Huntsman: I Believe in Evolution and Trust Scientists

Jon Huntsman just tweeted, "To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy."

Jon Huntsman just tweeted, “To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

This banal embrace of mainstream thinking, as Josh Marshall notes, would seem to be an attempt to distance himself from his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination, particularly Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann.

As UN Dispatch’s Chandler Clay catalogs, several of the Republican contenders claim global warming is a hoax. Thankfully, though, the degree of craziness on science is roughly inversely correlated with current standing in the polls. Bachmann is at the far extreme, followed by Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, and Ron Paul. Rick Perry is in the middle of the pack, trying to appease the anti-global warming folks while remaining agnostic. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Huntsman are all very mainstream.

Still, it’s frustrating that being anti-science is considered a touchstone for leadership in the Republican Party. Indeed, Huntsman’s tweet caused Dave Weigel to quip, “With comments like these, Jon Huntsman sounds like a good candidate for a job in the Obama administration.”

UPDATE: As I was writing this, my colleague Alex Knapp posted the same tweet and observed, “Of all the 2012 GOP candidates, my favorite by far is Jon Huntsman. Unfortunately, I think he just doomed what little chance he had of taking the nomination.”

He pointed to a 2007 Gallup poll titled “Majority of Republicans Doubt Theory of Evolution” that included this eye-opening chart:

I attribute the stark results with the greater preponderance of evangelical Christians in the GOP and a false understanding of evolution (i.e., that humans descended from monkeys) and its religious implications (and therefore humans were not created by God). Still, it’s depressing.

Regardless, as I commented on Alex’ post, Huntsman was at best a longshot before this tweet. When you’re probably going to lose anyway, it’s always the right strategy to be true to yourself, swing for the fences, and try to distinguish yourself from your opponents. It’s more fun, likely to earn you some respect, and leaves you with fewer regrets.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Science & Technology, US Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    And yet you’re still a Republican, James.

    As Jerry Seinfeld might say, What’s up with that?

  2. OzarkHibilly says:

    Alex beat you to the punch James. Oh well, I’ll just repeat what I said over there.

    Toast.

    and

    Some people thought he was serious about this Presidential run.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: The impact of politicians, particularly presidents and Members of Congress, on these issues is minuscule, so it’s not much of a voting issue for me.

    We’ll see where we are come general election season. I’m still holding out hope that Huntsman somehow rises to the top, while expecting that Romney will. I’m not sure I could vote for any of the other candidates currently in the field.

  4. Rob in CT says:

    With comments like these, Jon Huntsman sounds like a good candidate for a job in the Obama administration

    That’s worth a chuckle, that is.

  5. gentile72 says:

    I applaud Huntsman if indeed he is trying to stray true to his beliefs, nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, from a scientific perspective GCC or GW has not been proven conclusively. It remains to date a highly controversial topic among the scientific community. Moreover, science is about questioning and always seeking answers. Hence, it puzzles me when I hear declarations that the science is settled on this issue. This attitude goes against the very nature or essence of science itself.

  6. Lit3Bolt says:

    Next thing you know, Huntsman will advocate the use of fire and stone tools to his Republican constituents. But will they listen?

  7. mantis says:

    Rick Perry is in the middle of the pack, trying to appease the anti-global warming folks while remaining agnostic.

    That’s an absurd assessment. He just said the other day that the science is a fraud concocted by greedy scientists, and in his book he called climate change “all one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight.”

    This is not middle of the pack. It’s nutball conspiracy theorism.

  8. john personna says:

    Actually it’s really interesting that this is a meta-level indictment of the GOP. This really means (as we see it play out here) “call them crazy.”

  9. mantis says:

    It remains to date a highly controversial topic among the scientific community.

    Not really, no. Unless by “scientific community,” you mean right wing blowhards and outfits hired by the energy industry to spread propaganda.

    There is no controversy in the (real) scientific community that the global climate is warming, and that human activities are contributing to that warming. There is plenty of dispute as to how great an impact human activity is having, how and at what rate the climate will will continue to change, and exactly what can be done about it. There is a big difference between those two discussions.

  10. john personna says:

    @gentile72:

    The confusion is in part because “evolution” means different things to scientists and opponents. For scientists, they are beyond evolution being a “thing” and they argue about how fast, at what scale, by what specific mechanisms. They have no reason, no interest, in thinking about as a yes no question: “genetic drift over time, in response to a variety of factors, leading to speciation.”

    They’re over it, and debate things like individual versus group fitness, or whatever.

    The anti-evolutionists want to back up really and make it a big yes-no.

