc.

Perhaps one of the answer choices should always be “I refuse or decline to answer that question.” Also, the actual candidate should be required to sign, signifying that he or she actually filled it out, so that they can’t later blame it on a staffer.

There are places in the USA where fluoridation is a controversial topic. Perhaps something should be asked about that.

I would suggest that about “climate change” that one separate out the effect and the cause: A) Climate change is happening and human activity is a major contributing factor B) Climate change is happening but it is independent of what humans are doing C) Whether or not climate change is happening, it is a bad policy to try to stop or reverse it

There are people who say that CC is “natural”, and therefore good; or that it will increase agricultural productivity; or that it is bad economically, or otherwise contrary to a free market, for the government to intervene.

I don’t think the problems in Michigan are due to bad science or even a bad attitude about science. It’s simply another example of balancing a state budget by cutting expenses that benefited those least likely to vote for them or make campaign contributions. Here in Alabama, the Republicans cleverly passed the strictest voter ID law in the nation, and then closed down 31 DMV offices around the state, curiously all in poor areas that tend to vote Democrat (if they can get an ID, heh heh). Nothing to do with science, unless you count political science.

I would suggest that about “climate change” that one separate out the effect and the cause: A) Climate change is happening and human activity is a major contributing factor B) Climate change is happening but it is independent of what humans are doing C) Whether or not climate change is happening, it is a bad policy to try to stop or reverse it

Many people would answer BOTH A) and C).

What other telling questions should be asked to get a quick survey of a candidate’s attitude toward science? I can think of plenty, but I’m no scientist.

I would think it should be limited to maybe 20 questions, and avoid any direct reference to religion.

Are there still HIV-AIDS denialists?

I tend to focus on what these candidates will do in office that’s related to science, rather than what goes on in their heads. So personally I like questions like the ones below. NOTE I’m not suggesting Science did a bad job by not asking these questions - in many cases, my suggestions overlap exactly what they asked.

1. The NIH budget: do you plan on increasing it, decreasing it, or keeping it the same? In the case of budget changes, are there specific types of programs your administration wants to expand/reduce, or do you plan on leaving such decisions up to NIH?

2. Same questions for NSF, NASA, DOE, and DOD (6.1-6.3 funding).

3. Under your administration, will the EPA regulate carbon dioxide emissions? Are there other ground, water, and atmospheric pollutants we currently don’t regulate that your EPA will regulate, or (vice versa) things they currently regulate that you will stop regulating?

4. What will be your administration’s approach to the Department of Education and science (STEM) education? Do you plan on increasing or decreasing federal funding available to state education programs in STEM? Do you plan on increasing or decreasing federal (Dept of Ed) outreach and cooperative action with the states on STEM education?

5. Similar education questions, but geared towards the University level: (how) will your administration support science in higher education? Can we, for example, expect to see more grant and loan programs aimed at assisting kids with tuition costs, or less?

6. H1B visas for foreign scientists and engineers: do you plan on expanding them, reducing them, or leaving them the same?

7. Regulations on foreign scientists visiting the US to attend conferences and US (federally-contracted) scientists visiting foreign countries for conferences: do you plan on relaxing current restrictions, tightening them, or keeping them the same?

8. Are you familiar with Vannevar Bush’s “Science, the Endless Frontier?”, and do you agree/disagree or have other comments about the role government should play in promoting basic science (including increasing the funding for it) and science education?

Flint said:

I don’t think the problems in Michigan are due to bad science or even a bad attitude about science. It’s simply another example of balancing a state budget by cutting expenses that benefited those least likely to vote for them or make campaign contributions. Here in Alabama, the Republicans cleverly passed the strictest voter ID law in the nation, and then closed down 31 DMV offices around the state, curiously all in poor areas that tend to vote Democrat (if they can get an ID, heh heh). Nothing to do with science, unless you count political science.

This is clearly true, but at the same time, the Michigan water supply story shows the usual motivation for denying science.

They want to “save money” (in a rather simpleton, short-sighted sense) by letting poor people drink contaminated water, but they don’t want to admit that they’re saving money by letting poor people drink contaminated water.

Who tells you whether water is contaminated or not, and with what? That’s right, science.

In this case the matter evolved so quickly that they didn’t have time to come up with water contamination deniers, brandishing bullshit credentials and claiming that lead poisoning and cholera don’t exist and scientists merely say they so as a conspiracy to get more grants, etc. But that would be their usual next step. That is where it comes from.

TomS said:

Are there still HIV-AIDS denialists?

Bless your heart, I can barely stand to steal your innocence by answering that question…

https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=true+cause+of+aids

harold said:

…scientists merely say they so as a conspiracy to get more grants, etc. But that would be their usual next step.

