What a Concept: Science Makes it Into Political Debate

January 18, 2016

Climate Change kinda sorta made its way into the election debate last night, as NBC moderators, in their wisdom,  finally saw fit to ask (2 out of 3, anyway) Democratic candidates about their positions on the most important issue of the millennium.

Compare to Republican response, below, if you can stand it:

Toward the waning moments of last night’s GOP debate, somewhere between marijuana law and who should be on the ten dollar bill, CNN’s Jake Tapper finally brought up the most important issue facing civilzation. Kudos, dude.

Not that there was anything terribly enlightening to be heard from the firmly-in-the-grip-of-GOP-base-anti-science-hysteria candidates assembled.  The responses were brief, – but boiled down to “we can’t do anything because we are funded by the fossil fuel industry and they are telling us they don’t want to give up any potential profits.”  Ted Cruz was cut off from expanding on his “the world is not warming” nonsense, mainly because moderator Jake Tapper wanted to get on to more nonsense.

An added science denial bonus was the discussion of the merits of modern medicine’s greatest achievement, vaccinations. Even the two MD’s on the dais gave only timid defense of universal vaccination, and warned that “big government” might want, apparently, to force us to be healthy and live longer.

Waiting for a vaccine for stupidity, but predict massive resistance to that one, as well.


A cartoon from 1802 depicting Edward Jenner vaccinating against smallpox. The first vaccine was derived from the organisms that cause a cattle disease, cowpox – the recipients are shown with cows emerging from their bodies.

Below,  candidates call climate action “wild leftwing idea.” Affirm America is not a planet.  Pluto’s status not discussed.


In an exchange that would have been all but unthinkable even four years ago, moderator Jake Tapper posed a question to Florida senator Marco Rubio and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie that quoted Reagan secretary of state George Schultz: “Why not take out our insurance policy and approach climate change the Reagan way?”

But despite the token question well into the third hour of CNN’s GOP debate, no candidate was willing to endorse any possible solution.


“Here’s the bottom line,” Rubio answered. “Every proposal they put forward will make it harder to do business in America. Harder to create jobs in America. Single parents are already struggling across this country to provide for their families. Maybe a billionaire here in California can afford an increase in their utility rates, but a working family in Tampa, Florida or anywhere across the country cannot afford it.”

He said: “We are not going to destroy our economy, make America a harder place to create jobs, in order to pursue a policy that will do nothing, nothing to change our climate, to change our weather.

“America is a lot of things – the greatest country in the world, absolutely. But America is not a planet.”

Christie, who has previously stated that he believes climate change to be real, demurred when asked if he had an answer to “sceptics” like Rubio. “I don’t think Senator Rubio is a sceptic on climate change,” he said. “I think what Senator Rubio said I agree with – that in fact we don’t need this massive government intervention to deal with the problem. Look at what we’ve done with New Jersey – we’ve already reached our clean air goals for 2020.” He pointed to 53% of New Jersey’s power coming from nuclear energy.

“I agree with Marco. We shouldn’t be destroying our economy in order to chase some wild leftwing idea that somehow us by ourselves is going to fix the climate. We can contribute to that and be economically sound.”


Carson then chimed in to add, “We have extremely well-documented proof that there’s no autism associated with vaccinations. But it is true that we are probably giving way too many in too short a period of time.” Then Rand Paul jumped in with the brilliant, “I’m all for vaccines. But I’m also for freedom.” He added, “I’m also a little concerned about how they’re bunched up. My kids had all of their vaccines, and even if the science doesn’t say bunching them up is a problem, I ought to have the right to spread out my vaccines out a little bit at the very least.”

Yeah, we’re Americans! “Science” is not the boss of us!

In case you’re wondering, just this past spring yet another compelling and reliable source — the Journal of American Medicine — found that “Receipt of the MMR [measles, mumps, rubella] vaccine was not associated with increased risk of ASD [autism spectrum disorder], regardless of whether older siblings had ASD. These findings indicate no harmful association between MMR vaccine receipt and ASD even among children already at higher risk for ASD.” The World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics support current vaccine safety guidelines. And let’s remember that the most famed proponent of the autism-vaccine link, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, later had his study declared an “elaborate fraud.”


15 Responses to “What a Concept: Science Makes it Into Political Debate”

  1. Minute Earth had a video in the Democratic debate. Worth watching:

  2. pendantry Says:

    I’m not really sure what ‘America is not a planet’ is supposed to mean. Along with much of the rest of humanity, the US is exceeding the biocapacity available within its borders: it can’t survive without the rest of the planet.

    We’re all in the same lifeboat. It’s sinking, and we need bailers.

