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Opinion: Huntsman's Global Warming Question Exposes a Double-Standard for GOP

Friday, August 19, 2011 - 07:52 PM

Republican Jon Huntsman speaks during a press conference to announce his bid for the presidency at Liberty State Park June 21, 2011 in Jersey City, New Jersey. (Spencer Platt/Getty)

Jon Huntsman has finally made a splash. No, I'm not talking about his interview in Vogue (?!), I'm talking about his proclamation on twitter yesterday that he's not like those other conservatives:

"To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."

What followed, of course, was a chorus of conservative tweeters calling him just that. It's not that these people don't believe in evolution or global warming, necessarily, they just know that Huntsman's comment is a dog-whistle to his only constituency: The liberal media who scoffs at those backward types who might question theories such as evolution or global warming. It's his way of saying "I'm one of you, I'm not like them."

I'll come out here and now as someone who believes in evolution and is skeptical about human-caused global warming. On the former, despite my belief it does remain but a theory of human creation. The smartest people in history have found themselves wrong about topics with much more physical evidence than evolution. I don't think it's unreasonable to everyone, whether they are people of faith or not, to say that theories are meant to be questioned and there's nothing wrong with doing so.

The believers of global warming have taken a hit in the last few years. Putting aside that there is a growing number of scientists who disagree with the premise that there is global warming at all, let alone that it is caused by humans, the stringent contingency of global warming believers has been somewhat shaken over the last few years.

Though they proclaim the debate "over," they keep finding themselves in situations where they're forced to make up "alarmist or armageddonist factoids", they're surpressing evidence that doesn't fit their conclusions and fudging numbers to make their theories work. This is not the behavior of people who are telling the truth about their findings. These are people involved in a business, like any other business, where their cash flow depends on certain outcomes. That they're ready to lie to affect those outcomes gives people like me pause - as it should.

The crazy thing here isn't that people will have different beliefs about different things, it's that the media will insist on pushing these issues to the forefront of the presidential race despite it not mattering one iota. What difference does it make if the president thinks the world was created in 7 days or if he thinks we descended from apes? And, as Houston Chronicle blogger Kathleen McKinley tweeted, why is it that it's only Republican candidates who have this question asked of them again and again. She added "Has a reporter ever asked Obama if he believe in evolution? And then followed up with saying " Don't you believe God created the earth?""

Much was made of Barack Obama's Christian faith during the 2008 election, he spoke of it often and it was used to counter the mistaken belief that he was a Muslim. Why then, is he never challenged to reconcile how he can be such a devout Christian yet not follow so much of the religion? Why is he never asked how he can be pro-choice when his faith clearly dictates the pro-life position? Why does he not receive the same challenges to his faith as the GOP candidates?

My point is not that I think the media should start putting Barack Obama on the spot about how his faith does or doesn't match his policy positions, just that it should be more fair in their questioning of politicians. If Republicans are constantly made to answer questions relating to their faith and its effect on their political policies, why not faithful Democrats?

Born in the Soviet Union and raised in Brooklyn, Karol Markowicz is a public relations consultant in NYC and a veteran of Republican campaigns in four states. She blogs about politics at Alarming News and about life in the city with her husband and baby at 212 BabyShe can be followed on Twitter.

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Comments [15]

SirGareth from HSV, AR

"I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."

You can believe an any creation myth you want, who cares but when you say I believe in (name your group[bankers, priest, car salesmen, The Angel Marroni, etc ) you have proven yourself too naive to govern

Nov. 27 2011 06:15 PM
Sokrates from New York

For those of you who don't believe in evolution, you will have no trouble staying with sulfanilamide and plain vanilla penicillin if you get sick, right? After all, if there's no evolution, then those microbes can't possibly be evolving, right? And we don't need new strains of antibiotics, right?

I hope you stand by your principles the next time you get a bacterial infection. Surely you won't hypocritically demand the newest drugs?

Aug. 28 2011 11:49 AM
Nikos from NYC

Brook:
Please be civil, as in leave sarcasm out of it, and I will as well.

Torus34:
Thank you, for saving me the time to look for that exact link!

Captain Obvious from Reality, Saneville, Earth: (I won't even comment on your sarcasm)

Unfortunately, bias is a human quality that is very hard to overcome. I never defended the practices of the UK scientists or their innocence, all I said was that the data was found to be unadulterated. The NASA data that refute the existing hypothesis should -and will- be formulated in an alternative hypothesis and force our current understanding forward. The problem is that the huge financial interests at play, wether it is a corporation that doesn't want to clean up it's act or a scientist who gets paid to perpetuate a hypothesis, don't leave much room for objectivity. And then there are people like you that are convinced that the way forward is economic growth and not knowledge; my take is that knowledge will bring economic growth. How warm your house is or how well stocked up it is will be pretty irrelevant when it is underwater or blown away by winds, or when the crops start to fail - and that's the wager. And there will be fun times when the human population growth starts to hit it's inevitable plateau; I just hope to be dead by then.

