To keep the conversation about the Science Debate 2008 going, I decided to post, one per day, my ideas for potential questions to be asked at such a debate. The questions are far too long, though, consisting more of my musings than real questions that can be asked on TV (or radio or online, wherever this may end up happening). I want you to:
– correct my factual errors
– call me on my BS
– tell me why the particular question is counterproductive or just a bad idea to ask
– if you think the question is good, help me reduce the question from ~500 to ~20 words or so.
Here is the first one, so comment away!
Advancements in science and society have brought in new technologies over the past decades and centuries, so today we have to deal with the consequences of uses of such technologies that previous generations did not have to deal with, ranging from reproductive technologies to global warming, from ecosystem protection to bioterrorism. More and more policy decisions are heavily dependent on good understanding of the underlying science. Thus, there is an increased need for good science advice to the President and the Congress, as well as good implementation of science policies devised and enacted by the President and the Congress.
Unfortunately, empirical knowledge of the way the world works stands in the way of ideologically motivated policies, thus some politicians and some of their allies in the business community and/or religious community have systematically suppressed science and ignored scientific advice. First, in 1994, one of the first acts of the Gingrich Congress was to eliminate the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment. President G.W.Bush demoted the office of the Presidential Science Advisor who in previous administrations was a member of the Cabinet present at daily meetings and who had the ear of the President instantly whenever needed. The President’s Council on Bioethics has been systematically filled with far-Rightwing ideologues. The Federal scientific, health and environmental agencies are now headed by party loyalists with no scientific background who act as censors of the research produced by the agency scientists. Finally, the reports of the National Academy of Science were ignored or even openly dismissed by the current President.
If elected President, what do you intend to do to make sure that you receive trustworthy scientific information and that your policies are based on the best available empirical knowledge about the world? What do you see as the primary role of the Presidential Science Advisor? In what way, if any, would you change the current federal framework of implementing science-related policy?