Looks like a couple of my fellow SBers have managed to get a date and location for their presidential debate on science, and have invited the candidates (Clinton, Obama, Huckabee, and McCain). I still think this is an absolutely terrible idea on so many levels, but I’m comforted by the thought that it’s extremely unlikely that McCain would risk offending the conservative base that he’s trying so hard to court by debating an avowed creationist on scientific topics when he’s already got the nomination wrapped up, and equally unlikely that the Democrats would choose to debate on a single topic that’s of much less interest to the public than, say, the economy, the war, health care, etc., just before what could turn out to be a very important primary. However, I figure some of you are interested in what’s going on with the debate, so I thought I’d give you a heads up.
UPDATE: Nature’s editors weigh in. I think they get it right when they say:
And the [ScienceDebate 08] campaign’s website goes too far in saying that science and technology “may be the most important social issue of our time”. In reality, science and technology are a factor in many issues, sometimes a defining one, but most often not. They can and must inform political debate, but will rarely be at its centre.
or all that it claims to be a ‘grass-roots’ phenomenon, the proposed debate can be seen as an attempt by various élite institutions to grab the microphone and set the agenda from the top down.
I don’t think it’s institutions, per se, though recent endorsements by the NAS and others can make it look that way. I think it’s the scientists themselves attempting to “grab the microphone and set the agenda from the top down,” and losing all perspective in the process.