If Jim Martin could make peace between religion and science, could he do something similar about his Republican Party’s war with science?
A few weeks ago I wrote about our former governor’s new book, “Revelation Through Science: Evolution in the Harmony of Science and Religion.” In it he explains how the discoveries of science do not conflict with his Christian faith. In fact, he asserts, scientific “truths” like the Big Bang and evolution theories are evidence of the wise hand of a creator God.
Before I interviewed Martin last week for an upcoming episode of UNC-TV’s North Carolina Bookwatch, he asked if we would be talking about political parties and their approaches to science. I said no. Although he has a short chapter about that topic, I wanted to focus on the central themes of his book and avoid partisan politics.
But I was wrong.
As a scientist and a Republican politician, Martin’s thoughts on science and politics deserve respectful attention.
He asks his readers, “Which political party is anti-science?”
Our answer, he says, would likely reveal our political orientation.
Martin agrees with Alex Berezow, founding editor of the “RealClearScience” website. Berezow asserts that partisans in both parties are “equally abusive of science and technology, albeit on different topics and issues.”
Martin confesses that several positions held by many Republicans are unsustainable in light of the findings of science.
For instance, although many Republicans believe “the earth is a young 6,000-10,000 years old” and “evolution is just a theory,” Martin rejects these ideas.
Then, I can hear you asking, “Does he, like many other Republicans, believe that global warming is a myth?”
No. “Denial is indefensible,” he writes.
“Instead of futile denial that excessive carbon dioxide from combustion of coal and oil contributes to global warming, Republicans should let ‘science be science.’”
Anyone who thinks this statement represents Martin’s complete acceptance of a liberal environmentalist position on clean energy would be misled. His response to the carbon crisis is increased reliance on nuclear power because wind and solar alternatives can only make minor contributions to our energy needs. In bold print he asserts, “If we cannot accept nuclear power as an irreplaceable part of the solution, how serious are we about the problem?”
Martin also rejects the position held by some Republicans that “Embryonic stem cells should not be used for research or therapy.” Martin respects the fear of “unethical commercialization and exploitation of human embryos.” But, he writes, that “it is hard to argue that using it for beneficial research is worse than destroying it as a biohazard.”
What about the Democrats’ anti-science positions?
Martin writes, “While the following statements do not characterize all progressive Democrats, it is from their ranks that we find those most likely to seek to:
“Protect us from vaccination.”
“Oppose food additives on the ground that synthetic chemicals are bad for us (implying falsely that natural chemicals are always better for us).”
“Ban genetically modified food, contrary to the best scientific evidence.”
“Block the construction of nuclear power plants… and the proper disposal of radioactive wastes, and “Prohibit the use of lab animals for medical research.”
Martin does not cite authorities for his conclusions that these “anti-science” positions are held more by Democrats than Republicans. It could be the other way around. For instance, with respect to support for required vaccinations, in 2015 NBC reported a Pew research poll finding that “in 2009, 71 percent of both Democrats and Republicans said vaccinations should be required. By last August, that number decreased to 65 percent for Republicans, but it’s increased to 76 percent for Democrats.”
In short, while Martin has introduced the possibility that Democrats are just as anti-science as Republicans, he has not scientifically proven it.
D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. For upcoming programs: www.unctv.org/ncbookwatch