The selection of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney’s vice president has already been diced a thousand ways in less than 24 hours but there’s been little about his stance on science and, naturally, less about his stance regarding issues of separation of church and state both of which I’m very interested in. So here’s my first glance look at him on these topics now that he’s on national stage.
Hemant Mehta has already pointed out that the Secular Coalition for America gave Ryan an F for his 2011 congressional voting record as he voted for measures which create religious interference in U.S. policies at home and abroad. However what’s more concerning to me is not his values, but his abuse of a media controversy in 2009 to argue against the legitimacy of climate change. While Romney has been short of the facts on climate change, he acknowledges it’s happening and that humans are playing some role (at least he did) but he refuses to say what role, Ryan was among those who was cavalierly parading those (now) long refuted quotes from hacked emails as reason to cast doubt on climate science saying:
These e-mails from leading climatologists make clear efforts to use statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change.
The CRU e-mail scandal reveals a perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion. The e-mail scandal has not only forced the resignation of a number of discredited scientists, but it also marks a major step back on the need to preserve the integrity of the scientific community. While interests on both sides of the issue will debate the relevance of the manipulated or otherwise omitted data, these revelations undermine confidence in the scientific data driving the climate change debates.
As Michael Cote at Climate Adaptation notes this was in the immediate wake of the story breaking and Ryan has not again spoke up about climate change, presumably he wouldn’t double down on his error today. However, it’s just stunningly wrong about almost everything, and contra Cote, saying scientists were intentionally misleading the public is conspiratorial (though certainly not James Inhofe level). Moreover the fact that it was a genuine controversy in the media doesn’t much comfort me about Ryan’s understanding of how science works or its place in political policy.
Lastly, I’ve been somewhat disappointed with Google for being unable to come up with even a single statement from Ryan on his stance on the teaching evolution versus intelligent design. However barring a tragic passing of Mitt Romney it won’t matter much in policy (it’s unlikely the Senate will consider an anti-evolution bill so his potentially tie-breaking vote as VP won’t matter). Romney is actually very strong in his support of evolution, beating back efforts to teach intelligent design while he was governor. Overall though, given the broad anti-science climate in current American politics, while I’d like much better it definitely could be worse.