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Are Scientists Becoming the New Priests?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
"I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy," GOP presidential hopeful and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman recently tweeted. You've got to hand it to Huntsman; he sure knows how to endear himself to folks who won't vote in the Republican primary.

Huntsman has said that he fears that the GOP will be perceived as the "anti-science party." That is, he gave a nod to Democrats' conceit that theirs is the party of science. Why? Because the Dems don't tolerate questions about evolution or global warming.

For the record, I believe in evolution. But I also have respect for those who see God's handiwork in the process -- and see little reason to try to marginalize those with different personal beliefs.

I also share the skepticism voiced by a number of scientists -- yes, scientists -- who reject global warming orthodoxy in defiance of a political/academic machine that enforces submission to one view. Those who do not agree with alarmist predictions on climate change do so at their careers' peril.

As then-Delaware state climatologist David Legates told me in 2007, he would tell students who were not true believers of global warming, "If you don't have tenure at a major research university, keep your mouth shut."

Huntsman's reverential tone, however, suggests that university science departments are havens of harmony, with scientists as priestlike figures to whose greater wisdom the public should defer.

With scientists on this pedestal, who needs religion? It's worth noting that among the Obama ticket and GOP field, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Ron Paul probably have the strongest science backgrounds. Perry -- a farmer, rancher and former Air Force pilot -- has a degree in animal science from Texas A&M University. Paul was an Air Force flight surgeon and then a practicing physician until 1996.

Both Perry and Paul are global warming skeptics. Paul rejects evolution outright, whereas Perry calls evolution "a theory."

Huntsman majored in international politics. Hence, he's made his decision to "trust scientists on global warming." Trust? Scientists know things that non-scientists don't know, but they are human, which makes them fallible. And as recent events have shown, not all scientists are above the political fray.

Consider Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. In 2009, Chu's staff approved a $535 million loan guarantee to the solar company Solyndra. Within two years, despite that half-billion in taxpayer dollars, Solyndra announced last week it was filing for bankruptcy, shuttering its remaining plant and laying off 1,100 workers. That was one miscalculation. Mistakes happen.

But the biggest blunder was made not by a scientist, but by a politician who so trusted the hollow promises of the climate change lobby that he bet the U.S. economy on green jobs that never did proliferate. That was President Barack Obama, and you see the fruit of his misguided faith.

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