Call for a Presidential Debate on Science & Technology

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A group of scientists and other concerned citizens are calling for a debate among presidential hopefuls on science and technology policy issues. This is a great idea because as the organizers of Science Debate 2008 declare:

We have noticed that science and technology lie at the center of a very large number of the policy issues facing our nation and the world—issues that profoundly affect our national and economic security as science and technology continue to transform our lives. No matter one's political stripe, these issues pose important pragmatic policy challenges.

The public deserves to know what Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Barack Obama, Mike Huckabee and all of the others think about global warming, stem cells, nuclear power, and teaching biological evolution. Should we have a carbon tax? Federal support for stem cell research? Subsidies for nuclear power? And equal time in the classroom for science and superstition, uh, I mean, biological evolution and intelligent design?

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  1. I can tell you what Huckabee will say now:

    Real Christians don’t believe in science…

  2. Why not also a presidential debate on religion?

    Also a presidential debate on fashion?

    How about a presidential debate on sports?

    Here’s an idea, why not just give the presidential candidates a test on their memorization skills? Because that’s the only information such a debate will provide about these yahoos.

  3. Hey Reason-oides, speaking of intelligent design, a vid of ron paul supporting creationism has popped up on these interwebs of ours, with him saying evolution is a theory.
    flame on!

  4. the chad: I’ve already blogged it over at Reason.tv. Check it out there.

  5. I doubt most of them could explain Newton’s Law of Gravity if the equation were put in front of them. (Exception: McCain. He’d have had to get through the science courses to get his wings.)

    Asking this crowd to debate science is like asking a dog to ride a horse.

  6. the chad: Here’s the link to Paul apparently expressing his disbelief in biological evolution.

  7. can’t stream at work, but I’ll check it out. How about an H&R post?

  8. nuff said about RP.

  9. Aresen:
    that’s exactly the point; you’d flush out the candidates who know how to pretend how to think (people who can really think about scientific issues become scientists, not politicians).

  10. I just can’t trust anyone to make rational decisions in very important situations as President when they dismiss science in favor of mythology. I guess I just expect too much from my leaders.

    I’d like to pull for Paul because of some of his other policies, but being this wrong on something this obvious is just too spooky for me.

  11. Not to mention who can outbid whom on how much taxpayer money should be “invested” on NASA on other politically favored science boondoggles.

  12. None of them could actually handle science? I’m pretty sure that Obama, Romney and Clinton are fairly brilliant people. Now, a Kucinich vs. Huckabee vs. Paul debate on pseudoscience, moderated by Art Bell–that I’d watch

  13. …. but science makes my head hurt…

  14. it’s just as funny (depressing) as listening them talk about “economics”

  15. Brad wrote:

    I’d like to pull for Paul because of some of his other policies, but being this wrong on something this obvious is just too spooky for me.

    I agree about it being spooky. However, Paul would keep the Fed’s nose out of all non-Constitutionally supported domains. This is better for science than all other candidates views on how to meddle.

  16. I predict that all of the Democrats will endorse this, and most of the Republicans will opt out.

  17. I believe firmly in the separation of Science and State.

  18. Asking this crowd to debate science is like asking a dog to ride a horse.

    Or asking Romney to ride Hillary. I’d watch that. After several drinks.

  19. I doubt most of them could explain Newton’s Law of Gravity if the equation were put in front of them. (Exception: McCain. He’d have had to get through the science courses to get his wings.)

    How much science do you suppose an MD needs to take?

  20. None of them could actually handle science? I’m pretty sure that Obama, Romney and Clinton are fairly brilliant people.

    Cleaning my monitor as I type.

    Paul and McCain do have some training/education in science. I’m not sure what any other candidates might know.Political skills do not suggest any science aptitude–much less any knowledge.

  21. Ron Paul on evolution is about 98% red herring, because as a believer in limited government he wouldn’t have the Presidency or the national government do a goddam thing about it.

    Or asking Romney Hillary to ride Hillary Romney.

    I have a feeling Hillary would be the dom.

