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United States Government Politics Science

Science Debate 2008 322

Posted by kdawson
from the good-luck-with-that dept.
bhmit1 writes "BusinessWeek is reporting about Science Debate 2008, an attempt to put the scientific issues front and center in the US Presidential race. After 12,000 scientists signed on in support of the idea of a debate focused on science, no campaign has replied to an invitation to such a debate. The article notes that only one candidate has said much about science issues in the campaign, and that some who are running are sufficiently anti-science as to deny evolution. There is a link to a comparison of the candidates' positions on issues informed by science. (Yes, Ron Paul is included.)"
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Science Debate 2008

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  • How ironic (Score:5, Funny)

    by HappySmileMan (1088123) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @01:45PM (#22361710)

    After 12,0000 scientists
    Science first, English (punctuation) second, eh?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by erick99 (743982) *
      I think that when it is written that way it is pronounced "twelve ten thousand" instead of the old-fashioned and admittedly crude "one hundred twenty thousand." I wonder why a spell checker couldn't be made to look for a misplaced comma in a number?
      • I wonder why a spell checker couldn't be made to look for a misplaced comma in a number?

        I wonder why a so-called "editor" can't be bothered to read through a summary before hitting the "approve" button.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Omnifarious (11933) *

          I read through the summary and totally missed it. Some people are better proofreaders than others. I care more about the 'editors' ability to pick decent stories than their ability to proofread nitpicky details like that. It should be corrected, sure. It might be that there's an extra 0, not a misplaced comma. It's ambiguous as it stands. But it's not that bad and the article is interesting.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by causality (777677)

            I read through the summary and totally missed it. Some people are better proofreaders than others. I care more about the 'editors' ability to pick decent stories than their ability to proofread nitpicky details like that.

            You'll find that those two (the ability to choose good stories, and the ability to pay attention to detail) are strongly correlated, since they both come from a more general desire to "get it right."

            I realize it's popular to bash such a criticism on the basis that it's too "nitpicky" s

          • It might be that there's an extra 0, not a misplaced comma

            The article mentions several times the number 12,000, that is "twelve thousand", the submission has an extra zero, not a misplaced comma.
            • by causality (777677)
              I strongly agree that, for a variety of reasons, there is no substitute for a little RTFA. Having said that ...

              This is a separate issue from whether the Slashdot editor correctly represented what was in the article. That I can check other sources and cross-reference information to avoid believing an incorrect figure does not suddenly make that figure correct.

              Bear in mind, these are experienced editors who earn a living doing what they do. This isn't an amateur "best effort" site. There is nothing
      • I think that when it is written that way it is pronounced "twelve ten thousand"
        More like twelve myriad [wikipedia.org], am I right?
    • by gmuslera (3436) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @01:56PM (#22361786) Homepage Journal
      In some countries the comma is to separate decimals, so that should be read here as 12.0000. Wonder if this were 12.00001 whos 0.00001 of a scientist? The one that denied evolution, maybe?
      • by Adambomb (118938)
        Nah, they're just counting einsteins isolated neocortex that Jeff Hawkins has plugged in to futuramish head jar somewhere to design his neural models.

        Scientists just arent the same without the lobes.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by jberryman (1175517)
      Don't be so pedantic, those zeros aren't even significant.
  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Saturday February 09, 2008 @01:53PM (#22361762) Homepage

    linked up with Chapman and two other proponents, journalist Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science

    Something makes me think, this will not be an entirely objective undertaking...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      When a political party takes consistently anti-science attitudes, there is no lack of objectivity in pointing that out.
      • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2014@virtual-estates.net> on Saturday February 09, 2008 @02:40PM (#22362188) Homepage

        When a political party takes consistently anti-science attitudes, there is no lack of objectivity in pointing that out.

        Disagreeing with a scientist is not "anti-science" in itself. One may claim, that Republicans disagree with disproportionally many scientists, and that that is the evidence of contempt for science itself. However, that argument falls apart, when one realizes, that the vast majority of scientists work for the government and need government subsidies to do their work (and support their lifestyles). This provides them with a strong bias (for the scrupulous) and an even stronger incentive (for the less scrupulous) to support the political party, which stands for more intensive "wealth redistribution" (Democrats) and, consequently, to attack its opponents (Republicans).

        The debate on climate, for example, still rages on, so I'll give you an example from an earlier era.