  11. EddieInCA says:

    Dear Mr. Huntsman –

    Thanks for sticking with us. Can you please try to convince some of your brethren in the GOP to rejoin us at some point soon? Please?

    Sincerely,

    Reality

  12. EddieInCA says:

    It remains to date a highly controversial topic among the scientific community. Moreover, science is about questioning and always seeking answers. Hence, it puzzles me when I hear declarations that the science is settled on this issue. This attitude goes against the very nature or essence of science itself.

    No.

    It’s not controversial in the scientific community. Not highly. Not even slightly. It’s just not. To say otherwise is flat out wrong.

    A group of 3,146 earth scientists surveyed around the world overwhelmingly agree that in the past 200-plus years, mean global temperatures have been rising, and that human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090119210532.htm

    Of course, it’s a Science magazine, so it will have very little sway with hard right GOP voters.

  13. Laurie says:

    Rick Perry also recently responded (deftly and correctly) to the evolution question.
    For me the larger question, why do intelligent and knowledgeable conservatives continue to support the modern day far right GOP is much more interesting ( and keeps me reading OTB)

  14. OzarkHibilly says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Of course, it’s a Science magazine, so it will have very little sway with hard right GOP voters because of its pro-science bias.

    Finished that for you Eddie.

  15. David M says:

    Good for Hunstman, at least he’s not desperately pandering and still going nowhere like Pawlenty.

  16. Rob in CT says:

    @EddieInCA:

    From your link:

    In analyzing responses by sub-groups, Doran found that climatologists who are active in research showed the strongest consensus on the causes of global warming, with 97 percent agreeing humans play a role. Petroleum geologists and meteorologists were among the biggest doubters, with only 47 and 64 percent respectively believing in human involvement. Doran compared their responses to a recent poll showing only 58 percent of the public thinks human activity contributes to global warming.

  17. michael reynolds says:

    Let’s say global warming is a giant hoax.

    Let’s see we were all fooled so we did things like cut our use of fossil fuels, develop alternative fuel sources, maybe drive less, maybe put more into mass transit, develop more efficient engines for planes, even develop geo-engineering capabilities.

    What’s the downside?

    We’re not saying that global warming can only be dealt with by sacrificing our first-born. It can be dealt with by doing a number of things that are good in and of themselves. Is there some reason we shouldn’t try to use fewer fossil fuels? Is there an argument in favor of less efficient energy usage? Is there some problem with researching geo-engineering?

  18. EddieInCA says:

    @Rob in CT:

    In analyzing responses by sub-groups, Doran found that climatologists who are active in research showed the strongest consensus on the causes of global warming, with 97 percent agreeing humans play a role. Petroleum geologists and meteorologists were among the biggest doubters, with only 47 and 64 percent respectively believing in human involvement. Doran compared their responses to a recent poll showing only 58 percent of the public thinks human activity contributes to global warming.

    Interesting where you decided to snip the article. Here’s what immediately follows, which you must have read, but chose to leave out (I wonder why…) :

    “The petroleum geologist response is not too surprising, but the meteorologists’ is very interesting,” he said. “Most members of the public think meteorologists know climate, but most of them actually study very short-term phenomenon.”

    He was not surprised, however, by the near-unanimous agreement by climatologists.

    “They’re the ones who study and publish on climate science. So I guess the take-home message is, the more you know about the field of climate science, the more you’re likely to believe in global warming and humankind’s contribution to it.”

    I put the entire link up so people could see for themselves. Nice attempt at cherry picking one section to try to make a point.

    Fail.

  19. mantis says:

    @Laurie:

    Rick Perry also recently responded (deftly and correctly) to the evolution question.

    Not really, no. Here’s his answer from your link:

    “It’s a theory that’s out there, and it has some gas to it, but in Texas we teach both creationism and evolution in our public schools, because I figure you’re smart enough to figure our which one is right.”

    First of all, I have no doubt some Texas teachers teach creationism in their public schools, but they are breaking the law in doing so. Second, a ten year old is not smart enough to figure out which one, creationism or evolution, is correct. That’s why we send kids to school. To learn what is correct, based on hundreds of years of scientific study and exploration. When teachers teach religious dogma alongside alongside one of the most robust scientific theories ever established by man as two equally valid ideas, this greatly disserves our children and leaves them with a very poor and inaccurate view of science generally, and biology in particular.

  20. mantis says:

    @michael reynolds:

    What’s the downside?

    The profits of certain industries (the most profitable and powerful of all industries, in fact) will go down, as will the contributions to politicians who make sure those profits keep flowing.

