According to Public Policy Polling, only 21 percent of Republican voters in Iowa believe in global warming (and only 35 percent believe in evolution). Within the G.O.P., willful ignorance has become a litmus test for candidates.
I'm sure it's the fault of poor science communication in both cases. Get you to your public speaking courses, evolutionary biologists!
Come to think, though, you don't read a lot about the failures of evolutionary biologists to win over their critics. Nor do doctors get slammed for failing to convince anti-vaccine activists. Few blame NASA for the persistence of moon landing deniers. Only climate scientists get blamed for failing to persuade the unpersuadable. Funny, that.
Where the mob goes, those that aspire to lead it follow:
Mr. Perry, the governor of Texas, recently made headlines by dismissing evolution as “just a theory,” one that has “got some gaps in it” — an observation that will come as news to the vast majority of biologists. But what really got peoples’ attention was what he said about climate change: “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”
Do you have to ask what Romney thinks? Put it this way: if elected, Romney has promised to make our national shoe the flip-flop. Despite previous common sense on this issue, Romney is running from science as hard as he is from having helped sick people get medical care:
In the past, Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, has strongly endorsed the notion that man-made climate change is a real concern. But, last week, he softened that to a statement that he thinks the world is getting hotter, but “I don’t know that” and “I don’t know if it’s mostly caused by humans.” Moral courage!
This doesn't have to be a negative development, or not entirely. We know that the right is the driving force behind climate denial. As the leading representative of the mainstream right takes up the torch (and pitchfork) of climate denial, we have an opportunity to get this debate into the open, fight this fight, and win it. If -- and this is a big "if" -- if the Democrats chose to stand up for science and make this a real point of differentiation between themselves and the Republicans.