        For decades the fans of Socialism/Communism among historians were dismissing "rumors" of Soviet atrocities as unsubstantiated attacks on the country of "workers and peasants". This was, in fact, the dominant opinion among professional historians (most of them were also government-paid)... Assistance by (Soviet-duped and/or Soviet-sponsored) journalists [wikipedia.org] did not help either. Boy, did this "intellectuals" have a stinking rotten egg on their collective mugs, when the Soviet archives were (briefly) opened up to researchers in the early 1990ies, and the extents of Soviet crimes turned out to exceed, what even the most vicious "right wing" accusers have suspected!

        Were those "right-wingers" anti-science? I don't think so... Were they called that on occasion by exasperated professional historians, pinko-journalists, and actual communists [wikipedia.org]? Of course!

        So, please, excuse me, if I'm skeptical of a scientist's opinion, when I'm implored to just believe him/her... They have "cried wolf" in the past.

        • You have a valid point on science being a consensus thing, but one should be careful to differentiate between historians and physicists.

          No one can do research on history unless one has access to documents, and these are too often carefully guarded by governments. OTOH, a phenomenon such as the absorption of infrared waves by carbon dioxide can be performed in any physics lab.

          Global warming and the Holodom are entirely different things, disagreeing about the magnitude of historical facts may be a matter of o

          • by c6gunner (950153) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @03:07PM (#22362404)

            You have a valid point on science being a consensus thing, but one should be careful to differentiate between historians and physicists.
            Yes, but Republicans aren't generally accused of being anti-Physics. When the "anti-science" accusation is made, it's generally referring to the "softer" sciences, like biology or, these days, climatology.

            It's also due to the stereotype of Republicans being religious zealots who refuse to believe in evolution. And while these types of people are doubtless more common amongst republicans than amongst democrats, it's hardly a fair accusation against the party as a whole.
        • by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash@omnifar i o u s.org> on Saturday February 09, 2008 @04:21PM (#22363032) Homepage Journal

          While I, personally think that there is ample evidence that human caused global warming is a real threat, I also recognize that you are completely correct in questioning the motivations of scientists as a whole in the manner you describe.

          I've been reading Scientific American for a long time. There is a certain smug underlying attitude expressed there that scientists really know best for everybody. And they're wrong. Being a scientist does not better equip you to be able to make better ethical or moral decisions. It doesn't tell you where people want to go. It can tell you how people are and why they make decisions and a whole host of other interesting things. It can even tell you that people have an ingrained sense of morality that transcends all cultures and languages. But it can't tell you what is moral or what isn't.

          Describing me as an atheist would be fairly close to accurate. I believe that the scientific method is the most useful tool we have for accurately discerning various facts about the world. Science as a whole is extremely valuable and useful. But its domain isn't politics and it never should be.

          There was a time in the late 90s and early 00s when Scientific American was much more aggressively political than it is now. One issue in particular that I remember was all about how incredibly evil land mines are, complete with detailed pictures of the results. And it blamed and shamed the US for the problem, completely ignoring the despots, tyrants and military actions that put the land mines there in the first place. I nearly canceled my subscription over that. Luckily they changed and are only a little political here and there now.

          And I recognize this danger in the global warming debate. But in the long run, we must develop ways of using resources that are sustainable. We must pay attention to ecological cycles and make sure that what we do works with them, or add cycles of our own. Ultimately our economy must be completely based on a net input of energy and a conscious knowledge of how to recycle every single waste product we produce.

          So, in the larger context, I don't really care if the global warming is caused by humans or not. We need to get a handle on the carbon cycle, a thing we've been almost completely ignoring until now. If worrying about a possibly (though I don't think likely) fictitious danger to our continued comfortable existence here is what it takes, then so be it.

          There is ample evidence we've been ignoring this cycle. Just look at the rising trend in atmospheric CO2 levels. There is no natural explanation for it. The activity of humans is the cause of this. Whether or not this will result in a climate catastrophe is open to debate (though I know which side of that I'm on) but the fact we've been ignoring this and not making sure there is a cycle is clear and something should be done about it. Sustainable development is in our long term best interests.

        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by mcelrath (8027)

          So, please, excuse me, if I'm skeptical of a scientist's opinion, when I'm implored to just believe him/her... They have "cried wolf" in the past.

