Welcome back to 2016 POTUS Candidates and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Today I’ll briefly look at former Governor Rick Perry, former Governor Jeb Bush, awful human being Donald Trump, and former governor Bobby Jindal.

Rick Perry

Quick biography of candidate

James Richard Perry was born 4 March 1950 in Paint Creek, Texas to Joseph Ray Perry and Amelia June Perry (née Holt). Rick grew up in that town before moving to the campus of Texas A&M University where he was a member of the Corps of Cadets, a student military organization, and where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in animal science. After graduating he was commissioned as an officer in the US Air Force, completed his pilot training, and flew C-130 Hercules on various assignments, including work in England, Germany, Mali, Mauritania, Chad, and Guatemala. After three years he returned to his family’s cotton farm. In 1984 he was elected to the Texas House of Representatives as a Democrat ( he changed parties in 1989), in 1990 he was elected Agriculture Commissioner, he was re-elected in 1994, in 1998 he was elected Lieutenant Governor, and when Governor George W. Bush moved to the White House, Rick became the Governor of Texas. Rick was re-elected in 2002, 2006, and 2010, and ran for the GOP Presidential nomination in 2012. After leaving that race he finished his third full term as Governor of Texas. Five months later he was running for President again.

Does this candidate have a STEM background?

Some. His undergraduate degree is in animal science and he served eight years as the Texas Commissioner of the Department of Agriculture, which does enforce/create some science-based state policy.

Jeb Bush

Quick biography of candidate

John Ellis Bush was born 11 February 1953 in Midland, Texas to George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush (née Pierce), the second out of five children (who survived childhood) in the Bush household. His family moved to Houston, and he attended high school at a boarding school in Massachusetts. During that time he taught English in León, Mexico where he met his eventual wife. He attended the University of Texas at Austin (BA, Latin American studies), then worked at the Texas Commerce Bank (including work in Caracas, Venezuela), then moved to Miami and worked real estate there. In 1980 and 1988 he volunteered on his father’s two Presidential campaigns. In 1987 he was appointed Secretary of Commerce for Florida, serving two years. In 1990 he lost a race for Florida Governor and returned to work in real estate and serve on the board of the Heritage Foundation think tank. He ran for Governor again in 1998 and won re-election in 2002. After serving two terms he returned to the private sector working as an adviser for several companies, including Tenet Healthcare and Lehman Brothers, and served as co-chair of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. He also has his own golf fundraiser, the Jeb Bush Florida Golf Classic.

Does this candidate have a STEM background?


Donald Trump

Quick political biography of candidate

Back in 1987 a Republican looked at Donald Trump and for whatever reason thought he was Presidential material (because he’s a rich white guy?). So he talked to Trump and Trump I guess had nothing better to do and so he changed his voter registration to Republican and made some noise about American international economic policies and then … didn’t run. But he claimed that if he had run, he would have won. In 1999 at-the-time Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura talked Trump into running for president, this time as a member of the Reform Party, and Trump changed his party registration to allow him to do so. He would have had Oprah as his running mate! He actually won two state primaries! But he was not the Reform Party candidate, they instead picked awful-person-in-a-slightly-different-way Pat Buchanan. He didn’t do much politically for a while (except change his voting registration to Democrat [2001] and then back to Republican [2009]) until 2011, when he started intentionally feeding an alarming xenophobia within the US by promoting the insultingly-incorrect notions that President Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii and that he did not earn his educational accomplishments. Trump has overtly and covertly told xenophobic Americans that he is one of them, and they have responded by pledging him support, because xenophobic Americans are not a fringe group of people, they’re a loud minority which is not going away any time so how do we keep these people from winning elections.

Does this candidate have a STEM background?

Nope. He doesn’t even remember his own medical background, including the background of his military medical deferment which kept him safe in 1968 from getting drafted into the US military grinder in Vietnam.

Bobby Jindal

Quick biography of candidate

Piyush Jindal was born 10 June 1971 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Amar and Raj Jindal (née Gupta), who had moved to the US from India just that January. He grew up there, attending the acclaimed Baton Rouge Magnet High School, and went to Brown University where he graduated in under three years with honors in two majors (biology and public policy). He went to the University of Oxford (M. Litt, political science) and then joined a consulting firm. While consulting he interned for a Louisiana US House member, while there he was introduced to Louisiana’s governor, who appointed him Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. From there he was appointed into a few other jobs including being appointed into the US Department of Health and Human Services in 2001. He resigned from that position in 2003 to run for governor (and lost), but then ran for an open US House seat and won in 2004. He won re-election in 2006, and then left the US House to serve as the newly-elected governor of Louisiana. He won re-election in 2011, and kept on being asked if he would run for President. In 2015 he said yes.

Does this candidate have a STEM background?

Yes. He acquired an undergraduate science degree, and his parents are both STEM-educated and employed.

How old do they think the world is?

Mr. Perry: the last time he was asked (August 2011), he said he had no idea other than that it’s “pretty old.” He grew up a member of the United Methodist Church, which doesn’t push a Young-Earth agenda, but he also attended Baptist services in his original hometown. In 2006 he stated that the Bible is without error. And since 2010 he’s been attending a evangelical Christian church in Austin which believes the Bible “is truth without any mixture of error.” So it’s possible he is unsure on what to say out loud.

