The states in Green have gone for Rick Santorum, who besides having a a Google problem also believes in one of the wackiest conspiracy theories there is – the climate change hoax. That is, the belief that there is a shady group of Illuminati that have power over thousands of climate scientists from all over the world, and in their greed for sweet sweet grant money scientists uniformly falsify all their data to serve this power-hungry cabal. Is that an exaggeration? Nope, that’s what people who believe in the “hoax” ascribe to (see skeptical science’s thorough debunking of Evans here). This is a more severe form of the denial by Newt or Romney, who claim “insufficient evidence”, the more basic goalpost moving of half-hearted global warming denialism.
But now we have a full-blown global warming hoax-promoting conspiracy theorist picking up momentum to become a candidate for president. Should we be worried?
My favorite part of the “hoax” myth is that scientists are making up data so they can keep receiving grant money. You really have to wonder what people think grant money is when they accuse scientists of compromising their morals to fabricate for grants. What do grants give a PhD scientist in earth science or climatology? An assistant professor’s salary? It’s not like we can take grant money and go out and buy a Porsche. It is clear PhD training is not the easy path to wealth and success. Most working scientists are usually paid little more than school teachers, and if you are one of the 60% of students who enroll in a PhD program who successfully graduate with their PhD in the US you then have about a 1 in 3 chance for job in academia, with about a 1 in 7 chance of obtaining a tenure track job that may one day advance to full professor. A full professor of science (not medicine or law who get paid lots more) might get paid as high as 80-90k a year after decades of costly training and post-doc or assistant professor salaries (think school teacher). There are a lot easier ways of getting rich. And perhaps the most obvious flaw that is often pointed out, you get better pay for consulting for think tanks and oil companies when you deny the science. Is this a sign that those that believe in the hoax are the type of people that would lie, cheat, and steal for a scientists salary? That they think such behavior would be reasonable for compensation on such a puny scale? It’s scary for what that says about them.
If anything, this is yet another sign Santorum is so far out of the mainstream that every vote he picks ups increases the likelihood of a Republican failure in the general election. This guy has so many ideas offensive to so many people, I think every state he picks up should be a celebration for those of us interested in a science-legitimate candidate this election cycle.
It’s like the recent upset over Obama’s plan to force religious-owned health providers to pay for birth control just like their secular counterparts. You hear a lot of noise from the contraception extremists like the Catholic bishops, and candidates like Santorum who opposes giving plan B to rape victims (he says they should make the best out of a bad situation), then you of learn in their congregations 98% of Catholic women have used contraception, and 68% use it routinely, at rates no different from the general population or other religious groups including evangelicals. Catholics (and Christians in general) are at odds with their leaders on contraception, a majority (58%) want it. Interestingly there’s a 12% gap there between those who want contraception and those use it or their partner uses it. Maybe they’re conflicted or they don’t know their wife is on the pill, but it’s curious.
It’s really only the extreme right wing we’re seeing behind Santorum’s popularity. This is a guy that thinks there is no right to privacy, and that states should have the right to ban birth control. If you think that’s not a likely scenario look at these “personhood” bills and the current make-up of the Supreme Court; a scary combination.
When it comes to the general election, in which women often are a decisive factor, do you think a candidate that opposes birth control is going to go over well with the 70% of women who routinely use it and the 98% that ever have? Given a majority of people now support gay marriage and Santorum considers gay marriage to be bigotry against straight people and homosexuality equivalent to pedophilia, who is going to vote for this guy? I think a lot of women will have a serious problem with a Santorum presidency based on issues of personal privacy, and the majority 64%) of us that have come around to accept homosexuals will be turned off by his bigotry. Those are bad demographics for the general election.