Logic bomb: campaign edition

I have been following on Twitter all of the major Presidential hopefuls in the Republican Party, plus President Obama, and the major fact-checking and political reporting organizations (you can find them in my Twitter list, https://twitter.com/#!/drsekula/u-s-political-spotlight). I peruse it daily for claims and subsequent fact-checks. It’s also a useful way to put the good-old Sagan Baloney Detector to work.

Here’s a gem, with commentary from my brain, from the gift-that-keeps-on-giving, Sen. Rick Santorum:


Abraham Lincoln once said 'Important principles may & must be inflexible.' On his BDay we should remember these true words from great leader
Abraham Lincoln once said 'Important principles may & must be inflexible.' On his BDay we should remember these true words from great leader
Obama is wrong. Government cannot force you to pay for something that violates faith or beliefs. Govt has no right to do this.
Obama is wrong. Government cannot force you to pay for something that violates faith or beliefs. Govt has no right to do this.

This is one of those rhetorical inconsistency moments that makes my brain bleed. I’ve always been impressed at how a skilled politician can hold two opposing ideas in their mind and apply them as if nothing is wrong or inconsistent. The first tweet appeared at 8:20 pm Central Time on Feb. 12, and the second arrived at 9:35am on Feb. 13. Here’s what my brain went through.

  • (After reading the first tweet): No person or institution made of people should ever sacrifice their principles; they must stand by their principles even in the face of disagreement or opposition. Such a philosophy allows government to force schools to desegregate, even in the face of opposition to blacks and whites being educated together in the same space. Such a philosophy allows mixed-race couples to marry, something opposed by the state of Virginia until the Supreme Court ruled anti-miscegenation unconstitutional in 1967. Such a philosophy allows science to be funded by the federal government even when such science runs afoul of specific religious tenets or personal value systems. Such a principle allows a government of the People, by the People, and for the People to be taxed for public programs with which they may have a strong disagreement: social security, medicare, medicaid, the military, scientific research, etc.
  • (After reading the second tweet): Government, of the People, by the People, and for the People, has no right to force you to pay for things that run afoul of your personal belief system. If you don’t believe that the Universe is more than 6000 years old, you shouldn’t be forces to support the U.S. Geological Survey or research in physics; if you don’t believe that medicine can heal people and that only prayer and faith can save lives, you should not be force to pay for public vaccination programs, the National Institutes of Health, or the Center for Disease Control. If you believe that war is a fundamental evil, regardless of the cause, you should not be forced to pay taxes that support a large and organized volunteer military force. If you believe that religion must play a role in all aspects of public education, from science to language, then you should not be forces to pay for public schools. If you believe that mixed-race marriages are banned by the Bible, or slavery is allowed by the Bible, you shouldn’t have to pay for enforcement of laws that run counter to your personal belief system.

This is why people like Santorum will make terrible Presidents. Based on dichotomous philosophies like these, it is impossible to understand the basis of their decision-making system. It cannot be based on reason and logic; the above schism points to a willingness to hold positions of convenience only to one’s own belief system, regardless of the advice or expertise of others. If we cannot trust the method by which people like Santorum make decisions, we should not appoint them to direct our Government.

I promise you this: if Santorum ever became President, he would abandon “Principle #2” above immediately. He would force his personal belief system on his Government, and by proxy on the People. Because a nation based on principle #2 can make no progress, and would devolve into anarchy.


The following are statements from Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum, juxtaposed with images of the scientific evidence. See how long you can keep your brain from hemorrhaging. These statements were made at the Colorado Energy Summit on Monday, Feb. 6.

Polluted water near Dakshinkali Temple.“We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit.

“We are the intelligent beings that know how to manage things and through the course of science and discovery if we can be better stewards of this environment, then we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create.” (Rick Santorum)




Total heat content of oceans, ice, atmosphere, and land. Overlaid is the change in atmospheric CO2 levels during the same time period.

“I for one never bought the hoax. I for one understand just from science that there are one hundred factors that influence the climate. To suggest that one minor factor of which man’s contribution is a minor factor in the minor factor is the determining ingredient in the sauce that affects the entire global warming and cooling is just absurd on its face. And yet we have politicians running to the ramparts — unfortunately politicians who happen to be running for the Republican nomination for president — who bought into man-made global warming and bought into cap and trade.” (Rick Santorum)


Quotes from Rick Santorum are from [1]. The photo of polluted water is from [2]. The data for the total change in Earth’s heat content since 1961 is from [3], and the CO2 data (which I overlaid on the heat content plot) is from [4].

[1] http://www.realaspen.com/article/1039/On-the-campaign-trail-Santorum-calls-climate-change-a-hoax-Gingrich-a-self-described-amateur-paleontologist

[2] http://www.flickr.com/photos/ankraut/538294558/sizes/m/in/photostream/

[3] http://www.forbes.com/sites/petergleick/2012/02/05/global-warming-has-stopped-how-to-fool-people-using-cherry-picked-climate-data/2/, with original data from http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2011/2011GL048794.shtml

[4] ftp://ftp.cmdl.noaa.gov/ccg/co2/trends/co2_annmean_mlo.txt

From the Texas Freedom Network: 2011 Anti-science Quotes

Fresh from the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), here are their favorite anti-science quotes of the year: http://tfninsider.org/2011/12/26/2011-in-quotes-the-war-on-science/. By “favorite,” I of course mean the quotes that probably ensaddened the staff at TFN.

TFN ” . . . is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of more than 50,000 religious and community leaders. Based in Austin, the Texas Freedom Network acts as the state’s watchdog, monitoring far-right issues, organizations, money and leaders.” (http://www.tfn.org/site/PageServer?pagename=TFN_homepage)

Henry Waxman’s great analogy about the denial response to climate science

From a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power [1]:

“If my doctor told me I had cancer, I wouldn’t scour the country to find someone to tell me that I don’t need to worry about it. Just because I didn’t feel gravely ill yet, I wouldn’t assume that my doctor was falsifying the data. And if my doctor said he didn’t know how long I had to live, I wouldn’t say, well, if he’s uncertain about that, he’s probably wrong about the whole thing.” [Henry Waxman, D-CA]

[1] http://www.aip.org/fyi/2011/032.html?source=rssfyi