    It’s not a downside for society, humanity, or the global ecosystem, but it is for some very important people, and they run the show, and don’t care too much for society, humanity, or the global ecosystem.

  21. Laurie says:

    @mantis: As an atheist Unitarian I agree with you completely. I wasn’t clear that by “correctly” I meant from a tea party base perspective.

  22. Michael says:

    On the other hand, from a scientific perspective GCC or GW has not been proven conclusively. It remains to date a highly controversial topic among the scientific community.

    Gravity is still a controversial topic among the scientific community since neither GR nor QM can fully explain it. Yet I still don’t see folks like you flying around unaided.

    The controversy among scientists over climate change, if you can call it controversy, is over the details of “how all the parts interact” and “how fast is it happening”, not over whether it is happening at all.

  23. mantis says:

    @Laurie:

    I wasn’t clear that by “correctly” I meant from a tea party base perspective.

    Oh, I get you now. It was indeed “correct.”

    “It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

    – Syme, 1984

  24. mattb says:

    @gentile72:

    On the other hand, from a scientific perspective GCC or GW has not been proven conclusively. It remains to date a highly controversial topic among the scientific community.

    Can you back up this claim with any fact or study?

    Hence, it puzzles me when I hear declarations that the science is settled on this issue. This attitude goes against the very nature or essence of science itself.

    This is a fundamental misunderstanding of science. There are many issues that are largely considered — by consensus — settled. If these topics were not, then no forward progress could ever be made. What happens is typically continued refinement of a topic.

    Now, at times, new information comes to light that causes parts of an old theory or understanding to be overturned (what Thomas Kuhn referred to as a “paradigm shift”). However that sort of stuff is typically few and far between.

    As other posters have correctly indicated, among scientists, there are aspects of GCC that are largely settled (it’s happening). There is more controversy over the direct causes of it. However, even there, the vast majority of the literature supports Anthropomorphic theories of Climate Change (i.e. Man is doing it).

    A better theory may at some point replace that, but for the moment, pretending that this is not the dominant mindset is deluding one’s self. And believing that this isn’t “good science” is fundamentally a statement of faith that has very little to do with any sort of understanding of science or the current facts of this particular argument.

  25. Franklin says:

    @EddieInCA: What cherry-picking are you talking about? The added context doesn’t appear to change anything: the people who actually study the relevant science are mostly in agreement.

  26. michael reynolds says:

    @mattb:
    Clearly you haven’t familiarized yourself with the work of noted scientists like Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck.

  27. PJ says:

    I’ve had my eyes on Huntsman for a long time, and I used to say that he’s setting himself up for 2016, but I now doubt that the GOP will have turned sane by then.

    But then he’s 60 in 2020 and 64 in 2024…

  28. Fiona says:

    Too bad Huntsman appears to be going nowhere. He’s that rare bird in the Republican Party–relatively moderate and sane. Unfortunately, reason and sanity no longer play well with the GOP base.

  29. Nightrider says:

    @James Joyner: James, politicians may not have much impact on evolution issues, whatever those are. But they have a big important job to do on climate change issues and energy policy. Or at least they should. Indeed, if things go as some forecast, it could be climate change, and not Iraq, that provokes the biggest sigh when recalling the accidental result of the 2000 election.

  30. bains says:

    As I was writing this, my colleague Alex Knapp posted the same tweet and observed, “Of all the 2012 GOP candidates, my favorite by far is Jon Huntsman. Unfortunately, I think he just doomed what little chance he had of taking the nomination.”

    What a surprise. Alex, a vocal supporter of Obama in 2008, likes the candidate that least resonates with the GOP, conservatives, and the Tea Party. Huntsman is doomed because he avoids the values he suggests he holds, while acquiescing to faith-based beliefs held dear by the coastal elites.

    FWIW James, I was hoping your post was going to focus more on the issue of Anthropogenic Global Warming, for that is much more an issue of honest (and dishonest) science. The origin of life, and I believe we did evolve from the primordial sludge, is much more a matter of faith.

  31. EddieInCA says:

    @Franklin:

    @EddieInCA: What cherry-picking are you talking about? The added context doesn’t appear to change anything: the people who actually study the relevant science are mostly in agreement.

    RobInCT was playing the contrarian, I think. He likes tweaking me. Or he has in the past. His quote was to show the section which reads…

    “Petroleum geologists and meteorologists were among the biggest doubters, with only 47 and 64 percent respectively believing in human involvement. Doran compared their responses to a recent poll showing only 58 percent of the public thinks human activity contributes to global warming.”

