Scientific views of new presidential candidate Carly Fiorina

This will be a busy week of announcements. This morning we awoke to the news that Carly Fiorina has officially announced that she is running for the Republican presidential nomination. Mrs. Fiorina has never held elected office, although she ran for a senate seat in California in 2010. Instead of politics, her experience comes from the private sector. Carly was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard for six years.

Now that she has made her presidential campaign official, let’s examine her scientific views. I have been examining views and positions on three issues for each candidate, climate change, the theory of evolution, and vaccinations. The reason I chose these is because all three are relatively controversial, but all three have overwhelming scientific evidence supporting one side. That is, these issues are only controversial if you use something other than scientific evidence to shape your views and opinions. If you just use currently known facts to base your views and beliefs then you should come down solidly on only one side with all three of these topics.

Climate Change

With a lot of candidates, finding a definitive statement or position on a slippery topic is tough. Mrs. Fiorina has been pretty clear on her views of climate change. At an event in New Hampshire she said “There is a lot of consensus among the scientists that climate change is real and human activity contributes to it. But there is also absolute consensus among the same scientists that a single nation acting along can make no difference at all.”

Mrs. Fiorina clearly accepts the science on climate change. She stresses that the solution will be found in innovation and technology rather than regulation by governments. “The only answer to this is innovation, and in that America could be the best in the world. Because we will not have a harmonized regulatory regime.” It is refreshing to see a candidate who looks for different solutions to the problem rather than resorting to denying the problem’s existence because the solution is unpalatable.

The theory of evolution

The theory of evolution doesn’t come up in day to day discussions as much as it used to. Usually the issue that brings it to the forefront is attempts to teach non-scientific theories about the diversity of species in public classrooms. I couldn’t find any direct quotes from the candidate regarding this issue. There is a fairly good chance that the question will be asked directly over the course of the campaign, and I’ll update this section when she makes a statement.

Vaccinations

Again Mrs. Fiorina appears to be factoring in evidence into her stance on vaccinations. I couldn’t find a direct quote regarding the supposed link  between vaccines and autism, but she has made statements about vaccines. “I think there’s a big difference between — just in terms of the mountains of evidence we have — a vaccination for measles and a vaccination when a girl is 10 or 11 or 12 for cervical cancer just in case she’s sexually active at 11. So, I think it’s hard to make a blanket statement about it. I certainly can understand a mother’s concerns about vaccinating a 10-year-old.” In the same statement she also said “I think vaccinating for measles makes a lot of sense. But that’s me. I do think parents have to make those choices.”

I think it is a fair reading to say that she thinks vaccinations are safe, effective, and advised. And again, it is refreshing that she backs up those statements by pointing to the evidence at hand. Her caveats seem to be about government requiring vaccinations to parents who feel otherwise.

Science funding

Since Mrs. Fiorina has never held elected office it is hard to find evidence about her science funding priorities. The closest I could find to her vision of funding was from a post she wrote during her 2010 senatorial election in which she proposed starting every governmental department’s budget at zero dollars and adding funding for things as needed, as opposed to starting with the previous year’s budget as the starting point. That would likely have big ramifications on science funding; stability is critical given that most research projects take many, many years to reach fruition. However, it does not make clear what level of priority she would give science funding if she were in charge.

Politicus Cerebri

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