          Please do not confuse scientists with historians. The major difference is that in history, anyone can come up with a new thesis, and go select evidence that supports that thesis. In science, any person can come along, perform one experiment, and completely disprove a major scientific theory. Let me repeat that for the slow readers. Historians select evidence

        • by blueg3 (192743)
          So, to make a point about scientists, you have an example concerning historians. You're familiar with which field is which, right?

          The majority of scientists do not, in fact, work for the government.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shadowlore (10860)
        Saying the [insert party name here] Party is carrying out a "War on Science" is not being objective. It's being sensationalist in an attempt to sell books. An "anti-science" attitude is most often translated as "didn't vote the way I wanted them to". Objectivity would demand the author point that out, as opposed to sensationalism. Both Republicans and Democrats spend assloads of money on science, just on the projects they each prefer.

        And much of the spending choices are independent of party. For example, fu
    • by sumdumass (711423)
      Of course it won't be objective, the submission states that the article already relies on a logical fallacy to shy support away from their opponents.

      some who are running are sufficiently anti-science as to deny evolution.

      This isn't even remotely objective and all I have read so far was the submission. I'm betting that everything involved is skewed purposely. Unfortunately, the people it seems to support has historically cut science funding more then the people they want to screw. Take NASA's funding. It has

      • some who are running are sufficiently anti-science as to deny evolution. [...] This isn't even remotely objective and all I have read so far was the submission.

        If the sentence said, "some who are running are sufficiently anti-science as to deny that the earth is round," would you still think it wasn't objective?

        Denying evolution is exactly the same as denying the earth is round. The only difference is that the round earth isn't in conflict with the bible.

  • Which candidate is the most in favor of science privatization? In other words, they see no need for the government to fund programs through taxation when the private organizations are capable of seeing where public demand exists and filling that demand through scientific research. While I'm a huge fan of NASA and space exploration, I believe the space station in particular has been a huge waste of money. Almost no scientific research is done. Has anything besides the Tempurpedic Sleep System (certified by t
    • by p0tat03 (985078) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @02:04PM (#22361862)

      You have a very narrow view of research. Almost all research that is done on government funding is invisible to you, the layman. They are fundamental topics that will see applications only YEARS down the road from now. The trick with private research funding is that they ensure only short-term success, since being investment-based that's all they can be.

      Not to mention that private funding will always focus on the topics that will lead to business-applicable technologies soonest, as opposed to general research that will open up entirely new segments of science altogether, which is a long term benefit.

      Government research support is absolutely critical. My brother is a researcher in the field of evolutionary genetics, something that few private companies will think about funding. But the knowledge is important, and in time has led to real advancements in our knowledge and our technology.

      So please, keep up government scientific funding, it's the only competitive advantage the USA has ever had, and the only hope it has of maintaining its supremacy as a superpower.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by gEvil (beta) (945888)
        Yep. Basic research will almost NEVER be done by private industry, simply due to the fact that any benefits that come about due to it tend to be long-term, if there are any benefits at all. The purpose is purely to expand knowledge without knowing if and how that knowledge can be used. Private industry has no desire to do research simply to expand our understanding of the world--they only want knowledge that can be monetized quickly. It seems that most people that argue that government shouldn't fund resear
        • by brian0918 (638904)
          "Private industry has no desire to do research simply to expand our understanding of the world--they only want knowledge that can be monetized quickly."

          And this is a very narrow view of the private industry. Growth and expansion of opportunity come through innovation, so while businesses are likely to keep most of their money internal to continue supporting the demand, they will want to supply some amount to fundamental research that can lead to new approaches capable of sweeping the market in the futur
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by p0tat03 (985078)

            And where is AT&T Labs now? Xerox PARC? Businesses believed it before, but it would seem they no longer do. Also, think outside of the world of computer technology - our research is a bargain compared to fields like genetics and biology.

            Not to mention even when we invented the transistor, we already could see applications for it - after all, it's immediately obvious that we can replace vacuum tubes and make a better computer. Computer research ALWAYS has a short-term application, it's easy to justify

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by MightyMartian (840721)
            Look, you have governments in Europe, Japan and China pouring significant amounts of money into basic research. As it is there is a great deal of concern about the US beginning to fall behind. For now that shortfall is being made up by importing researchers, but to basically cut off a major part of competitive scientific research to fulfill some ill-informed Libertarian ideal and allow competing countries to finally pass the US by will truly represent the decline of the US as a major power.