    …as a way of showing that it is a controversial subject, which is why I had to add the quote that followed that small part of the study.

  32. Ben Wolf says:

    If 100 people who have each spent 20-30 years studying in a given field walk into Huntsman’s office, and 97 of them tell him they are convinced of AGW, Hunstman will say “Ok, I’ll accept that it is likely true”.

    If 100 people who have each spent 20-30 years studying in a given field walk into Perry’s office, and 97 of them tell him they are convinced of AGW, Perry will call them communists.

    The right has a curious suspicion and resentment of expertise, the notion that someone else might know more than they do. In fact the further to the right one moves, the more likely that person is to believe they know everything. For jeebus’ sake, we still have right extremists denying the greenhouse effect and arguing that the laws of thermodynamics mean the planet can’t warm up. No matter how many times one corrects them they’ll keep repeating the same falsehoods.

  33. Ben Wolf says:

    @mantis: What’s the downside?

    ExxonMobil, Russian oligarchs, Saudi oil princes and Iran stand to lose trillions if we move away from fossil fuels. Yet we’re told this international rogue’s gallery is more believable than climatologists making $60,000 a year.

    The Right is welcome to side with Ahmadinejad against their own country; I’ll side with science and the United States of America.

  34. An Interested Party says:

    Huntsman is doomed because he avoids the values he suggests he holds, while acquiescing to faith-based beliefs held dear by the coastal elites.

    Indeed…”faith-based” beliefs like evolution…how horrible…

  35. anjin-san says:

    I’ll side with science

    Obama loving commie…

  36. catfish says:

    “call me crazy” : that’s exactly the kind of person we need.

  37. Argon says:

    The problem is that for too much of the GOP, reality appears to have a liberal bias. In other words he’s sunk as a candidate.

  38. Ben Wolf says:

    @catfish: You’re right: someone like Huntsman is exactly what you and the GOP need, as hard as the extreme Right seems to be trying to close its eyes and wish into oblivion anything it doesn’t like. Who knows, with Huntsman in charge you guys might come around to accepting things like germ theory and physics instead of praying to three dudes floating around in the sky.

  39. superdestroyer says:

    If Huntsman supports the beliefs of the green community, then what is his policy positions on global warming. What has he personally done to lower his environmental footprint? How many homes does Huntsman own? How many vehicles does he own? How many children does he have? Does he travel by charter aircraft?

    What policy does Huntsman support to lower the carbon foot print of the U.S.? In looking at the campaign website http://www.jon2012.com/, there is no tab for the environment. How does he reconcile his desire for smaller carbon footprint with his support for open borders and unlimited immigration? How does he reconcile his desire for more private sector jobs with his support of closing down the last of heavy industry in the U.S. that would be required to lower greenhouse gas emissions?

    John Huntsman is the type of idiot politicians who repeats what his advisers have told him to say without the least thought about the policy or long term implications of what he is saying.

  40. john personna says:

    @superdestroyer:

    You can believe in AGW, and that we’re screwed.

  41. Ben Wolf says:

    Note superdestroyer’s world: people who listen to scientists are idiots, while those who ignore, attack and threaten them are reasonable, wise people. To him RedState knows more about science than scientists do.

  42. Rob in CT says:

    @EddieInCA:

    No. I’M ON YOUR SIDE.

    I quoted the part I quoted because it clearly demonstrated that the people involved in researching climate overwhelmingly think GW is happening and is anthropogenic, whereas a significant chunk of the dissenters are “petroleum geologists.” Anyone with a functioning brain doesn’t need the next paragraph to add 2 and 2.

    RobInCT was playing the contrarian, I think. He likes tweaking me. Or he has in the past. His quote was to show the section which reads…

    No, I was not. And I have no memory of ever “tweaking” you. Seriously, you’ve imagined it. What the heck?

  43. Rob in CT says:

    Gah, in case my first response doesn’t make it through moderation (I was, um, irritated), here’s the short version:

    No, Eddie. I was not trying to do what you think I was trying to do. I was, instead, *supporting* your argument. The part I quoted was entirely sufficient to lay out the fact that an overwhelming majority of those involved in climate research think GW is happening and is anthropogenic, whereas a significant chunk of the dissenters are “petroleum geologists.” Anyone with a functioning brain can add 2+2 at that point.

    I have no memory of “tweaking” you in the past. What are you talking about?

  44. mantis says:

    Gotta go with Rob, Eddie. You jumped to conclusions you shouldn’t have in responding to his comment.