Presidential candidate Rick Perry reminded us at the Republican debate Wednesday night that he has a lot of trouble with science. Though some of his ignorant stances have contributed to his field-leading poll numbers, his public statements have repeatedly contradicted even 100-level science classes. It’s not about politics — it’s about academics, and it’s ridiculously simple. Here’s a few classes at the University of Maryland that might bring this Texas A&M grad into the 21st century.
1. PHYS105: Physics for Decision Makers: Global Energy Crisis
When asked at the debate about climate change, Perry said “the science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy at [sic] jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet, to me, is just, is nonsense.”
Back on Earth, however, the issue is quite settled — it’s his base who refuses to believe it and his financial backers who refuse to care. It could be worse, though — he could have quoted fellow candidate Michele Bachmann, who said there is no proof carbon dioxide is harmful at all. Perry should probably carpool with her to this class on Tuesdays and Thursdays:
This marquee course will consider the global energy crisis from a scientific perspective. Topics include basic laws of energy and thermodynamics, their effects on energy production and distribution, greenhouse gas, global warming and policy options for decision makers. This course is aimed at the non-science major.
2. PHYS101: Revolutions in Physics
Perry also went on to say “just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said here is the fact, Galileo got outvoted for a spell.” This is not the first blog to point out that this statement doesn’t make any sense, probably because it’s so outrageously nonsensical that no one can figure out how to extract any meaning out of it.
But, for what it’s worth, when he says “group of scientists that have stood up,” he means “97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field,” according to a study published by the National Academy of Sciences.
That doesn’t bother Perry though, because the scientists, you see, are liars. He said last month that “there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they would have dollars rolling in to their projects. We’re seeing it almost weekly or almost daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that manmade global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”
He has not told anyone who these scientists are, or why he is the only one hearing from them.
He’s also way, way off on the Galileo, who was not “outvoted” by anybody. When Galileo wrote that evidence suggested the Earth rotated around the Sun and not the other way around, the Catholic Church decided they’d had enough of this “thought backed up by evidence” business and had Galileo thrown in jail. He spent the last decade of his life under house arrest.
There wasn’t any voting; it was religion suppressing science, and Perry’s all for that if it will get him votes. He could have gotten a bit more perspective — and Galileo’s actual history — in the class that’s described as:
For non-science students who are interested in the evolution of scientific thought and its present day significance. Historical, philosophic, experimental and theoretical aspects of physics are presented. Topics in mechanics, relativity, electricity and magnetism, and nuclear physics are covered.
3. ENFP108: Hot Topics in Fire Protection Engineering
This class may have helped him generate an informed response to the (global warming-exacerbated) wildfires that were tearing through his state over the summer. While it’s only a one-credit, entry-level course, it would probably come up at some point that the proper method of fighting fires is not to declare official days of rain prayer.
4. BSCI103: The World of Biology Perry’s most visible (and obvious) slams against science have been in relation to evolution and teaching it in schools. Last month, he told a child at a rally that evolution is “a theory that’s out there,” but that “it’s got some gaps in it. In Texas we teach both creationism and evolution.”
He didn’t elaborate on where the gaps were — perhaps because there aren’t any. He might also benefit from a brief lesson in what a “gap” is, because there are more than a few in the 2,500-year-old document he’s using as his proposed alternative.
An introduction to modern biology for the non-science major. Major themes include molecular biology, cell biology, evolution and organismal biology.
He’d probably have to pay out-of-state tuition, but Perry spending a semester at UMD might do us all a bit of good.