And the step after that is “It’s a lie straight from the Pit of Hell!”

If you want lies straight from the pit of hell - check out CNS “The Right News. Right now.”

harold said: This is clearly true, but at the same time, the Michigan water supply story shows the usual motivation for denying science.

I think you’re reaching here Harold. IMO the decision had nothing whatsoever to do with denying science, it was purely greed and malice aforethought. IMO the officials involved did not disbelieve lead concentrations or the health hazard of lead, they just didn’t care.

I think eric is right here. Most of these people don’t vote, those who do tend to vote for the opposition, and none of them make any campaign contribution. So they are politically invisible, and irrelevant.

There is a further back story about the “Emergency City Manager” law in Michigan.

When the Snider Administration and the Republicans came into office, they immediately started trying to change the law so that the Governor could declare an “emergency” takeover of a city. There was fierce opposition to this attempt at bypassing the democratic processes in Michigan. This resulted in placing the proposed law on the ballot for the voters to decide; and the voters turned the idea down overwhelmingly.

But the Republican legislature changed a few words in the law, and over the fierce objection of the Democrats, rammed the bill through the legislature anyway with the provision that it bypass the manditory waiting period for implementation. In other words, they put a dictatorship into law over the objections of Democrats and the overwhelming majority of voters.

There is more coming out about the director of Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality in which it appears that the director dismissed and bad-mouthed the inquires of reporters who tried to ask pointed questions about the wisdom of switching the water supply to the Flint River. Everybody in Michigan knows about the levels of polution in the Flint River.

But all this goes back to the mentality of the current Republican Party. The Party is now dominated by the kind of ideololgy that thinks it knows more than the experts. It’s not about keeping things running using hard data and rational thinking, it’s all about grabbing and holding absolute power and pushing through Far Right Wing agendas that punish and subject others to their will. Just watching their behaviors in the legislature is scarry as hell; they bully to the extreme and are quite mean about it. There is also a lot of corruption going on that isn’t being reported very well because the Republicans have pretty effectively shut down communication with the Press and with the voters.

Incidentally, in case my comments appear to be off-topic; I would like to point out that the problems in Michigan are a typical manifestation of thinking of the arrogant ideologues who have taking over the Republican Party.

Chris Savage’s blog has been documenting the activities of these ideologues for a number of years now. When you dig into the details, you get a really good picture of how the mind of a Republican ideologue works. The picture is absolutely chilling in Michigan; and these characters came from that original crop of ideologues who started dominating Republican politics back in 2008 and simply got worse in 2010.

The worse part of it for Michigan is that these characters have managed to stay off the national news radar until this Flint fiasco. But the Flint fiasco is just a small part of the corruption that has been going on for the last 8 years. I don’t know at this point if the Flint fiasco will lead to more extensive investigations of the Republican activities in Michigan, but there is an ongoing pattern of activity on the part of these Republican ideologues that appears to be downright criminal. And they have misdirected national attention by harping against Planned Parenthood, Medicade, the Affordable Care Act, and by censuring women in the State Legislature for taking a stand against the bullies pushing this legislation.

I’m glad that the national news is finally focussed on Michigan because Michigan is a classic example of what the current crop of Republican ideologues are capable of doing by keeping the spotlight off themselves.

eric said:

harold said: This is clearly true, but at the same time, the Michigan water supply story shows the usual motivation for denying science.

I think you’re reaching here Harold. IMO the decision had nothing whatsoever to do with denying science, it was purely greed and malice aforethought. IMO the officials involved did not disbelieve lead concentrations or the health hazard of lead, they just didn’t care.

This is an incorrect interpretation of my comment. Actually I agree with Eric that greed was the motive.

It’s very, very clear what I meant.

I did NOT say that science denial caused the Flint water crisis. I challenge anyone to read my comment and find any sentence or phrase that could reasonably lead to that misunderstanding.

What I said, to put it even more plainly, is that it represented a case in which short term economic considerations led to a decision that scientific experts on the topic, if they had been consulted, would have cautioned against.

I then pointed out that much political science denial comes from this type of process. Initially the motive is self-interest (especially if we consider pushing one’s own religious observations onto others by force to represent self-interest).

The self-interest conflicts with science; science discovers, say, that burning as much fossil fuel as possible may contribute to climate change, or that cigarettes have health consequences.

Then the science denial kicks in.

It isn’t always the case. Vaccine denial and water fluoridation hysteria appear to be pure lunacy with no obvious economic motive. Creationism, and anti-gay and anti-contraception posturing, are selfish but grounded in social rather than economic self interest. (However, they are more economic than one may think at first. Keeping other people marginalized is, in the fantasies of right wing fundamentalists, a way to reduce economic competition from others who may be more talented or hard-working, but members of a group that can be marginalized.)

