Republicans vs. the reality of science

| Staff Columnist

During the most recent Republican primary debate, John Huntsman harshly criticized the other candidates for being decidedly anti-science, telling them flat-out: “We can’t run from science.” I can’t help but agree with the former governor. As the Republican primary race commences, it has become overwhelmingly clear that many of the candidates reject clearly proven scientific concepts such as evolution and global warming.

Michele Bachmann claims that carbon dioxide is a “harmless gas” and believes there is “reasonable doubt” that evolution exists. Ron Paul says that evolution is a theory and he “[doesn’t] accept it” and calls climate change “bogus.” GOP frontrunner Rick Perry believes that intelligent design should be taught alongside evolution in science classrooms and is on record as being openly skeptical of climate change, going so far as to claim that scientists are manufacturing data to continue receiving funding.

Putting arguments about the validity of global warming and evolution aside, the fact that so many Republican candidates reject widely accepted scientific principles speaks volumes about their character and judgment. The fact that these so-called leaders are willing to disregard clear-cut, definitive evidence of climate change and evolution indicates that, as people, they are unwilling to objectively listen to facts and make informed decisions. I am extremely disturbed by the idea of putting someone in the White House who refuses to accept the basic facts of a situation. If the Republican presidential candidates cannot demonstrate the ability to interpret facts and information, how on earth can they demonstrate their competency as potential leaders of the free world?

Now, one could attribute all of the above statements by Republican candidates as rhetoric and pandering to a super-conservative base, but when the new Republican Congress, led by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), began its session earlier this year, one of their first orders of business was to allow the general public to defund the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the so-called “YouCut” program. Essentially, Republicans put all of the NSF’s programs and funding on the chopping block and allowed citizens to arbitrarily decide what to cut. The Republican Congress’ first initiative was to defund one of the key research institutions in this country.

According to its website, the NSF provides close to a quarter of all money for federally funded research by universities in the United States. Thus, a direct cut to funding of the NSF would hurt Washington University’s professors and researchers. It would also deal a much greater blow to scientific advancement in general. NSF-funded research has been instrumental in the discovery of the ozone hole, understanding dark matter and even the creation of the Internet. NSF funding has contributed to over 150 Nobel prizes in the sciences.

The very idea that someone who denies basic scientific fact, whether for political reasons or because they actually believe it, has a chance of being the next president of the United States of America should scare you. The anti-science stance of many Republican candidates points towards a gross lack of either intelligence or character. These candidates are trying to create an America that is anti-science, an America that doesn’t respect the thousands of hours of work that students like us put in towards advancing human knowledge. We shouldn’t let them.

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