GOP weasel words: “I’m not a scientist”


    It’s not easy to deny the reality of manmade climate change, but members of the denial party have come up with a weird new mantra.

    When John Boehner was asked not long ago whether he agreed with the scientific consensus that carbon emissions contribute to global warming, he naturally said no – but he said it this way: “I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change.” When denier Marco Rubio was recently asked the same kind of question, he similarly replied: “I’m not a scientist. I’m not qualified to make that decision.”

    When New York congressman Michael Grimm was asked the same question, his denial was more succinct: “I’m not a scientist.” When Florida Gov. Rock Scott, whose largest city, Miami, is already dealing with coastal flooding, was asked the same question, he said three separate times; “Well, I’m not a scientist…But I’m not a scientist…Well, I’m not a scientist.”

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    OK, I suppose this inartful dodge about science is better than an aggressive disparagement of science (like when Rick Santorum insists that climate change is “a hoax”). I suppose that claiming ignorance is more benign than ridiculing the 97 percent of scientists who have concluded that humans are responsible for melting glaciers, rising seas, and worsening storms. In other words, maybe “I’m not a scientist” is an improvement.

    But it takes a mere moment of cognitive thought to realize how insipid this mantra really is.

    Just ask yourself: If you’re not an expert on something, don’t you at least want to hear what the experts have to say? And perhaps respect their advice? And credit them for knowing more than you do?

    Let’s apply this test to real life. If multiple doctors say that you need surgery, do you shrug off their advice by saying “I’m not a doctor”? If car mechanics say that a major oil leak has damaged your vehicle’s pistons and that repairs are necessary, do you turn away and say “I’m not a car mechanic”? If your dog’s vet says that the pooch needs pills to control a thyroid condition, do you wave him away and say “I’m not a dog vet”?

    And when experts at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science warn in a report (as they did last year) that, if present trends continue, the coastal city of Norfolk will face sea levels five or six feet higher by the end of this century, do we shrug off the scientists by arguing that we’re not scientists? That reasoning (such as it is) strikes me as fatuous. Maybe that’s because I was raised to respect scientific inquiry.

    But Republicans prefer to be fatuous. Essentially: “We know way less than these scientists do – so therefore, we’ll stick with ignorance and just ignore what they know.”

    It’s tragic that the GOP has strayed so far from its own roots. Its first president, Abraham Lincoln, was (among other things) a serious science geek. In 1863 he created, via legislation, the National Academy of Sciences; its mission (then and now) was to harness scientific advice for the government. And long before he became president, he lectured on the importance of science inquiry: “Man is the only animal who improves his worksmanship. This improvement he effects by Discoveries.”

    (You know the figure I mentioned earlier, that 97 percent of scientists connect human behavior to climate change? That comes from a study authored by…the National Academy of Sciences. Thanks, Abe!)

    Yes, the latest scientific “Discoveries” reveal a serious national security threat to the lives of millions, yet the GOP seems hell bent on leaving Abe behind. “I’m not a scientist” is nothing more than a concoction of weasel words, the party’s latest rationalization for doing nothing.


    Hey, remember Richard Mourdock, the right-wing extremist who won the Indiana GOP senatorial primary (toppling center-right incumbent Dick Lugar) – only to doom himself when he declared that impregnated rape victims should view their plight as “a gift from God”?

    He’s still around (serving as state treasurer), and still opining about the tyranny of the Obama era. During a speech Saturday at the Indiana GOP convention, he came up with this: “The people of Germany in a free election selected the Nazi Party because they made great promises that appealed to them because they were desperate and destitute. And why is that? Because Germany was bankrupt.”

    Hitler analogies are a bore, but here’s my beef with Mourdock’s:

    The people of Gemany never selected the Nazis in a free election. The Nazis never finished first. Their best showing in parliamentary elections was second place in 1930 (with 18.3 percent of the vote). Hitler ran for president in 1932, but was soundly beaten by Paul von Hindenburg (losing the first round with only 30.1 percent of the vote; losing the runoff round with only 36.8 percent of the vote). Hitler gained power in 1933, but only because he was brought into government via an appointment.

    So Mourdock, during his demagogic outburst, couldn’t even get his facts straight.

    But I suppose he could’ve defended himself by saying, “I’m not an historian.”


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

    97 percent of scientists say humans bear major responsibility for melting glaciers, rising seas, increased coastal flooding and worsening storms – See more at:
    7 percent of scientists say humans bear major responsibility for melting glaciers, rising seas, increased coastal flooding and worsening storms, – See more at:
    7 percent of scientists say humans bear major responsibility for melting glaciers, rising seas, increased coastal flooding and worsening storms, – See more at:


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