The Intersection

i-8808a1a70f2b4c43ecb40c250ca68be3-sciencedebate2008.jpg Okay: In the further further interest of promoting a presidential debate on science, Sheril and our ScienceDebate2008 ringleader, Matthew Chapman, have now published a great piece on HuffingtonPost announcing and elaborating on the idea.

Larry Krauss and I, in the LA Times, pretty much made the case (not very hard to make) for why the candidates ought to debate science and technology policy. But Chapman-Kirshenbaum go further, seeking to clear up some misconceptions about precisely what we are proposing:

Our idea, which is already flourishing in the blogosphere, has generated great enthusiasm, but also received some initial criticisms. One of these is the suggestion that the candidates simply are not equipped to talk about science. We disagree. The candidates do not need a degree in economics in order to talk about the economy, nor do they require one in science in order to discuss science.

We are not proposing a pop quiz or an argument, but rather, we are suggesting an illuminating debate. The electorate should have the opportunity to hear the candidates discuss their policy positions on our many scientific and technological challenges, what their ethical positions are in relation to them, and what their aspirations are.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that too many people are laboring under the misconception that we are calling for some type of science quiz. But some are, and it’s important to emphasize that we consider that pretty pointless. The idea is not to establish that a particular candidate knows a particular fact at a particular time–but rather, to show that candidate has a grasp of the importance of science to decision-making and the economy.

In any event, it seems that the ScienceDebate2008 idea is really inspiring people. Bora tallies 100 blog posts on it now, and our Facebook group just past 1,000 members…grassroots, netroots, whatever, this idea has a future.

Comments

  1. #1 Emily
    December 12, 2007

    Although with the writers’ strike still going on, it looks like reality tv is poised to take over our sets in 2008 – and presidential candidate “are you smarter than a high school science student” might just be the ticket to winning the ratings war with American Idol…

  2. #2 Abel Pharmboy
    December 12, 2007

    To support the idea that none of us would intend for the debate to be a “quiz,” here is a perfect example of where to start from a commenter on my post:

    Brilliant idea! If this happens, I hope someone will ask the mildly philosophical question, “If you don’t know the answer to a question of science or technology, where would you turn to find out?”

    It’s not dissimilar from what Chris talked about on his RWoS book tour when he played the recording of Bush saying, “I’m not a geologist.” That’s fine. We acknowledge that of our leaders. The questions are whether they will consult the experts, weight the evidence, and develop policies supported by science.

  3. #3 bob koepp
    December 12, 2007

    “The questions are whether they will consult the experts, weight the evidence, and develop policies supported by science.”

    I think this boils down to whether they will consult the experts, since it requires some level of expertise to properly weigh evidence, and thus, to judge reasonably well what policies might actually be supported by science.
    So maybe the “debates” should consist of an opportunity for each candidate to say how experts would be recognized.

    The question of how to recognize expertise might get interesting. Consider Hansen and Lindzen.

  4. #4 SLC
    December 12, 2007

    I have a suggestion that might help to clarify the issues here. Suppose that a debate (really a joint news conference) were agree to, and Dr. Kirshenbaum and/or Mr Mooney were appointed moderator(s) of such an event. As an example of how she/he/they would proceed, provide a list of 10 questions to be posed to the candidates.

  5. #5 Kevin
    December 12, 2007

    “The questions are whether they will consult the experts, weight the evidence, and develop policies supported by science.”

    When the president sits down with his foreign policy experts it is expected that he/she understands the language of foreign policy and can be a meaningful participant in the discussion. When the president sits down with his economic experts it is expected that he/she understands the language of economics and can be a meaningful participant in the discussion. It is reasonable to expect a president to be able to speak the language of science and to engage in a serious discussion of science issues and policy.

    I don’t expect any of the candidates (other than Dr Ron Paul, who continues to practice medicine in addition to being a congressman)) to have any personal expertise in doing science. I would hope that they could sit through a science briefing and follow what was being discussed in a meaningful way.
    It is certainly not a capacity that GWB demonstrates.

  6. #6 Norman Doering
    December 12, 2007

    Would it be possible to get some newsmen on your side, people like Keith Olbermann, Anderson Cooper or Tim Russert? The bloggosphere is probably less noticed than the TV newssphere.