            This is why I t
            • by brian0918 (638904)
              Were I to teach a class on logic, this post would be an excellent example of question begging.
      • by brian0918 (638904)
        "Not to mention that private funding will always focus on the topics that will lead to business-applicable technologies soonest, as opposed to general research that will open up entirely new segments of science altogether, which is a long term benefit."

        Are you saying that fundamental research would never lead to a technology capable of sweeping the market, or that businesses are so short-sighted as to never realize that as a possibility?

        "But the knowledge is important, and in time has led to real adva
        • by p0tat03 (985078)

          Are you saying that fundamental research would never lead to a technology capable of sweeping the market, or that businesses are so short-sighted as to never realize that as a possibility?

          Businesses are run by investors, who are traditionally quite short sighted. There is a definite disconnect between funding long-term research and where the money comes from - short to mid-term investors. You need a stakeholder who has a vested interest in seeing long term (and we're talking LOOOOONG term, decades) advancement.

          Not to mention that everyone wants in on the hottest new things. Biotech is already funded disproportionately to other valid biological research because it's "sexy", and the in thi

      • keep up government scientific funding, it's the only competitive advantage the USA has ever had
        You must be joking. By your reasoning, countries that have only government scientific funding must be superior to countries with mixed funding. The Soviet Union must have come out on top because of government funding of science.

        Oh wait...

        • Your comparison might make some sense if the only variable which changed between the US and the Soviet Union had been the funding of research. In reality, there are so many variables involved that, well, your comparison is useless.

          And if you think that science under the Soviet Union languished, you are wrong.

        • by MightyMartian (840721) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @04:02PM (#22362834) Journal
          The USSR did a helluva lot of research. Some of the best physicists were produced by the Soviets, even if the ultimate justification was building bigger bombs.

          I don't think anyone says that all research should be publicly funded, but to dismiss the overarching importance of basic research, or to pretend that the private sector would ever pick up the ball in areas such as biology, physics, archaeology, anthropology and so forth is absolutely naive.
      • by BeanThere (28381)
        The Internet itself came out of a publicly funded government initiative. It's an interesting case, as it's obviously incredibly useful to businesses, so it's worth pondering why the private sector didn't 'get there first' (although I'm sure it would have eventually). (Hmm ... OTOH, it's almost one of those useless 'what if' questions, as one could argue that if government had lower taxes instead of doing that research, companies would have had more money for R&D, and might have been able to come up with
    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @03:51PM (#22362742) Journal
      A large chunk of the computer revolution can be attributed to NASA's need to miniaturize onboard systems for Apollo. Materials like Teflon come out of the space industry. NASA has been responsible, directly or indirectly for an enormous number of technical innovations. So while the space program is costly, there is a tangible payback to the taxpayer.
  • Obama and patents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pipatron (966506) <pipatron@gmail.com> on Saturday February 09, 2008 @02:01PM (#22361828) Homepage

    At least one sane guy there, reading about Obama:

    Reforming the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

    Seems like that one is the geek choice.

    • Re:Obama and patents (Score:5, Informative)

      by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @02:10PM (#22361910)
      Except, like almost everything he says, it's empty and has nothing behind it. What does "reform" mean? I get it, he wants change, but what does that entail, what does he want? Saying you want to "change something" without saying how is pointless.

      Clinton wants

      Speed development, testing, and deployment of next-generation launch and crew exploration vehicles to replace the aging Space Shuttle
      That sounds pretty geeky!

      Too bad Kucinich is out, he supported

      Kucinich has proposed several technical initiatives in the areas of renewable energy, pollution control, and open source software and media.
      Maybe he's got a /. account?

      Actually, both Richardson (D) and Thompson (R) seem to be the geekiest, they both want to spur kids to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math! Richardson even had numbers to back his proposal up!
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by armada (553343)
        I, for one, will not really be paying much attention to campaign blurbs but rather to past record. What good is it to agree with 90% of what a candidate says if you are 78% sure he is just telling you what you want to hear? As far as Obama being a geek choice. You might want to check out Barackspace [youtube.com]

        My geek vote goes to Uncle Ron [youtube.com]
    • Re:Obama and patents (Score:5, Informative)

      by FTL (112112) <{slashdot} {at} {neil.fraser.name}> on Saturday February 09, 2008 @02:16PM (#22361982) Homepage
      Obama has been very clear about support for major increases in science and technology:
          http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/14/barack-obamas-google-friendly-technology-platform/ [techcrunch.com]
      But the media hardly mentions it; focusing instead on Hillary's tear.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        But the media hardly mentions it; focusing instead on Hillary's tear.

