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Op-Ed: What does Mike Huckabee get wrong about science? A lot, it seems

By Megan Hamilton     Aug 8, 2015 in Politics
What does Mike Huckabee get wrong about science?
I did some digging and came to the conclusion that perhaps the question should be:
"Does Mike Huckabee ever get anything right about science?"
I'm sure he probably does sometimes, but the information he gets wrong is large enough to fill a public library. Perhaps several libraries. And that's even before Thursday's debate (although he definitely added one key error then anyway).
Earlier this month, Huckabee was interviewed by Yahoo!'s Katie Couric, and demonstrated that a) he knows very little about global warming, and b) he knows even less about volcanoes.
Here's how that went down:
First, Couric asks him if he believes in climate change. Huckabee responds: "I think climate has been changing over the entire history of the Earth.
Then she asked him: "Do you believe Man contributes to global warming?"
Huckabee's answer? "He probably does, but a volcano in one blast will contribute more than a hundred years of human activity."
Couric, more pointedly says: "That's very nice, but do you think that Man contributes basically to climate change?
In response, he said: "Could be. Y'know, I don't pretend to know. Here's what I do know: When I was in college we were told that climate was changing but we were about to enter a deep freeze and if we didn't make urgent changes in the way we live we were all gonna be Popsicles within another single generation."
Here's why Huckabee is wrong about volcanoes, according to Phil Plait, an astronomer who writes for Slate.
"In a single year, human activity puts a hundred times as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as volcanoes do," Plait writes. "I've written about this false denier claim many times. The idea behind it is to say that Nature does far more to change the climate than we do (note he starts off saying that climate has always been changing, another line of denier baloney*), and this sows doubt that we puny humans can do much compared with that."
Plait adds:
"And it's even more ironic: Volcano eruptions launch sulfur dioxide and aerosols into the atmosphere that reflect sunlight, and so they actually cool the Earth overall. Huckabee is not only wrong, he's exactly wrong."
His comment about global cooling is completely off the mark also, Plait writes, adding "his global cooling comment is also just so much fertilizer. If I had been there, I would've asked him who, exactly, made the claim we were about to enter a deep freeze." Because even back then, the majority of published scientific research pointed toward warming, not cooling. It was the media that trumped up the cooling idea (and they had to cherry-pick data to do it), and of course it's the Republican climate change deniers who keep beating that drum, as ridiculous as it is."
While that research was 40 years ago, we now have better measurements accompanied by better understanding, he notes. With "far, far more research into the problem, the overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree: The Earth is warming, and it's human activity causing it," he writes.
Then he adds: "At least 97 percent of climate scientists agree with that statement, and the actual consensus may be even stronger."
Huckabee is also wrong when he says he "doesn't pretend to know" about climate change, but, Plait notes, that is what he's doing: "pretending to know. If he listened to any scientists who actually study our climate he wouldn't have to pretend anymore. "He'd know for a fact the planet is heating up."
Plait had one last thing to say:
"*To be clear, of course the climate is always changing. But deniers use this line to downplay the fact that the Earth is currently warming almost entirely due to human influence. They say it's the Sun, or Earth's orbit, or whatever — anything but our use of fossil fuels."
Our man Huckabee isn't just wrong about climate change (or global warming, call it whatever you will), he's also wrong about science when it comes to human genetics, and courtesy of Thursday's debate, he's given us a new catchphrase:
"DNA schedule."
It's a term that Daniela Hernandez, who has a PhD in neuroscience, hasn't ever heard before, she wrote in Fusion.
She notes that this seems to be a concept that "Huckabee — who has a degree in religion — has invented."
Huckabee writes about this on his website, she notes.
"Life begins at conception. This isn't just a Biblical view — it's affirmed by modern science and every unique human DNA schedule, which is present at conception."
During the debate, Huckabee dropped that bomb again, saying that this DNA schedule is the reason why we need to overturn Roe v. Wade, in which the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.
Hernandez writes:
"It's true that there is a schedule of events that happens when a sperm cell penetrates an egg, and that schedule is guided by genes. And yes, the way those two cells end up giving rise to the many types of tissues in your body follows a biological schedule. But there is NOT some magical DNA schedule that allows scientists to pinpoint the exact time personhood begins."
Julia Calderone, who has a B.S. in neuroscience and behavior from the University of California, Santa Cruz, writes for Tech Insider, and she also found Huckabee's pet phrase rather bizarre.
She decided to interview Dr. Robert. A. Waterland, about Huckabee's comment that a person becomes a person at conception.
"I don't see how DNA can prove when life begins, since DNA is the continuous thread, the one thing that is passed from cell to cell and generation to generation," he said.
He told Calderone that of the many arguments against the idea of life beginning at conception, the most compelling argument was posited by Scott Gilbert, who's a developmental biologist at Swarthmore College. Gilbert is the author of "Developmental Biology," a key textbook for undergraduate biology majors.
Twins develop from one fertilized egg that splits into two embryos, and this concept has for the past several decades, seriously complicated the argument that life begins at conception.
"If we consider that each human being has a soul, then what happens to the soul when the early embryo cleaves into two individuals? Does each identical twin have only half a soul?" Waterland said, per Tech Insider.
In the article, Gilbert makes a number of key points, but I think this statement is the most crucial:
He notes that "many scientists agree that human life doesn't actually begin until about 24 weeks after fertilization,when our brains start producing wave patterns specific to humans. Gilbert argues that 'if we are willing to call flatlining (the loss of this pattern) death, then the emergence of this pattern is when we become humanly alive."
Calderone puts it wonderfully well:
"Clearly Huckabee, who holds a degree in religion, has no business talking about science."
In closing, I put Huckabee, Jindal, Walker, Rubio, and the others in the political clown car that was Fox New's Thursday night debate in the realm of befuddled bombast. Jindal, who is a Rhodes Scholar and has a degree in biology, should know better, but he still goes along with his GOP cronies when it comes to talking about climate change and feigns ignorance when he's asked about evolution.
This clown car is running out of gas and those inside have been smelling the fumes for too long. Let's hope none of them get to be President.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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