Rick Santorum's Science Denial Will Kill Any Momentum the GOP Candidate Has

On the heels of a shocking Tuesday sweep of Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado by Rick Santorum, the former senator deserves a second look. Why was he not taken seriously in the first place?

Once again, just when we all thought it was over, Santorum has shocked the political landscape for a second time. I retract my statement (“Calls for a new candidate to enter the GOP race are emblematic of the lack of foresight that existed throughout this nomination process.”) from my previous article: It is completely feasible that someone could jump in the Republican race this week and still make some noise. But I digress…

Due to a high disapproval rating and a morally decrepit character, Newt Gingrich is obviously not going to win this nomination. Santorum’s admirable grassroots effort and his high anti-Romney factor, or the fact that he is simply neither Romney nor Gingrich, have proven enough to keep him afloat in February. Now that the myopic primary voter base has turned the spotlight squarely on him, I would remind readers about the former Pennsylvania senator’s war on science, both biological and social.

While accusing the scientific community of exerting undue influence on public education, Santorum is doubling down on his failed 2001 attempt to insert “Intelligent Design” into the No Child Left Behind Act. Known as the Santorum Amendment, the effort led to the anti-intellectual battle cry of “teach the controversy,” which has found very limited traction in states such as Louisiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Texas.

Since nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution, it’s not wrong to assume that all science courses under a Santorum administration Department may have a frothy religious tint to them.

As evidenced in his 2008 Philadelphia Inquirer editorial, Santorum is a climate change denier. He apparently believes the world has been getting cooler in recent history and will continue to do so. I don’t know what is worse: that he believes this, or that he would lie in the promotion of coal exploration and deregulation.

The regulation of women’s bodies, however, is just fine with Santorum. Denial of American women of basic reproductive health care is very high on Santorum’s list. Beyond just opposing abortion for rape victims, Santorum also supports the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Apparently also on the table: states’ rights to outlaw contraception for married women.

A devout opponent of stem cell research, Santorum uses the reasoning that an embryo equals a human being. This is technically true from an objective standpoint. However, the gains in regenerative medicine that have been bypassed from the pointless ban on embryonic stem cell research (ended by President Obama in 2009) could have years ago produced crucial advances to help those with a wide range of ailments. All to save embryos from fertilization clinics that are going into the trash anyway.

The cognitive dissonance from the former Pennsylvania senator and the entire GOP base is more than startling. In a time when so much enlightenment can be spread across the country and so much suffering could be prevented worldwide, Santorum would take us back to the Dark Ages.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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Joseph Doolen

A science policy writer with professional experience writing in Washington, San Francisco and Madison, Joseph holds an MS in Biology, an MA in Journalism and is pursuing a PhD. For media organizations, he has covered San Francisco Bay Area environmental news, D.C. politics and Wisconsin state news. This year he is writing for Yale, the Obama campaign and covering AAAS in Vancouver. Joseph has done environmental work and science research in Texas and at the flagship universities of Illinois, Wisconsin and Cal-Berkeley.

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