    • Tom Bates Says:

      What we need is birth control, one child one woman just like China used to have. It is now up to two kids per women. Islam, Catholicism and Mormons to name three religions are against birth control and limiting numbers of people. You are correct in that the numbers are exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet unless one is willing to live in a mud hut and eat earth worms while taking a shower once a year. We can survive for a while without the rest of the planet unlike a lot of places like most of the middle east and parts of Africa and Asia perhaps most of europe. Eventually as the population increases we will run up against the same limits as the rest though we can live as a people for a long time as standards of living decrease drastically, maybe as long as a one or two thousand years with two billion living in the USA. I do not want to have my kids live like that. Yes, I am late to the party but we have to start somewhere.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        “….maybe as long as a one or two thousand years with two billion living in the USA”?. Tommy is not late to the party, he never got here if he thinks the U.S. will ever get to two billion. The “somewhere” he needs to start at is getting a good science education—-he is obviously way behind the curve there.

      • andrewfez Says:

        What we need is birth control, one child one woman just like China used to have. It is now up to two kids per women. Islam, Catholicism and Mormons to name three religions are against birth control and limiting numbers of people.

        At least one person is brave enough to say it. Brave, as it would be starkly authoritarian in a country that celebrates individualism. Brave, as proposing it makes enemies on both the right and the left; the former objecting on religious, economic and militant grounds, the latter, as it can easily get tangled in the web of gender and racial politics. But the absolute worst place on earth to have robust exponential population growth is the US, secondary to its energy and resource use per capita.

        Obviously you can’t have a planned long term population cull without a planned economic deflation. But at least we could try to minimize growth.

        Let the downvotes continue….

      • addledlady Says:

        “What we need is birth control, one child one woman just like China used to have. It is now up to two kids per women. Islam, Catholicism and Mormons to name three religions are against birth control and limiting numbers of people.”

        Religion is no barrier – watch Hans Rosling on this. https://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_religions_and_babies?language=en

        However, take great care when you get towards the end of it. Rosling does this quite nifty explanation for why population “must” keep on increasing despite the fact that the number of children born is either stabilising or decreasing. What he entirely skips over, glosses over, fails to justify (OK I know it’s a TED talk so he’s time constrained) is why he uses 15 years as the time span for a generation.

        It’s all very well to be pleased that the worldwide average for number of births per woman is now between 2 and 3 … but … It makes a huge, gigantic difference to *total* population when those children are born. If you have two countries, regions or cities with exactly the same population at some point in time, but the mean age at first birth of the women in one place is 20 whereas it is 30 in the other place you will have huge differences in population quite quickly. By the time a woman reaches 61 years old in the first group, she will be a great-grandmother. The second group will only be grandmothers at that age. A whole generation is left out of the second population – because the children of the next generation have simply not yet been born. Another whole generation will be added to the first group if the younger mean age at first birth is reduced to 15, those women will be great-great-grandmothers at 60.

        There are 40 countries in the world where the mean age of mothers at first birth is 20 or younger. That includes large population countries like India, Bangladesh and Nigeria. http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/People/Mother%27s-mean-age-at-first-birth

        If by some magical means, we could have increased that age by 5 or more years in all 40 of those countries, the current world population would be close to a billion less than it is now. Merely because so many of the children now 5 years old or younger would simply not yet have been born.

        Education of girls, employment and business opportunities for young women will be the way to reduce total populations by delaying too early marriage and birth of children.

        • dumboldguy Says:

          It’s fun to watch you in action Addledoldlady. Your math is right on, and you make clear a part of population dynamics that most people don’t think of.

          “Education of girls, employment and business opportunities for young women will be the way to reduce total populations by delaying too early marriage and birth of children” is spot on also, and must be part of any plan to fight AGW.

          • pendantry Says:

            ‘Education’ can never be part of the solution when one must rely upon comprehension of complex subjects — including ‘math’ — in order to persuade.


            Long messages with numbers in don’t work.

            Other topics that feature serious cognition issues include:
            + Immigrants are humans too.
            + All babies are immigrants… to our home world.
            + Should we really be celebrating great-(g’-g’-)grandparenthood?

            “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” – Prof. Al Bartlett.

            Thank you for not breeding.

          • greenman3610 Says:

            “Long messages with numbers in don’t work.”
            how true

  3. skeptictmac57 Says:

    Marco Rubio’s campaign slogan:

    “No we can’t!!!”

  4. Tom Bates Says:

    I watched the debate. Not much science was mentioned, a lot of one liners from the left which got a lot of applause. Science on climate was none existent. Nobody mentioned the almost twenty year pause per the RSS data, nobody mentioned the ocean rise of 3 inches in 100 years trend, nobody mentioned the increase in antarctica sea and land ice, the increase in Greenland land ice, the 66 percent estimates in the Giss data set, the decrease in USA temperatures since 1998, the decrease in weather related claims for years by the insurance industry, the land subsidence problem of Miami and other cities, a whole host of science was not mentioned. What was mentioned is more taxes and more taxes.

  5. MorinMoss Says:

    Wait a second – where’s Hillary Clinton’s answer??

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