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The political scene in Washington is as charged as ever, due to the myriad of republican presidential hopefuls sparring with President Obama and each other. The three candidates at the top are Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Mitt Romney and Sen. Michelle Bachmann, and chances are one of them will be on the ballot in 2012. This is a disturbing prospect. All three of these candidates have political stances which are inconsistent with scientific fact and stances which as of late have gained startling popularity.

Rick Perry is an outspoken critic of climate science, calling the entire field “a big phony mess” and even “a hoax.” This last claim is particularly troubling, as it implies that a gigantic number of international scientists are deliberately lying to the world, not to mention devoting loads of time and money to maintaining the charade. But when Perry refers to this global conspiracy, he never delves into details such as these, as if he’s inferring that global warming being a lie is self-explanatory. Perry usually finishes by saying there are “lots” of scientists who are “coming out against global warming every week.”

In the Republican debate last Thursday, Perry again made this claim, but when the moderator asked him to cite evidence — to name even one scientist against global warming — Perry’s response was curiously devoid of names. What he did say was that science “wasn’t settled yet” and that we shouldn’t risk America’s economic future on it. He continued to claim that, instead, we need to find out what the science truly is first. I’m not sure how Perry can get “not sure” out of 98 percent of the climate science community agreeing that there is man-made climate change. Something tells me there will never be enough evidence to convince Perry.

Michelle Bachmann is even worse. On climate change, her statements echo Perry’s, but even more worrying is her ignorant stance when speaking on whether evolution should be taught in schools. Bachmann already has a reputation of giving opinions on issues she doesn’t understand. In an ABC News interview, she insisted that founding fathers like John Quincy Adams solved the issue of slavery in the Constitution and maintained her statement even when its inaccuracy was pointed out.

On evolution, Bachmann has a similar history of not doing her homework. In 2003, Bachmann appeared on radio program “Talk The Walk,” where a caller asked Bachmann to define evolution. Over the next few minutes, it became increasingly obvious that Bachmann lacked even a vague concept of the theory she had been criticizing moments before. After running out of ways to sidestep the question, she gave an inaccurate definition involving life spawning from dead matter and then hung up on the caller.

In the years since, I can’t say whether Bachmann’s knowledge has improved, but her stance hasn’t changed. She believes “there is a controversy among scientists about whether evolution is a fact or not,” a statement that is quite frankly not true.

Mitt Romney’s record implies that he has very different stances than his colleagues. Romney has acknowledged that climate change is man-made and,  in 2003, said while closing a Massachusetts coal plant that, “I will not protect jobs that kill people. And that plant kills people.” In 2011, Romney said that carbon is not a harmful pollutant and that the EPA should not regulate it.

Earlier in 1994, Romney stated that schools should not endorse a single religion in a way that might alienate other students, but more recent quotes from Romney tell a different story. In 2007, Romney endorsed a greater presence of prayer in public schools, going as far as saying it would be “a sad omission” not to recognize the presence of God in history classes. In his effort to court the conservative base, Romney has softened on his beliefs and contradicted himself, showing he will blow whichever way the anti-science wind wants him to.

These three candidates do not just call two leading scientific theories inaccurate, they call them outright lies, and in the process, they call the scientific community an enemy. With such a hostile position, it’s no wonder the default Republican platform this election is to abolish both the EPA and the Department of Education.

The only conservative voice that has come out for science is Jon Huntsman, a candidate who acknowledges both climate change and evolution. Unfortunately, Gallup Polls put him in dead last compared to his peers. Huntsman’s alienation from his party sends just as strong a message about the GOP’s opinion of science as Perry, Bachmann and Romney’s popularity.

But even more troubling is that these candidates don’t even understand what they are fighting — not just because they don’t know, but because they don’t want to know. They imply that a layman’s knowledge of climate science is enough to judge it invalid. They imply that we can disregard facts if they contradict our preconceived values. I have met some very intelligent conservatives in my life, and it pains me that the representatives of their party don’t reflect that. I really hope Huntsman gets the nomination, as it would send a message that extremist reactionary policies are not politically viable. But sadly, it appears that just the opposite might be the case.

Bigelow is a member of the class of 2013.



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