Friday, January 18, 2008

Science Debate 2008

As you can tell, I have been one of the bloggers hoping to see a Science Debate 2008 take place. The list of "big names" who have endorsed the proposal is growing each day. It now includes 20 Nobel laureates and 25 University President but no political pundits. So, maybe the organizers have a chance to manipulate opinion before it happens.

However, the mainstream media has not said a word about this. I mean not the NY or LA Times, not the Washington Post. I had to read about it in John Scholfields's column in the Wichita Eagle. He does a pretty good job of making the point.

Presidential race needs science debate

Science and technology are central to many of America's most pressing challenges and controversies: Climate change. Energy independence. Stem cell research. Nuclear proliferation. And on and on.

You wouldn't know that, though, by listening to the presidential debates so far.

If these questions do come up, they're often swiftly dispatched with a boilerplate answer or two.

Too often, science is pushed to the sidelines of presidential debates to make way for presumably weightier topics, such as whether Hillary Clinton is really likable or whether Dennis Kucinich saw a UFO.

In one forum, Mike Huckabee responded to a question about a proposed Mars mission by suggesting that Clinton should be the first passenger.

OK. But can we get serious for a moment?

The next president faces difficult, historic decisions in science and technology that will shape our country's future for decades to come.

That's why voters should support a bipartisan effort now gaining steam to hold a presidential science debate.
These are serious times and almost everything we talk about has roots in the reality of science. The role of the Science adviser in the Bush Administration has been to sell his neo-con policies, not to advise the president as to how science informs his decisions. The Democratic Congress has not seen enough value to re-establish the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. It appears that they also like to put ideology ahead of the science.

Scholfield ends his column with some questions about which we need better answers. The pundits moderating MSM debates have not seen fit to ask them. For that matter, neither did the moderators of the Green Party Debate. It is time we found a way to hear just how well prepared the candidates are.
No one expects them to be experts on nuclear physics or the intricacies of evolutionary theory. But voters deserve to know whether a candidate has some scientific literacy, is comfortable discussing and evaluating technological issues, and employs good science and standards of evidence in decision-making.

Among the questions that could be asked at a debate:

Is it realistic for the United States to achieve energy independence? How do we get there?

What is the government's role in fostering innovation and the new generation of alternative energy technology?

How can our schools better prepare students to compete in science and mathematics?

Should creationism and intelligent design be taught in our schools?

How do you assess the evidence for climate change, and are specific measures needed to control greenhouse gases?

What is the future of NASA's manned space program?

How can we continue to attract the world's best and brightest scientists to study and live here?

Democrats charge that under President Bush, scientists' advice has been censored and politicized. Is that true? If so, what would you do to restore the integrity of science?

Americans deserve clear, specific answers to these and a host of other questions.

Admittedly, a science debate will be difficult to pull off amid the tight election-year schedule. Don't expect the candidates to jump at the opportunity. But a growing number of leading science organizations, university presidents, business leaders and politicians are endorsing the idea.

The timing is right for citizens to make a difference.

To get involved, check out the group's Web site at and sign the petition. At the very least, let the candidates and media know you want a more meaningful discussion of science policy.

We can't afford not to talk about science and innovation. America's future depends on it.

1 comment:

John Benac said...

Giuliani has started something wonderful. He has stated that he will fund manned missions to the Moon and Mars and he will shorten the gap that America is without space access. He has set a early precedent for these roundtable discussions that all of the candidates will have time to accept after completing tomorrow's primaries clear up their calendar a bit. It is up to us to put the pressure on the other candidates to follow Giuliani's lead. has links to all of the candidates email addresses as well as their phone numbers.

Go to and contact the candidates in grassroots fashion with high numbers to get more support for a Moon and Mars mission!