I won't try to defend evolution, as I find the whole concept absurd. I don't understand what your alternative hypothesis is or what proof you have. And please don't say god because you'll lose all credibility. And as for rigor how is this: Can you recreate the earth or the sun? Does that mean that we cannot understand how they came to be? And I use this example because in the cosmos we can actually see and take photographs of the processes that took place billions of years ago right here, in this little corner of Saneville, Earth. Evolution by natural selection is very easy to demonstrate if you know what it actually is. Every time you pet a dog, or eat an egg or a steak or corn or you take your doctor's advice not to overuse antibiotics, you actually see evolution -and in this case artificial selection- in the making. Oh, and those high-school experiments are pretty damn reproducible.

Excuse me if I am over-simplifying, but I don't know your background

Aug. 22 2011 03:49 PM
Claire from Albuqeruqe, NM

You may, of course "question" the theory of evolution all you want. However, if the questions are things like "have you ever seen an airplane assemble itself from a junkyard", or "how can it be true if it violates the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics", or "there are no transition fossils" etc. and other canned nonsense from the anti-evo crowd, then it tells us that you have a very rudimentary understanding of the theory (chock full of false assumptions) in the first place and need to learn much more about it before passing judgement.

I do hope your 'questions' about evolution are not at this level.

Aug. 22 2011 03:16 PM
Captain Obvious from Reality, Saneville, Earth

Nikos is very erudite, yet manages to be wrong in so many ways. Evolution is not a theory in the sense that gravity is, because scientific rigor requires theories to be validated by reproducible experimentation. It can NOT be "easily demonstrated in any setting"... that's just nonsense. When you have a high school science experiment successfully create intelligent life starting with a protozoa, let us know. Don't misunderstand, evolution is a sound hypothesis, but Occam's razor is not a proof of concept. No one with a brain believes that collusion between paid researchers and paid bureaucratic oversight is exonerated on the say-so of the same bureaucrats whose jobs depend upon the continued operations of the organizations they oversee. "Hide the decline" was damning. Even IF they were completely ethical in their proceedings, being UNable to PROVE malfeasance is not the same as proving innocence. Ask OJ Simpson and Casey Anthony. Speaking of legal malpractice, one of the first lessons in making a compelling case is to not ask questions to which you don't already know the answer. For Pascal's bastardized wager, the cost of doing nothing is negligible in comparison to the economic costs of "CO2 proofing" the planet ... ~$75 Trillion according to the UN, which has been known to low-ball such initial estimates. The sane approach would be to keep investing in economic growth and scientific development to better weather the inevitable natural climate changes when they come. Who survives the winter better... the man who invests in a warm home and provisions... or the fool who spends himself out of house and home in a vain attempt to prevent winter from coming? The data FROM NASA overwhelmingly refutes the models upon which warming alarmism is predicated, yet all we hear from the alarmists taking a paycheck for perpetuating the myth is that somehow someway all the contradictors are the paid shills.

Aug. 22 2011 02:29 PM

Brooks:

If only it were than simple.

It isn't, unfortunately.

'What's in a name? ..."

http://www.physorg.com/news85310822.html

Aug. 22 2011 02:20 PM
Brooks from Broken Arrow, OK

in response to "Nikko's" post I would counter : There is no Theory of Gravity, it is actually "Newton's Law of Gravity" vs. "Darwin's Theory of Evolution" I would expect a fine scientific mind like yours to admit this point. For further clarification re: http://chemistry.about.com/od/chemistry101/a/lawtheory.htm

Aug. 22 2011 02:16 PM
Brooks from Broken Arrow, OK

in response to "Nikko's" post I would counter : There is no Theory of Gravity, it is actually "Newton's Law of Gravity" vs. "Darwin's Theory of Evolution" I would expect a fine scientific mind like yours to admit this point. For further clarification re: http://chemistry.about.com/od/chemistry101/a/lawtheory.htm

Aug. 22 2011 02:14 PM
Nikos

There are some common fallacies in your post that appear time and time again when phrases like "scientific theory" or "evolution" appear in political blogs.

Evolution is as theory as gravity is. Scientists are trying hard to dispute them. Lack of evidence against doesn't make them correct, but doesn't dispute them either. Science is actually trying to refute itself in looking for the truth. Is it the same for the antipodes of, say, religion -any religion? To paraphrase Einstein: "I don't need 10.000 experiments that prove me right, all I need is 1 that proves me wrong".

The "creation" of man as you put it is not what evolution is addressing; the appearance of humans is just another accident of evolution. There is plenty of physical evidence for evolution by natural selection. You can very easily demonstrate it in any setting. There are actually high-school level biology labs that demonstrate it clearly: http://www.phys.ksu.edu/gene/d4.html
Actually, evolution by natural selection would apply to any self-perpetuating thermodynamic system, regardless of it being biological or not, but that is beside the point.