  22. I cringe at this considering the watering down thats gone on for other, much easier to understand issues. Instead of a debate we should just be quizzing their potential science advisors, since I doubt the candidates themselves have anything beyond a superficial grasp of things like chemistry, medicine etc.

  23. The only thing that would make the debate worth watching would be if there was some way to get the candidates to actually answer the basic questions. They will all waffle and lie, because they’re politicians – most of them are not techies. And the Republiclans will be afraid of alienating their right-wingnut power base.

  24. like asking a dog to ride a horse

    Ask and ye shall receive.

  25. Get Miss teen South Carolina to moderate the Presidential Geography debate. That would make about as much sense as this.

  26. Pig – apparently not enough 🙂

    plus he hasn’t practiced medicine in how long? Since the 70s?

  27. Hey Reason-oides, speaking of intelligent design, a vid of ron paul supporting creationism has popped up on these interwebs of ours, with him saying evolution is a theory.

    He didn’t say he believed in intelligent design, he just stated that evolution was a theory. There’s a distinction. I’ve known some perfectly credible scientists that were skeptical about evolution as well, based only on the evidence as presented, not due to any religious beliefs.

    My guess is that he weasel-worded his answer to avoid a controversy.

  28. While I certainly do not support teaching intelligent design in the public schools, neither is it “superstition.” In fact, biological evolution and intelligent design may complement each other. This should become clear to anyone who has read my book, The Design Matrix: A Consilience of Clues.

  29. I think what y’all are forgetting here is the asking part of this proposed debate. Journalists are at least as stupid as politicians. Who will write the questions for them? Not their Hollywood buddies. They’re still on strike. Maybe we should go with the horse-riding dogs after all?

  30. woo hoo a fucking batshit insane d00d!

    SUPERSTITION. FAIRY TALE. MADE UP BLATHER.

    Now, go away, or I shall taunt you a second time.

  31. plus he hasn’t practiced medicine in how long? Since the 70s?

    Well, when I was in grade school in the 60’s they were teaching evolution then, so I don’t think he’d be that out of date on the science.

    In any event, skepticism about evolution as commonly accepted doesn’t necessarily imply a belief in creationism. He wasn’t really that clear on what he did believe, and what he said about the matter was subject to interpretation. What he certainly didn’t say was that he believed in creationism.

  32. de stijl

    “The wonder of a bear riding a bicycle is not that the bear does it well, it is that the bear can do it at all.” (I forget the source and I’m too lazy to look it up.)

  33. actually – it was a question about him practicing medicine, not science learnings 🙂

    but we agree to disagree about the rest!

    cheers

  34. …think about global warming (Nonsense, because last century it warmed only a few degrees, that means it is untrue),

    stem cells (murder),

    nuclear power (not needed, there is an infinite supply of oil),

    and teaching biological evolution (immoral).

    Should we have a carbon tax (no)?

    Federal support for stem cell research? (no)

    Subsidies for nuclear power? (no)

    And equal time in the classroom for science and superstition, uh, I mean, intelligent design and biological evolution? (No, only the true science of intelligent design)

  35. Ron Paul’s answer about creationism was ambiguous, first saying he didn’t believe in the theory of evolution, then at the end saying neither creationism nor evolutionism had all the answers.

    Let’s call it what it was — waffling to try to pick up the Southern evangelical vote, while trying to leave some wiggle room to back off from this in the unlikely event he wins the nomination and has to run toward the center in the general election.

    FWIW — most actual scientists would (correctly) call the Theory of Evolution a “theory” (i.e. a provisional idea that captures the essence of objective observations made so far, but subject to revision or scrapping if contradictory observations emerge), not a carved-in-stone fact, but they mean something quite different and more nuanced by that than the creationists who use “theory” as an epithet.

    This isn’t a deal-breaker for me, since Paul hasn’t proposed imposing whatever his actual beliefs on this issue are on anyone if he becomes president, but it does show he is a slicker politician willing to say what a given audience wants to hear than the more credulous Ron-is-a-Saint folks would have us believe.