Furthermore climate change denial has, of course, been take up by ideologues who do not gain financially. Indeed, literally burning money by inefficiently consuming excess fuel to achieve a goal, in order to “piss off liberals”, is common; direct economic self-harm in the cause of an ideology.

Nevertheless, economic bias is often what drives science denial. The water crisis is an example of economic motivations leading to a situation where scientific reality is butted up against. We can all agree that they didn’t adequately consider the consequences.

All of Mike Elzinga’s comments are absolutely correct, including:

“This is what Republicanism has become in recent years; a pack of ideological idiots who know nothing but think they deserve to rule over everyone else by fiat.

Put them in charge of the entire country and we will end up with a nationwide equivalent of Flint.”

And not surprisingly, high on the republican agenda at state and national levels is the elimination of the EPA!

TomS said:

Are there still HIV-AIDS denialists?

AFAIK, ole Peter Duesberg is still alive, kicking, and denying.

HIV denial is going strong.

I tried to put the presidential candidates statements into tabular form, but it’s too big of a project, because, although all Democratic statements are basically pro-mainstream science, the Republican statements range from rare unequivocal pro-science (John Kasich only, and his track record isn’t perfect), to outright denial, with a wide range of weaseling in between. There is much hinting and code; for example “NASA should concentrate on space” seems to be a popular code for climate change denial. I did conclude the following -

Kasich is by far the least offensive, although imperfect.

Jeb Bush is characterized by 100% weasel statements. None of his statements have clear, unambiguous meaning. For an example on a relatively neutral subject, his comment on whether or not he would slash NASA’s budget is “I’ve always been a space guy”. (Which could equally mean “…So I’ll promote NASA” or “…But we have to cut NASA”.) When seen together, his comments form a strong picture of deliberate weaselly ambiguity.

Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio are tied with Ben Carson for a high level of denialism. Read this carefully - the three top candidates, one of them, Trump, clearly “secular”, are at the same level of denial on most issues as open YEC fundamentalist Ben Carson.

For those who support science and are obsessed with voting Republican, a case can be made for supporting Kasich as the least bad. I still say writing yourselves in is a better idea.

Of interest, no-one is running on promises of budget cuts to NASA or NIH. Now the EPA on the other hand…

… Kasich is by far the least offensive, although imperfect. …

Kasich is a creationist and a parochial school voucher supporter.

DavidK said:

… Kasich is by far the least offensive, although imperfect. …

Kasich is a creationist and a parochial school voucher supporter.

This turns out to be correct. Of course, they are all creationists or panderers to creationists. Kasich is a bit less out of control in terms of denying climate change.

The bottom line is that they are all completely unacceptable from any rational point of view.

DavidK said:

Kasich is a creationist and a parochial school voucher supporter.

YEC? OEC? or “Maybe God creates through evolution”?

“Creationist” covers a lot of territory, and some of that territory is no threat to science.

Just Bob said:

DavidK said:

Kasich is a creationist and a parochial school voucher supporter.

YEC? OEC? or “Maybe God creates through evolution”?

“Creationist” covers a lot of territory, and some of that territory is no threat to science.

Good point but Google indicates statements made that imply doubts about the theory of evolution. Also, all else being equal, I’m no fan of private school vouchers. The best case scenario is low income families using them because public schools in their area are unsafe or inadequate, and I massively prefer making public schools safe and adequate if that’s the situation. Anything else is subsidizing someone else’s religious or social preference, which is a totally inappropriate use of tax money.

Dobzhansky, in his essay “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, refers to himself as a creationist.

TomS said:

Dobzhansky, in his essay “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, refers to himself as a creationist.

http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/[…]c88b51b.html

Read the second to last paragraph. According to this widely quoted source, he stated that he favors the teaching of both evolution and “creation science”. With your tax dollars.

The desperate search for a Republican who doesn’t deny science might as well be wrapped up.

harold said:

TomS said:

Dobzhansky, in his essay “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, refers to himself as a creationist.

http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/[…]c88b51b.html

Read the second to last paragraph. According to this widely quoted source, he stated that he favors the teaching of both evolution and “creation science”. With your tax dollars.

The desperate search for a Republican who doesn’t deny science might as well be wrapped up.

Also, Kasich doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting the Republican nomination. If a plane with all the other candidates on it crashed, he still might not get it.

harold said:

TomS said:

Dobzhansky, in his essay “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, refers to himself as a creationist.

http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/[…]c88b51b.html

Read the second to last paragraph. According to this widely quoted source, he stated that he favors the teaching of both evolution and “creation science”. With your tax dollars.