I could not find an answer from Mr. Bush.

It doesn’t look like anyone has asked Mr. Trump this question.

I could not find an answer from Mr. Jindal.

Do they think humans naturally evolved from other apes?

Mr. Perry does not. In 2010 he called himself a “firm believer in Intelligent Design”, and in 2011 he said that evolutionary theory has “got some gaps in it.” The church he grew up in opposes the introduction of pseudoscience into public school science curricula so this might be another example wherein he has grown more theologically-conservative over time.


Mr. Bush does not. In 2005 he didn’t think evolution should be part of school curricula and he stated that he personally believed God “created man and all life on earth.” Back in 1998 he thought that Biblical creation should be taught in public schools along with evolution.

It doesn’t look like anyone has asked Mr. Trump this question.

Mr. Jindal probably does not. In September 2014 he avoided answering the question because he was “not an evolutionary biologist.” In 2008 he signed legislation which allowed public schools in Louisiana to teach, or not teach, “alternatives” to evolution as they saw fit. This legislation has not been well-received by any scientific or educational group that has reviewed it.

Do they think human activity is warming the planet?

Mr. Perry does not. In 2011 he accused climate scientists of committing fraud for financialgain, and argued that climate has been changing “ever since the earth was formed,” a fairly standard conservative non sequitur. In 2014 he was still arguing that the science wasn’t settled but that he wasn’t a scientist (… maybe he forgot his science undergraduate degree?)


Mr. Bush says yes. A little. Maybe. “I don’t think the science is clear on what percentage [of climate change] is man-made and what percentage is natural. It’s convoluted … and for the people to say the science is decided on this is just really arrogant…” he stated in May of 2015. This is in line with a 2011 statement of his that “it is not unanimous among scientists that [global warming] is disproportionately manmade.” So in April of 2015 he also seemed to support some kind of weak carbon emissions reductions. But in October of 2015 he didn’t think the EPA should be able to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump’s Twitter account angrily and vehemently says no. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps,and our GW scientists are stuck in ice” “Any and all weather events are used by the GLOBAL WARMING HOAXSTERS to justify higher taxes to save our planet! They don’t believe it $$$$!” Such insight. Much nuance.

Mr. Jindal says yes, a little, maybe. Back in 2014 he confusedly said that we should “let the scientists decide the underlying facts” while also wondering aloud that “the real question [about modern warming and human influence] is how much,” which seems like it’d be anunderlying fact that scientists could/have answered. His presumptive energy plan also wouldn’t reduce US fossil fuel consumption unless other countries also made reductions … while simultaneously withdrawing the US from global negotiations about ways to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Also he thinks that global warming-related policies are “an excuse for some who never liked free-market enterprises” to propose restrictions on economic growth.

Do they think that human lives begin at conception?

Mr. Perry does. In late 2011 he figured out that he opposes almost all abortions, the only exception being those which would prevent maternal death. In July of 2015 he used his campaign to pass on anti-choice misinformation about the sourcing of fetal tissue donations and urged increased financial pressures on Planned Parenthood.

Mr. Bush does (he said so in 1994), but not always with as strong of a conviction as some other GOP candidates do (which has not made abortion criminalization advocates happy). On one hand, he’s a supporter of legislation which would ban abortions after 20 weeks except in cases of rape, incest, or maternal health risk. But back in 2003 he argued for a court-appointed guardian for a younger fetus. So he has acted on his belief that fetal humans have full human rights, but he has maybe become less authoritarian about it over time?

Mr. Trump doesn’t seem to. He has previously been for not enacting further restrictions on abortion access; in 1999 he described himself as “very pro-choice”. But since 2011 he has been for putting further restrictions on abortion access. Now he is for criminalizing third-trimester abortions except in cases of rape, incest,or maternal health.

Mr. Jindal does. This article from 2003 summarized his answer, which was that he not in favor of legal abortions for any exception except maternal health, but he “supported” the use of emergency contraception, which some anti-abortion advocates strongly oppose. He mentioned in his 2010 book that he is pro-life and said that legal abortion access is a moral wrong turn for the US. In 2014 he stated he thinks the US Constitution should be amended to state that personhood begins at conception.

Executive summary

Rick Perry: His answer of “pretty old” on the age of the Earth is the only thing really going for his passing grade here. D, rhymes with three.


Jeb Bush: He’s basically stated that some science shouldn’t be taught in school. But at least he agrees, a little, that humans are affecting Earth’s climate. D, because he could be performing much better.

Donald Trump: This is truly the darkest timeline. F, please do not win any primaries.

Bobby Jindal: For a science-educated person his scientific policy actions and public statements are frustratingly poor. D-, just plain no good.

Next up from the GOP:

Chris Christie, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Jim Gilmore

Previous entries:

Ted Cruz

Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina

Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham

Images in post from Public Domain Pictures, Ethan Siegel’s blog at scienceblogs.com, Wikimedia user TimVickers’s modification of an illustration from Huxley’s 1863 book Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature, a blog that seems to have stopped adding new content, and a page at biologypop.com