I haven't posted in awhile; it has been a busy summer! I need to get back to a more regular schedule, especially with school starting up again. That said...let me point out that this blog is my opinion and does not reflect the opinion of the Soil Science Society of America.
Have you been watching/listening to the Presidential candidates lately? I have been amazed at some of the things that I hear these people promising or saying, which isn't necessarily unusual, but this past week has brought to the forefront some issues about science that hit a nerve with me. It makes me wonder what these candidates are looking for and who they are trying to reach. Of perhaps more concern to me is the idea being floated that there is a large contingent of voters that are anti-science that the politicians are playing to. Is there? Does this bother anyone else?
Presidential candidate Governor Perry, in the last week, came out with two statements that caught my attention.
The first was that he doesn't believe in man-made global warming. Really? All of the scientists and the data are wrong? Apparently they are, because according to Perry, the world's scientists that study global warming/climate change are all part of a large conspiracy to manipulate data to "keep the money rolling in" for their research projects. Aside from the fact that I find this to be extremely disrepectful to scientists, its hard for me to believe that people would seriously think this to be true. That would be a very large conspiracy (we would need secret decoder rings). Furthermore, Perry doesn't want the federal government to spend anything on this issue if he becomes President. Ouch! That will go over well with our neighbors around the globe given that the U.S. is one of the largest contributors to the problem.
The second statement Perry made was referring to evolution with "That's a theory that is out there - and it's got some gaps in it." This type of statement is nothing new; listen to another Presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann, who wants intelligent design taught in science classes. I don't, as a rule, comment on people's beliefs with respect to this particular subject, but intelligent design really has no place in a science classroom. When I taught evolution as part of my classes (biology, environmental science, or, for that matter, soils) I told students that they needed to listen and then decide or reconcile for themselves what they wanted to stand for. I have also known fellow soil scientists that do not believe in evolution. Somehow they separate their work and personal lives between science and belief in intelligent design and deal with it that way. Not sure how that works (meaning I don't know how to do that), but enough said there.
Then there was Jon Huntsman, former Utah Govrernor, who came out and said "To be clear I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy." Not crazy in my book, but interesting that his statement got great amount of attention both in the media and in social networks like Twitter.
In a day and age where we struggle to get science in the mainstream of conversation, it happened this past week in the political arena. That, in itself, is a good thing. I read somewhere that science doesn't sell in politics because it is not important, relevant or understandable to the average voter. I suppose there is some truth to that, depending on the subject. Climate change is a huge issue and should be front and center (along with the economy) on the minds of the politicians as well as the public. The problem with climate change is that the general public can't see it, for the most part doesn't understand it, and has conflicting opinions or "facts" flying at them from many different angles. When you don't have a job, need groceries and are struggling to pay your mortgage (or rent), well, let's face it, climate change isn't going to be high on the list of priorities because 'it isn't something that you can do anything about' and 'it isn't an imminent problem for you'.
The next 14+ months should be interesting with regard to politics and the presidential race. Will science play a part in how people vote? I would like to think that some attention will be paid to the important science issues, but that will remain to be seen.