Pope Francis followers as he arrives in St. Peter's Square for his weekly general audience, in the Vatican City on April 22, 2015.
Photo by Angelo Carconi/EPA

Santorum to Pope: Leave ‘science to the scientists’

Updated
Pope Francis’ interest in combating the climate crisis is, by all appearances, as serious as it is sincere. It’s an unwelcome development for many Republicans, who don’t seem to be responding well.
 
Take Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, for example. Jane C. Timm reported for msnbc today:
Santorum describes himself as a “huge fan” of the pope, but on “The Dom Giordano Show” on Monday, he said “the church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think that we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re really good at, which is … theology and morality.”
 
He continued, “When we get involved with political and controversial scientific theories, I think the church is probably not as forceful and credible.”
It really is amazing to see conservatives, who generally want religious leaders to help guide people through the major challenges of the day, suddenly say the exact opposite when the pope demands action on the climate crisis.
 
It’s also fascinating to see Santorum make the case that somehow a global threat to much of the planet’s human population is divorced from questions of “morality.”
 
And while we’re at it, Pope Francis also happens to have a post-graduate degree in chemistry*. He arguably brings more credibility to the subject of science than the conservative former senator.
 
Over at The New Republic, Rebecca Leber added that while the GOP presidential candidate doesn’t want the pope to politicize science, Santorum has done exactly that many, many times.
“Is the climate warming?” Santorum said on CNN in January. “Clearly over the past, you know, 15 or 20 years, yes. The question is, is man having a significant impact on that.” He’s questioned the well-established link between air pollution and diseases: “If you look at mercury … there are particles all over the place. The question is, are they having any impact on public health?”
 
He’s even compared President Barack Obama’s climate policies to a religion.”[Obama] is against fossil fuels, for his own, in my mind, quasi-religious reasons, which is not a rationale. If someone would go forward and put forth a religious idea as to how we should regulate the environment, and it was based on a Christian or other types of religious [ideas], they would be condemned up and down.” (At least Obama’s policies are grounded in science, unlike Santorum’s rhetoric.)
So what are we left with? A curious argument: Republicans want religious leaders to influence public debates, except on climate change, unless the religious leaders agree with Republicans. Similarly, politicizing science is wrong, unless Republicans are doing it in the most unscientific ways possible.

* Update: Though there are multiple reports of the pope having a master’s degree in chemistry, those reports have since been called into question. His official Vatican bio says Francis “graduated as a chemical technician,” but it does not specify what level of education he completed.
 

Climate Change, Global Warming, Pope, Pope Francis and Rick Santorum

Santorum to Pope: Leave 'science to the scientists'

Updated