Before you get too excited about the headline, let’s make it clear that this happened in the context of Gov. Rick Perry seeking the Republican nomination for president. So while it would be great to be able to say that Gov. Perry has offered mainstream science a sincere Texan bear hug, it’s more likely that his defense of science was commanded by the politics of the day.
This all originates from Monday’s Republican presidential debate.
Gov. Perry has appeared in recent weeks to be locked in a two-man race for the nomination with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Many political observers believe part of Gov. Perry’s strategy to win the war against Gov. Romney is winning the battle for the votes of social conservatives against U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, herself not exactly a champion for science.
Which brings us to Monday’s debate in which Gov. Perry was hit hard for his controversial move to mandate the HPV vaccine for girls in Texas. Throwing some of the hardest punches was Rep. Bachmann, who in an interview after the debate said a tearful woman approached her to say her daughter suffered mental retardation because of the vaccine.
Gov. Perry pounced:
“I think that was a statement that had no truth in it, no basis in fact.”
It appears that Gov. Perry has his mainstream science down pat on this one. CBS news reports that according to the Centers for Disease Control, 35 million doses of the vaccine have been given since 2006 with zero reports of it causing mental retardation.
So when the political winds demand it (read: when he’s trying to defend a controversial decision he made), Gov. Perry is all well and good with science. This is in stark contrast with the Gov. Perry who claims there are “gaps” in evolutionary science and that climate change science is a scam perpetrated by money-grubbing scientists. Those other claims — to paraphrase Gov. Perry — have no truth in them, no basis in fact.
It’s sad for the children of Texas that when Gov. Perry says something that is actually grounded in mainstream scientific fact, it inspires a sense of irony. And it’s a kettle-pot moment when the governor calls out another candidate for a loose grasp of scientific knowledge.
Now if only we could get Rep. Bachmann to embrace evolution and climate change science.