Happy Tuesday! Today we got the announcement of our second official candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Rand Paul made it official today in a post on his website.
Rand Paul has been serving as a Senator from Kentucky since 2011. He comes from a political family; his father, Ron Paul, was a congressmen for 16 years, and also ran for President 3 times. The Paul family generally aligns as libertarian leaning Republicans, and I’m assuming Senator Paul’s first name, Rand, is a nod to the libertarian author Ayn Rand.
As each candidate officially announces their candidacy, I am going to run through a small litmus test of their positions on science. I’ve chosen to look up their positions on climate change, the theory of evolution, their position on vaccinations, and their votes on funding the sciences. With Rand Paul, the theme that arises as I try to probe through his previous statements to find his positions on these matters was that he works very, very hard not to give a position on anything. I gave Ted Cruz knocks for misreading the science, but I give Senator Paul harder knocks for refusing to take clear positions.
Senator Paul is all over the place when it comes to the Climate Change debate. He voted in favor of a Republican resolution which included the words “human activity contributes to climate change” but in the same day voted against a Democratic bill that used the words “human activity significantly contributes to climate change”. His position seem to be that he agrees the climate is changing, but is unconvinced that human activity plays any part. I’m being generous here though because he never really states that position very clearly.
I can’t find a direct quote endorsing or opposing evolution, but he did refuse to answer a question about how old the Earth was. I’m gonna lump this in the same category. He was asked the question at a homeschoolers convention, which tends to be a very conservative, evangelical crowd. The age of the Earth is not at all controversial as far as science is concerned; that debate was settled a century ago. One can only assume his refusal to answer is either because he accepts the science viewpoint and was afraid that answering honestly would burn bridges with the evangelical crowd, or he doesn’t accept the science and was afraid answering honestly would burn bridges with rational people. In a more recent interview he said “The earth is 4.5 billion years old, and so, you are going to say we had four hurricanes and so that proves a theory? No.” Now, from the context of his quote I’m not sure he was stating the age of the Earth as a fact, or if he was speaking as a hypothetical scientist. And I definitely don’t want to put words in his mouth when he’s working so hard to say nothing. So I guess we don’t know what his views on this are, but we do know he’s afraid to stand up for them.
In an interview recently, Senator Paul said “I’ve heard many tragic cases of walking, talking normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines.” During later questions about his controversial comments he worked hard to walk it back saying “But I didn’t allege there is a connection. I said I heard of people who believe there is a connection.” Once again, pretty slippery. Perhaps we can find what Senator Paul really thinks by observing what he does instead of what he says. He has three children of his own, and has said that they all got vaccinated.
Rand Paul is an extreme budget cutter. He introduced a bill in 2011 that proposed to slash funding for the Centers for Disease Control by 28 percent, the National Institutes of Health by 37 percent, and the National Science Foundation by 62 percent. Fortunately that bill didn’t get passed because any one of those cuts would have had disastrous consequences for our Nation’s science research!