        Don't worry, the press is fair and balanced - if she or Obama farts, they'll talk about that, too.

    • by p0tat03 (985078)
      What does he mean by reform though? Simply agreeing that the patent system needs an overhaul isn't enough, we want to know exactly what he wants to do with it.
    • by Zordak (123132)

      Actually, I think that Romney's specific patent reform proposal (as on Dennis Crouch's Patently-O blog [patentlyo.com]) was the best. He wanted to put people with a clue in charge of the USPTO and appoint judges with a clue to the Federal Circuit. That would go a LONG way to cleaning up the patent system. I really didn't care much for Romney until I read that (and I'm a practicing Mormon). I was actually planning to vote for him in the Texas primaries March 4, but now that he's dropped out, I'm thinking I may go with

    • by Alsee (515537)
      At least one sane guy there, reading about Obama:
      >Reforming the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
      Seems like that one is the geek choice.


      Sadly, not really.

      The "reform" described on Barack's site [barackobama.com] is as far as I can tell an exact rehash of Microsoft's proposal to "reform" patents.

      If a court isn't going to uphold a patent, yeah sure everyone is in favor of it not being issued as a patent or making it quicker and cheaper to get it tossed out. That's swell. However that really has little connection to the "geek
  • Common Man (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Amorymeltzer (1213818) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @02:03PM (#22361840)
    I've been part of their mailing list for a while, and now that some major groups have joined the effort, it's good to see it finally getting some press. Hopefully this will explode, it's just too bad it didn't come to head early enough for most of the primaries.

    Whether anyone wants to admit or realize it, scientific issues are exceptionally at the heart of most of the current debates. The article points out some cases, such as the "evidence" for Iraq, that would never have passed a scientific board of inquisitors. Stem cells and evolution are the obvious, but science plays a major role in the abortion and gay rights debate (assuming people think instead of react). Threats of terrorist attacks and various influenza worries are right alongside global warming and environmental concerns as being hugely public issues that basically come down to scientific discussion and knowledge. That some people have the gall to dispute all of evolution or climate change is a sign of a serious and, IMO, disgusting ignorance on the part of the American population. Scientific innovation is also at the heart almost everything we care about: social issues, healthcare, military innovation, prevention of disease, education - it's about time we got our public interested.

    Then again, as the SD08 guys point out, we need the leaders to acknowledge this as well. I need only point to xkcd [xkcd.com] to make the point.
    • This reminds me of a picture [nataliedee.com] I found when using StumbleUpon . It still amazes me that people take the right to vote for granted and will just click a "All Republican" Button or only choose them based on race or gender or political party even if they don't believe in what they stand for.

      Sort of offtopic but StumbleUpon is amazing and IMHO is the most addictive thing in all of human history.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MickLinux (579158)
      I hate to say this, but what does science have to do with the abortion debate?

      Is there any way that you can scientifically say that "Bill is a human; Mary is not, and her death is of no consequence"? I know the Nazis tried, but I didn't think their science stood the test of repeatability. Though heaven knows that there are enough crazed people to have tried.

      Which does draw me to another point... that Naziism tried to justify extermination of humans based upon pseudo scientific and pseudo economic values,
  • If I were president I would swap the defence budget and NASA's budget.
    • There's so much interest invested in defense industry that you won't have a chance of becoming president by having such a plan.
      On the other hand, I suppose DoD funds a lot of scientific research/projects, maybe most of the time not for the purpose of saving lives, but still some good stuff come out of it, eg. the Internet.
    • by STrinity (723872)
      What exactly do you think throwing money at NASA will do? Last time that was tried, we sent some men to the moon to plant a flag and play golf. I'd rather see a policy that actually encourages space exploration, not one that encourages Boeing and Lockheed to create overpriced gizmos for PR stunts.
    • How about just swap a fraction of it?
    • So the troops will have $16000 dollar toilet seats?

      I guess a shuttle could be packed with explosives and made into a huge ICBM.

  • Pity there were no mathematicians on board.

