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The Universe According to Santorum

The progress of evolution from President Washington to President Grant was alone evidence enough to upset Darwin.

Henry Brooks Adams, The Education of Henry Adams

Now that it appears that Rick Santorum is more than a flash in the hot (albeit not globally warmed) evolutionary pan, I confess to an oversight that occurred in this space in 2011 when I suggested that Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry were the only ones among the Republican presidential candidates who believed that evolution was nothing more than a theory. I did Mr. Santorum a disservice by failing to acknowledge his long-standing support of creationism and his contempt for the idea of global warming.  His support for creationism in the classroom goes back at least as far as 2001.

When Congress was considering the 2001 education-funding bill now known as the “No Child Left Behind Act”, then Senator Santorum introduced an amendment that he said was intended to be a sense of the Senate that “deals with the subject of intellectual freedom with respect to the teaching of science in the classroom.” His amendment would have promoted “good scientific debate within the classroom” which would include creationism.  Although his amendment was not included in the final version of the Bill, it has become a talking point for those who want creationism taught in the public schools. Defeated but unbowed, Mr. Santorum continues his support of creationism and now that he has the possibility of becoming the Republican nominee for President of the United States (thus making the United States the laughing stock of the rest of the world) it is only fair that his scientific views be given their due.

In an interview with the editorial board of the Nashua Telegraph, a paper in Nashua, New Hampshire Mr. Santorum said teachers should be allowed to “teach the controversy” between the theory of evolution and any gaps in the study that would allow for dialogue on a divine beginning.  He explained: There are many on the left and in the scientific community, so to speak, who are afraid of that discussion because of my goodness you might mention the word, God-forbid, ‘God’ in the classroom, or ‘creator’  . . . and of course we can’t have that discussion.  It’s very interesting that you have a situation that science will only allow things in the classroom that are consistent with a non-Creator idea of how we got here, as if somehow or another that’s scientific. Well maybe the science points to the fact that maybe science doesn’t explain all these things. . . .”

Mr. Santorum was critical of Jon Huntsman, one of those seeking the Republican nomination.  Commenting on the fact that Mr. Huntsman accepted evolution as an established scientific theory, Mr. Santorum told the Philadelphia Inquirer in an email that:  “I believe in Genesis 1:1-God created the heavens and the earth.”  Displaying an astonishing ignorance (since most creationists know that it took seven days)  he said: “I don’t know how God did it or exactly how long it took him, but I do know that He did it.  If Gov. Huntsman wants to believe that he is the descendant of a monkey, then he has the right to believe that-but I disagree with him; on this and the many other liberal beliefs he shares with Democrats.”

In that column I also failed to acknowledge Mr. Santorum’s approach to global warming. He doesn’t believe in it.  He said on the Glenn Beck show that: “There is no such thing as global warming.”  To make sure no one thinks that this was simply a mis-speak, the Daily Coz reports that he told Rush Limbaugh that  global warming is “an opportunity for the left to create-it’s really a beautifully concocted scheme because they know that the earth is gonna cool and warm.  It’s been on a warming trend so they said, ‘Oh, let’s take advantage of that and say that we need the government to come in and regulate your life . . . .It’s just an excuse for more government control of your life and I’ve never been for any scheme or even accepted the junk science behind the whole narrative.”

The foregoing explains Mr. Santorum’s dismissive attitude towards President Obama’s support for making higher education available to more people.  As Mr. Santorum said in Ann Arbor before the Michigan primary:  “President Obama has said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.” Mr. Santorum realizes that the less educated people are, the more likely they will be to agree with his feelings about science and, even more important, the more likely it is that they will enthusiastically support his candidacy.

My apologies to Bachmann and Perry.  They were not the only science skeptics among the Republican candidates.  Mr. Santorum is their equal.  Should he become President of the United States, the country would be the butt of jokes around the world. Given the sad state of the world from Syria to Somalia to Afghanistan to Iraq and hundreds of other places, a bit of laughter would be welcome.   It’s just too bad it would be at our expense.

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be e-mailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

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