As for global warming you cite the UK e-mail scandal, but fail to cite the tribunals and committees that ensued and which came to the investigative conclusion that there was no falsifying of data.

Does that make global warming a fact, or the phenomenon man made? The data suggest as much, but it is another scientific theory open for dispute. If anyone can come up with better data and/or explanations, then the theory will be forgotten completely or modified to incorporate such advances in thinking.

Until then, why not use Pascal's wager (as simple and falsifiable as it may be) turned over it's head: What is the risk if the theory is correct and we don't act upon it versus what if it is wrong and we act upon it? What should a logical agent do?

It is not a matter of belief as you say. Anyone's beliefs are nonsense in the light of data when it comes to scientific inquiry. It's a game of "follow the data" and "try to interpret it the best you can".

I just wish that people -especially believers- put religious beliefs under the same scrutiny you put scientific ones under. Society is not ready for that and unfortunately religious beliefs are over-inflated when it comes to politics.

And why are republicans scrutinized more and more about their religious beliefs? Well , in my opinion it's because they play their religious card a little too strongly because they have to appeal to a certain base. Nothing wrong there, it's politics. It would be scary if they actually believed what they preached.

Aug. 22 2011 01:45 PM
Perplexed

I was wondering how long it would be before he just admitted what most of us knew all along. I have never seen a Republican candidate pushed by the MSM more than Huntsman. I guess it is self evident now why. He has NO change of getting the nomination so he might as well admit what a RINO he is. What a shock and surprise!

Aug. 22 2011 01:33 PM

I agree with both of your statements. In particular, the word 'crazy' is hyperbolic.

What concerns me is the apparent lack in some people's mental tool kits of the ability to understand nuances. This may be compounded by the use of 'belief', which can carry the connotation of an all or nothing acceptance.

It is generally understood in the sciences that all abstractions or syntheses from observable data are open to modification when new data is obtained which appears not to 'fit' . This does not militate against accepting this or that construct as a functional concept. [Engineers would say, 'If it works, use it.] What scientists do, however, is assign a mental probability factor to the particular concept. This can range from 'Anywhere I look, this fits with the facts,' to 'There's a slight statistical correlation here which might or might not be worth exploring.'

That willingness to both accept new data and at the same time go ahead and use a concept as 'probably true' to further the search for knowledge is what scientists attempt to do. In fact, if they do not, they will not be able to contribute to advancing their particular discipline, though they may continue to work within it.

It is this lack of nuanced reasoning, the inability to accept that something is probably more true than something else, that clouds the thinking of folks who have been exposed to little more than sound bites.

If one wishes a good foundation upon which to build, I'll go with Melville.

Aug. 22 2011 01:15 PM
Karol from NYC

In scientific theories the absence of information to falsify the theory does not necessarily make the theory correct. It is not "crazy" as Huntsman suggests to not believe in this theories despite the absence of falsifying information.

Aug. 22 2011 10:07 AM

Dear Ms. Marcowicz;

Your response has clarified your initial blog. 'Theory' and 'theorum' are terms which can be applied either formally or given a rather more general connotation. Consider, if you will, the 'theory of numbers' or, perhaps, Pythagorus' theorum.

I'm sure you get the picture.

What you had done was to assume that as there exists some concepts termed 'theories' which are supported by little or no proof, the same is true of all identified as 'theories.' This is logically incorrect.

It is not abnormal for theories to be believed true without a strict, formal proof in hand. Until recently, I would have used Fermat's last theorum here, but a proof now exists.

"Why then do you try to “enlarge” your mind? Subtilize it." Melville, Moby Dick.

Aug. 22 2011 09:42 AM
Karol from NYC

Torus34, thank you for your comment. Precisely the issue is that both evolution and global warming ARE theories yet we condemn anyone who doesn't subscribe to them completely or question them at all. It wasn't so long ago that we thought the sun revolved around the earth and anyone who thought different met a bad fate. It's good that science and society has advanced since then but it's obviously still imperfect and it is entirely reasonable to question their conclusions, even if these conclusions are believed by majorities.

Aug. 22 2011 09:06 AM

Dear Ms. Marcowicz;

I make every attempt to view the articles which appear here with an open, unbiased mind. That is to say, I try to as best I can. Unfortunately, I've a tendency to look for bias and, when it is detected, add it to the balance pan opposite that in which Truth is placed. Doing so affixes an additional burden upon the writer.

Your use of, for example, 'theories' set in italics [there are other more subtle clues,] caused me to be more skeptical in accepting your premises and conclusions. I had to fight against the nagging thought that you were preaching to the choir instead of attempting to present a logical argument.

I now find myself wondering who you consider your target audience to be.

Aug. 21 2011 11:27 AM

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