Rick Perry's Real Science Problem

by Jonathan Chait | August 30, 2011

Rich Lowry's defense of Rick Perry seems to badly miss the point:

In no sense that the ordinary person would understand the term is Rick Perry “anti-science.” He hasn’t criticized the scientific method, or sent the Texas Rangers to chase out from the state anyone in a white lab coat. In fact, the opposite. His website touts his Emerging Technology Fund as an effort to bring “the best scientists and researchers to Texas.” The state has a booming health-care sector composed of people who presumably have a healthy appreciation for the dictates of science....
Unless he has an interest in paleontology that has escaped everyone’s notice to this point, Perry’s somewhat doubtful take on evolution has more to do with a general impulse to preserve a role for God in creation than a careful evaluation of the work of, say, Stephen Jay Gould. ...
Similarly, Perry’s skepticism on man-made global warming surely has much to do with the uses to which the scientific consensus on warming is put.

Nobody is saying that Perry despises science per se. He rejects scientific findings when they complicate his theological or ideological worldview. And Perry is not taking the Jim Manzi-National Review position that climate scientists are correct but we shouldn't address climate change. He's accused climate scientists of running a corrupt scam -- a deranged belief that's increasingly common among movement conservatives.

What's more, the implications of Perry's willingness to discard science go well beyond scientific issues. It suggests a general unwillingness to acknowledge empirical results that run counter to one's ideological dispositions. That was an enormous problem in the Bush administration, but ultimately one, it seems, conservatives are happy to repeat.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/94353/rick-perrys-real-science-problem