The desperate search for a Republican who doesn’t deny science might as well be wrapped up.

I think that Dobzhansky was born outside the USA, so is disqualified for president.

TomS said:

harold said:

TomS said:

Dobzhansky, in his essay “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”, refers to himself as a creationist.

http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/[…]c88b51b.html

Read the second to last paragraph. According to this widely quoted source, he stated that he favors the teaching of both evolution and “creation science”. With your tax dollars.

The desperate search for a Republican who doesn’t deny science might as well be wrapped up.

I think that Dobzhansky was born outside the USA, so is disqualified for president.

1) Sorry, in case you’re not joking, my comments are about Kasich.

2) Kasich isn’t using the term “creationism” in some eccentric way to make a point. Dobzhansky died in 1975, and worked mainly before the term had its current political meaning. Wikipedia says he was Eastern Orthodox. That would make him similar to Ken Miller, a mainstream scientist who happens to practice a common religion, without denying science.

3) If Kasich says “creationism and evolution should both be taught” it means he favors using tax dollars to favor one particular brand of science denying sectarian dogma over both science, and all other religions. It disqualifies him from consideration for any person who takes the issue of political attacks on science seriously..

Here’s a recent summary of republican denialism regarding climate change:

New Hampshire Republicans Are Really, Really Anti-Science http://www.motherjones.com/environm[…]-trump-rubio

It’s one thing to try to deny that the climate is changing, it’s another thing to try to deny that humans are causing the changes. But to deny that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are increasing, that’s just flat out schizophrenic, close you eyes and cover your ears, reality denial. And, according to the study cited above, over half of Trump supporters actually believe that! (Or at least they claim to).

You cannot Trump reality, no matter how rich you are. You would think that even a five year old would realize that. Apparently not.

Another area of conservative denial has to do with the evidence of increasing amounts of plastic refuse found in the oceans that, as a consequence, is finding its way into the food chain, including fish, mammals and birds. This is shrugged off my industry and the denialists as a non-existent problem.

If you can google you can find this in two minutes or less:

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/t[…]ds/full.html

If you are willing to lie about this, what else are you willing to lie about?

DS said:

If you can google you can find this in two minutes or less:

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/t[…]ds/full.html

If you are willing to lie about this, what else are you willing to lie about?

But anything that doesn’t say what they want it to say is just a lie. Satan is everywhere in These Last Days.

DavidK Wrote:

Kasich is a creationist…

harold Wrote:

Of course, they are all creationists or panderers to creationists.

The “or panderers to creationists” part is crucial, and must be stated every time. From the link about Kasich, all I can see is that, as of 2009, he “…supports teaching both evolution and ‘creation science’…” I did too, briefly in the 90s, and that was after 30 years of fully accepting evolution. I was not a “creationist” by any definition. The fact is ~half of the ~70% of adult Americans that favor teaching “both sides” have no problem with evolution, and are just misinformed, as I was even after 20 years as a chemist. While I changed my mind a few minutes after discovering Talk.Origins, I don’t expect a nonscientist politician to easily admit having been misinformed, especially if they think they need the evangelical vote. Note also that Kasich’s language would not have met the approval of the Discovery Institute, which means that, unlike long-time anti-evolution activist politicians like Bobby Jindal or Rick Santorum, he (by 2009 at least) paid little or no attention to the latest strategies to misrepresent evolution in schools.

My guess is that most or all current candidates personally accept evolution, or would if they gave 5 minutes’ thought to the evidence, but that, unfortunately, most Republicans would stick to the “fairness” nonsense, even though it’s a taxpayer handout to teach what has (1) not earned the right to be taught, and (2) grossly misrepresents that which has earned that right.

I focus on Kasich because to me he is so far “the least of all evils,” though that could change at any time. As much as I hate to, I may have to make like the Curmudgeon, and vote for a panderer, in hopes that his influence in that area would be minimal.

Update on Kasich, from his Wikipedia entry:

According to a September 2014 story in the Columbus Dispatch, Kasich favors allowing public school districts “to teach alternatives to evolution—such as intelligent design—if local school officials want to, under the philosophy of ‘local control.’”[138]

(sigh) Looks like the DI “read him the memo” sometime between 2009 and 2014. Meanwhile, probably none of the many Republican voters that support science even tried to correct his misconceptions, or at best asked stupidly-worded questions like “do you believe in evolution?” At this rate, science will never win.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on February 3, 2016 7:01 PM.

Rainbow was the previous entry in this blog.

Do not talk with your cell phone on your lap is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter