Herman Cain Joins Mad Tea Party

10/17/2011 06:47 pm ET | Updated Dec 17, 2011

I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir, because I'm not myself, you see. -Alice in Wonderland

Making a move in GOP presidential primary politics has come to include taking obligatory antiscience positions. Candidates are making increasingly outlandish statements - statements that once would have disqualified serious candidates for president but now are oddly celebrated. You stop in Iowa, and New Hampshire, and then you swear on the bible that global warming is poppycock.

We're all mad here. -The Cheshire Cat

Sliding in the polls, antiscience Red Queen Michele Bachmann tried it herself, claiming that HPV vaccine causes "mental retardation." Newt Gingrich now says of stem cells that we are "killing children in order to have research materials." Santorum has always been a little off, thinking we should teach creationism in science classes. Ron Paul says that HPV vaccine is "not good medicine" even though it's recommended by medical experts because it prevents the leading cause of cervical cancer. The secret is social conservatives think it somehow promotes promiscuity by removing a horrible consequence of sex. Rick Perry claims that "the science is not settled" on climate change even though the US National Academies says climate changes should now be regarded as "settled facts." He favors biblically-based abstinence-only education in public schools despite the fact that Texas's teen birth rate is fifty percent above the national average. And of course there's the audiences, cheering executions and shouting for death for the uninsured - they might as well be shouting "off with their heads!"

Adventures first... explanations take such a dreadful time. -Gryphon

So obviously, to stay viable, Herman Cain had to let his antiscience freak flag fly and sample the tea at the mad party. "Manmade global warming is poppycock," Cain firmly told radio talk show host Mark Levin, sidling up to the doilied table. "In other words, I don't believe in it." Another cup, Herman?

Cain told listeners that "Look, if people look at the real data, the climate has varied ever since we have known that the planet was here." That is true, it has. But the climate has been relatively stable during the time humans have evolved; our evolution "fits" well with the current climate. Scientists are concerned that the rapid changes occurring under global warming may make the planet inhospitable for our biology, the economy, the environment, and civilization.

Curiouser and curiouser! -Alice

Cain went on to tell listeners an alternate version of reality that bears little relation to actual history. "And we know that those scientists who tried to concoct the science to say we had a hockey stick global warning [sic] and they were busted because they manipulated the data."

Speak English! I don't know the meaning of half those long words, and I don't believe you do either! -Eaglet

Just one problem. Cain's statement is completely false. Climate scientists have not been found to have concocted science or manipulated data. Cain is apparently referring to the illegal hacking of computers at the UK's Climate Research Unit by climate deniers, not climate scientists. The climate deniers then illegally posted the emails they stole on the internet and drew attention to ones they claimed cast doubt on climate scientists' motives. Despite the fact that he was traveling, climate denial blogger Anthony Watts somehow managed to identify and post the key most spinnable emails out of thousands within hours of the illegal posting. The scientists involved as well as the science have been investigated numerous times and the allegations of climate deniers were found to be false.

You're nothing but a pack of cards! -Alice

This is a central enough fact of both history and science that Cain should be aware of it as a serious candidate for president, suggesting that he is either dangerously ignorant, easily manipulated by propaganda, or purposely deceitful. None of these qualities is attractive in a presidential candidate. Whether we like them or not, facts are facts and history is what actually happened, not what we say happened or wish happened.

Ah but in this new topsy-turvy world, Alice, up is down, and antiscience ignorance is a virtue.

Here's a theme song for this new batch of anti-reason politicians. See if you can suggest a better one:

Get Shawn Lawrence Otto's important new book: Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, "a gripping analysis of America's anti-science crisis." --Starred Kirkus Review. An "incredible book" -- Starred Publishers Weekly review. Like him on Facebook. Listen to him of Science Friday. Join to get the presidential candidates to debate science.