The scientific views of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders

You might have missed it because it didn’t receive as much media attention, but Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont announced his candidacy for the presidential nomination yesterday. This makes him the first official contender squaring off against Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee.

Senator Sanders is currently serving in the senate representing Vermont, and before that was the congressman from the same state for nearly 20 years. As both a congressman and senator, Mr. Sanders is officially an independent, although he caucuses with the democrats.

Climate Change

Senator Sanders has a good record of accepting the science of climate change. He received one of the highest rankings from Climate Hawks Vote, a group that scores senators’ based on their statements, legislation, votes, etc regarding climate change. Senator Sanders has also directly challenged his fellow senators when they write off the dire warnings coming from the vast majority of scientists who study climate. For example, he scolded Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma for his statements that the recent changes in temperature are merely part of a routine cycle: “The bottom line is that when Senator Inhofe says global warming is a hoax, he is just dead wrong, according to the vast majority of climate scientists.”

Theory of Evolution

Unlike the other candidates so far, I was unable to find a single statement from Senator Sanders on his views of the theory of evolution. If readers know of a stance he’s made one way or the other, leave a link in the comments.

Vaccinations

Senator Sanders has said “I think obviously vaccinations work. Vaccination has worked for many, many years. I am sensitive to the fact that there are some families who disagree but the difficulty is if I have a kid who is suffering from an illness who is subjected to a kid who walks into a room without vaccines that could kill that child and that’s wrong.” That statement doesn’t directly address the recent issue of many people fearing a link between vaccines and autism despite the scientific evidence overwhelmingly showing no link. However, when combined with another incident in which Senator Sanders brushed off arguments made by Robert Kennedy Jr. that vaccines are causing autism, I think it is safe to say that Mr. Sanders is accepting the scientific evidence on the issue.

Funding Sciences

Senator Sanders has introduced legislation to make some dramatic changes to research funding. The main purpose of his legislation is not to increase or decrease research funding, but instead to reduce the cost of health products to citizens. His website says “his proposal would also reduce wasteful spending on research, development and marketing.” Unfortunately there is not any further discussion of what he considers wasteful spending on research. From the context it seems to imply that any research that is not directly dedicated to producing a new medication or treatment for a known disease. But of course the research projects directly developing and testing treatments for disease are relying on a large scope of basic science research. That is, in order to develop a new treatment for some disease, you first need basic information about the disease, about the system that disease occurs in, etc. It would be a grave mistake to limit science funding on only those grants that are directly testing new treatments and medications for existing diseases!

All in all, Senator Sanders appears to be pretty friendly to science. He at least seems to allow scientific evidence to shape his opinions, a trait sorely needed among our political leaders in my very humble opinion.

Politicus Cerebri

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