It Is Time For A Presidential Debate On Science

We must adapt to the fact that over the last few decades it has become critical that our politicians and policymakers understand science and implement policy that is consistent with scientific facts. And it is past time that we made science enough of a priority to merit a presidential debate on science. The need is clear, these days policymakers must be able to respond in an informed fashion to new technologies, new scientific findings, and potential disasters (such as climate change). Despite the need for a scientifically-literate political leadership, we have a president who says the jury is still out on evolution, who promotes failed abstinence-only sex education programs, and refuses to make any substantive changes to address global warming.

We must do a better job vetting our politicians for scientific literacy and competence.

Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum at the Intersection have been working on a solution to this problem. They’ve gathered a coalition of luminaries to support a presidential debate on science in 2008. The mission statement reads:

Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness, we, the undersigned, call for a public debate in which the U.S. presidential candidates share their views on the issues of The Environment, Medicine and Health, and Science and Technology Policy.

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I agree wholeheartedly, the citizens of the United States deserve to know whether or not their political leaders are scientifically-informed, or actively hostile to science. Science has become too important to just be an afterthought in political elections, we must put it front-and-center. This is a brilliant idea and I’m thankful for Chris and Sheril’s leadership in putting this together.

I know what question I’d ask at such a debate. Which candidates would encourage congress and provide funding to bring back the OTA. After all, having a scientifically-literate leader is nice, but laying the foundation for long-term scientific policymaking is better.

You can support the scientific debate too. Let’s make this a reality.

Comments

  1. #1 Caledonian
    December 10, 2007

    Son of a… these events aren’t ‘debates’, people. They’re organized position statements. To be a debate, there would need to be a thesis, arguments made for and against, and criteria for evaluating those arguments.

    These publicity stunts? NOT DEBATES.

  2. #2 Valhar2000
    December 11, 2007

    Mark, this sort of thing will never happen in the US, certainly not before it self-destructs.

  3. #3 Suricou Raven
    December 11, 2007

    Evil science, threatening the freedom of Christians everywhere and our God-given history and princibles! Enabling the perversions of the homo-pedophiles, and the destructive murderous acts of the abortofeminists! We must crush this demonis false mythology, and restore the earth to its rightful place at the center!

  4. #4 Alex
    December 11, 2007

    We can only hope that this can happen Mark, and as for OTA, the best the President could do is ask Congress nicely to bring it back. Congress controls the pursestrings, so it is their call.

  5. #5 SLC
    December 11, 2007

    Re Caledonian

    Actually, it would be more correct to call these debates joint news conferences.

  6. #6 Crudely Wrott
    December 11, 2007

    I’m not sure how I would moderate such a debate. Would I restrict my judgments to only factual statements or would I cut some slack to the lack of precision in the opinions of my fellow man?

    All that aside, what, precisely, are we debating?

  7. #7 Billy (ALDV)
    December 12, 2007

    This will not happen as it would be a bad ‘investment’ for the candidates. About 85% of Americans describe themselves as ‘christians’ (though they spend a lot of time saying that other christians aren’t really christians). A majority of Americans say that faith is an important factor in choosing a president.

    What percentage of Americans are scientifically literate? I don’t know, but from encounters I have endured, I suspect it is small.

    So why would candidates risk cheesing off the religious majority in order to say something real to a minority?

    The republicans (not all, I know) have already blown off debates sponsered by African-American groups. Again, why talk to a minority when you can pander to a majority?

  8. #8 Suricou Raven
    December 12, 2007

    I remember a survey that said that only 15% (I think) of americans were Christians. It was carried out by a church, and they had defined Christian so narrowly that few outside of the church could qualify – the conditions were such that only YEC pro-life republican anti-gay evangelical protestants who didn’t use drugs or alcohol to excess or look at pornography could meet the standard. Everyone else they considered to be non-christian.