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Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie derides Kerry's political science degree at climate change hearing

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Posted at 1:27 AM, Apr 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-12 04:09:01-04

A House committee hearing about the dangers of climate change took a sour personal turn Wednesday, when Northern Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie began quizzing former Secretary of State John Kerry about his educational history.

The point of contention: Kerry’s Yale University bachelor’s degree in political science and whether it disqualified him from being a reliable source of information or opinion about climate change.

“Isn’t it true you have a science degree from Yale?” Massie, an MIT graduate with a degree in robotics, asked.

Kerry corrected him: “Bachelor of arts degree.”

“Is it a political science degree?”

Kerry confirmed it was. After a short back-and-forth, Massie arrived at his point: “It’s not really science. So I think it’s somewhat appropriate that somebody with a pseudoscience degree is here pushing pseudoscience in front of our committee today.”

“Are you serious?” Kerry replied. “Is this really serious? This is really happening here?”

The tone of the conversation deteriorated from there. Massie would later assert on Twitter that Kerry’s admission that he held a political science degree proved he didn’t have a science degree, “even though his degree says ‘science.’”

(At no point in the hearing did Kerry bring up his own educational history unprompted or claim to be a working scientist.)

Massie’s tweet had accrued 3,000 likes, 1,100 retweets and over 11,000 replies — most of them mocking him — by Thursday night.

“He’s also married even though he has a bachelors degree!” one Twitter user wrote. “It’s a double scandal!”

Massie stuck to his guns, writing in one reply: “It’s an academic pursuit, but it’s not a science, and it’s a lousy degree for employment. Was glad to hear Kerry admit that it’s not a science. At MIT, you can substitute it for an arts or humanities requirement.”

Most definitions disagree with him, prominent among them Merriam-Webster’s description of political science as “a social science concerned chiefly with the description and analysis of political and especially governmental institutions and processes.”

The broader question of whether social sciences such as sociology, anthropology, linguistics, psychology and political science should be grouped in the same category as fields of physical science such as chemistry, robotics and engineering remains a subject of debate among scientists of both stripes.

General scientific consensus, including research done primarily by physical scientists at organizations such as NASA, the American Geophysical Union, the American Medical Association, the American Meteorological Society, the American Physical Society, the Geological Society of America and the United States National Academy of Sciences, also disagrees with Massie’s position that climate change is not a pressing or man-made problem.