The Intersection

If we can get the world of science to speak with one voice on the matter, it will become harder and harder for politicians to resist the call for a presidential science debate.

Today, that moves much closer to reality with the official news that the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society, will support and endorse ScienceDebate2008. AAAS CEO Alan Leshner has also joined our bipartisan steering committee (which both Sheril and myself sit on).

You can read the full news release here. And for those who keep asking what is next for ScienceDebate2008, note closely the press release’s final line: “Otto said the group has set a date for mid-April and will be formally inviting the candidates in the coming several weeks.”

No power in the ‘verse can stop us….



  1. #1 Sheril R. Kirshenbaum
    January 23, 2008

    We’re doing the impossible, and that makes SD08 mighty.

  2. #2 Steve Bloom
    January 23, 2008

    Wow, this has gone way farther than I thought it would. Congrats! I have a comment and some questions:

    Under the Science and Technology Policy category, I think a place should be added for earth-observing sensor capabilities (sats and on-planet).

    Are the debate rules posted somewhere? I couldn’t find them. What is the standard for determining whether a candidate is viable enough to participate? Even assuming a fairly strict one, there’s an excellent chance that in a couple of months there will be one Democrat and two Republicans (and other unequal combos are possible depending on the criteria), so if something like that happens how will a level playing field be maintained?

  3. #3 Fred Bortz
    January 23, 2008

    As impressive as this endorsement is, and as much as I’d like to see the debate happen, I think we need a dose of realism here.

    We still need a leading business or political organization, not another group of scientists, to argue that science–and especially science and technology policy–is vital to the nation’s future and merits a debate all its own.

    I hope I’m wrong about this, but I don’t think the AAAS endorsement changes things much. After all, to the politicians, they’re a bunch of prominent people who want to advance their own professional agenda.

  4. #4 agnostic
    January 23, 2008


  5. #5 David Bruggeman
    January 23, 2008

    I’m inclined to agree with Fred. I’d wager the number of members of Congress that know anything about AAAS is slightly larger than the number of people sitting on the science committees in both houses.

    Someone (I’m looking at Mr. Augustine) should push hard with the Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers and/or the Business Roundtable. They’d provide more traction than the greybeard retired business leaders you have on board.

    Remember what happened to the leaf on the wind.

  6. #6 Jon Winsor
    January 23, 2008

    Great work, guys! It’s a great idea, so I’m not surprised people are getting behind it.

    A bit off topic, but did you see this David Brooks column yesterday?

    The Reagan administration had its pragmatists and its so-called ideologues…

    But then a great tightening occurred. Conservative institutions and interest groups proliferated in Washington. The definition of who was a true conservative narrowed. It became necessary to pass certain purity tests — on immigration, abortion, taxes and Terri Schiavo.

    An oppositional mentality set in: if the liberals worried about global warming, it was necessary to regard it as a hoax. If The New York Times editorial page worried about waterboarding, then the code of conservative correctness required one to think it O.K.

    Apostates and deviationists were expelled or found wanting, and the boundaries of acceptable thought narrowed.

    Interesting to hear him make a statement like this, eh? Two conservatives to watch: Brooks and David Frum.

  7. #7 egbooth
    January 23, 2008

    I agree with Fred and David but I think you need to target some high-profile corporations. How about one of the companies that advertise all the time about how concerned they are about the future of the environment? Here are a few examples:

    1) GE and their Ecomagination initiative
    2) BP who is talking more about carbon footprints these days
    3) any American automaker who needs scientific aid to design more efficient cars

    In relation to the blog’s new focus, you could essentially show how any business will benefit from this type of debate/discussion. But I feel like contacting the ones that have committed resources already to climate change or sustainability issues might be the ones that would be in the best position to support or endorse the debate. If we can get a big corporation on board, the momentum would definitely be in the debate’s favor. Then the media would finally pick it up and the candidates would be very hard-pressed to ignore it.

    Just my two cents.

  8. #8 Wes Rolley
    January 23, 2008

    I have just been searching the web sites of the NY Times and the Washington Post. According to them, Science Debate 2008 does not exist. You find no mention of it in any search.

    Given the prominence of these two papers in the political calculus of the day, I would be more convinced if one or both were to actually do a story or run an OpEd in support… one not written by Chris or any other member of the board.

    So far, the largest newspaper that I have found with strong editorial support is the Wichita Eagle. Maybe every one of us need to stop posting comments here and write to the major newspapers in our region and flame the fires a bit.

  9. #9 Linda
    January 23, 2008

    WAY TO GO!!!

  10. #10 Kate S.
    January 23, 2008

    Great news! Will there be a talk about Science Debate 08 at the AAAS meeting in Boston?

  11. #11 richard
    January 23, 2008

    And here I thought that Scientology, Intelligent Design, Creationism, Raelism, etc. “have driven half the nation’s growth in GDP” (from the AAAS news release). Be sure to include these falsifiable, predictive world views in the debates.

  12. #12 ronin
    January 23, 2008

    If you want to get big corporations behind this, what about the usual suspects (Microsoft, Apple, etc.) If you could get the endorsement of some public figure like Gates or Jobs, the NYT would stand up and take notice.

    Yes, that’s easy enough to say, but if you have a big enough network, you should be able to find some contacts.

    Are there not some tech societies, etc. out there as well?

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