    A good follow-up question to pin Ron Paul down here would be to ask “Do you believe that the Earth was created about 6,000 years ago, or is it hundreds of millions of years old?”

  36. My guess is that he weasel-worded his answer to avoid a controversy.

    I’d say he weasel-worded it to pick up votes in an early voting Southern state he wants to win, at the cost of creating a controversy among some of his core supporters.

  37. He did not say the teaching of evolution is immoral, he was merely stating his personal belief in creation.

    As an atheist, I “tolerate” this religious view, because I also want people to “tolerate” my atheism. I hope that this country has not reached such barbarism as our spiritual beliefs will be brought to question in temporal matters. I still believe that a true libertarian would recognize the two spheres can be separated, and people of many faiths can exist in common government.

  38. Ron Paul’s views on science are just like his views on religion: He isn’t going to impose them on anyone. If you think he’s going to do that, then you don’t have the first idea of what he is about.

  39. “And now I’ll ask each candidate the same question.
    Global Warming: for it or against it? Senator Clinton?”

  40. The only question we need to ask is if a candidate is going to make unconstitutional federal laws. What a candidate believes in PERSONALLY should not matter.

  41. Lwt’s just put them on Jeopardy and see who wins the finals. But I like the idea of making candidates name who they would like their advisors to be in foreign policy, economics, science, constitutional law, etc.

  42. I have a feeling Hillary would be the dom.

    Great, RC. Do you have any idea how much therapy it’s going to take to get the image of Hillary, wearing leather and holding a whip, out of my head?

  43. Great, RC. Do you have any idea how much therapy it’s going to take to get the image of Hillary, wearing leather and holding a whip, out of my head?

    Here ya go, Franklin, this ought to help.

  44. There is no way I’m clicking that link. You can’t fool me.

  45. I doubt most of them could explain Newton’s Law of Gravity if the equation were put in front of them. (Exception: McCain. He’d have had to get through the science courses to get his wings.)

    This got me wondering what is the formal science education of the various candidates. Looked at the sixteen candidates that were listed
    here
    as of the time of this posting.

    Here are their undergraduate degrees
    DEM

    Joe Biden UNK pre-law?

    Hillary Clinton political science

    Christopher Dodd english lit

    John Edwards Textile Technology

    Mike Gravel Economics

    Dennis Kucinich speech and communication (looks like got M.A at same time in same field)

    Barack Obama . political science

    Bill Richardson French/ political science

    REP

    Rudy Giuliani political science

    Mike Huckabee Religion

    Duncan Hunter pre law? (* looks like due to military service, got B.S and law degree at same time)

    John McCain UNK B.S. English or History?

    Ron Paul Biology

    Mitt Romney UNK B.A(pre law/business?)

    Fred Thompson philosophy and political science

  46. TJ initials stand for ‘Troll d’Jour’ =)

  47. Kolohe

    McCain went to the USNA which is basically an engineering school with a more than usual amount of the humanities. According to Wiki he was a mediocre student.

    Romney went to BYU (don’t know what major) but he has an MBA and JD from Harvard.

  48. Mr Bartram-
    Yes, I agree any service academy education regardless of major gives a graduate the equivalent of about two years of science/engineering curriculum. (and McCain would have had to work a little harder to be considered mediocre, he was like 600 out of 640)

    From the wiki & campaign sites that made the distinction, it seems only McCain, Paul, and Hunter definitely have a Bachelor of Science; Gravel and Edwards probably also have one due to their majors.

    I only listed undergrad, but the grad education is:

    Joe Biden law

    Hillary Clinton law

    Christopher Dodd law

    John Edwards law

    Mike Gravel none

    Dennis Kucinich Masters, speech and communication

    Barack Obama law

    Bill Richardson Masters, law and diplomacy (seems to be different from an actual law degree, I think for instance it did not qualify him for the bar)

    REP

    Rudy Giuliani law

    Mike Huckabee none

    Duncan Hunter law

    John McCain none

    Ron Paul Medicine

    Mitt Romney law and business

    Fred Thompson law

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