  • A mystery revealed (Score:5, Informative)

    by shma (863063) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @02:10PM (#22361922)
    The summary mentions that only one candidate has spoken about science issues during the campaign, without mentioning who it is. I'm sure you'll be as surprised as I was:

    "It's hard to get 12,000 scientists to agree on anything," says Alan Leschner, chief of AAAS and former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. "But science is the biggest issue facing modern society, and we are concerned that only one candidate--Hillary Clinton--has so far devoted any energy to science."
  • by ProfessionalCookie (673314) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @02:10PM (#22361924) Journal
    Over the years our use of the term "evolution" became so vague that I'm not even sure what it means to say that someone "denies evolution" **sniff*sigh**
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Locklin (1074657)
      Insightfull? Evolution is a well refined scientific theory, and it is articulated well enough in the literature to be critically tested.

      The word evolution -when referring to the Theory of Evolution- is extremely specific. While deniers try to muddy the water, in scientific circles, it's definition is anything but vague.

      If you question theory, good for you, but you better have data. If you deny evolution, you probably don't care about data, or about the scientific process at all.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        "If you question theory, good for you, but you better have data. If you deny evolution, you probably don't care about data, or about the scientific process at all."

        That is a very interesting set of statements. On one hand, you seem to be glad someone is doing some "free thinking" in the area of origins, but on the other hand you seem to be unwililng to really listen to data. Basically, from your statement, I would surmise that if I actually said "I deny evolution," you would immediately do several menta

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by abigor (540274)
          The only people "debating" evolution as a whole are religious zealots like you. Meanwhile, scientists work at refining the details, which involves actual debate. They do NOT refer to "macro" and "micro" evolution; those terms were invented by anti-science religious types, and have zero scientific credibility or applicability.

          So yeah, biological evolution is extremely specific, and you are clearly not qualified to argue otherwise.

        • by blueg3 (192743)
          "And, for the record, "evolution" or even "theory of evolution" is very vague. Scientists don't agree on it universally - because there is a huge amount of data, and it doesn't all agree, and it doesn't even all fit into even the general Darwinian idea of origins. Example of fuzziness on the term "evolution" does that mean pure atheistic evolution, including a theory like the Big Bang? Does it mean Darwin's theory of evolution, the current theory of evolution, or the theory of evolution back in the 1950's?
    • our use of the term "evolution" became so vague

      Then you really need to study science. LOTS of science. Let that Bible of yours aside for a while and pick a whole lot of science books. Start at the beginning, and keep going, until you find that the word "evolution" is not vague at all.

      Well, OTOH, your post makes perfect sense if you put it like this:

      Over the years our use of the term "God" became so vague that I'm not even sure what it means to say that someone "denies God"**sniff*sigh**

  • Am I the only one who realised with surprise after looking at TFA that Mike Gravel was still running?

    I mean, why??

  • Science Position (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Brandybuck (704397) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @02:36PM (#22362148) Homepage Journal
    The only proper position for a presidential candidate to make on science is, "It's none of the government's business!" Once you make science the province of government, it becomes subjective and political. In centuries past we had royal courts funding alchemists who always said what the king wanted to hear. Today we have government departments funding researchers who always say what the politicians want. What's the difference?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by John3 (85454)
      If you're hoping a candidate is going to dismantle all government funded research then either you are dreaming or else I missed the sarcasm tag. What candidates might be able to say is they will adopt a more "hands off" approach to government funding decisions to avoid politics from affecting research funding decisions.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Brandybuck (704397)
        As long as government funds science, then science will be political. No sarcasm intended, just the reality. This is not to deny that corporate or private funding of science would not be similary biased. It's like journalism, true 100% objectivity is not an option. As long as we insist that government pay the salaries of scientists, we need to recognize that science will be political.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ChrisMaple (607946)
      The government's primary responsibility is to protect its citizens. Much of this protection is provided by the military. To have effective military, advanced weapons are important. Although weapons are mostly built and designed by non-governmental organizations, there is value to some government-funded research and some government-performed research. Secrecy is one reason that some of this science should be done by the government, Dr. Teller's arguments not withstanding.
    • by NSIM (953498)

      Today we have government departments funding researchers who always say what the politicians want. What's the difference?

      So why does Bush keep having to deny the global warming his scientists predicts? By contrast, research funded by the oil companies always seems to deny global warming, strange that, don't you think?

    • If the government doesn't support science, then how does science get done?

      Are there any examples of nations that have high science production without government support?
  • by Quattro Vezina (714892) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @02:36PM (#22362152) Journal
    Everyone talks about creationists trying to have the government force their views on society (e.g. teaching creationism in schools). I agree with that.

    However, overly pro-science people can be just as bad. I'm just going to Godwin this right now: the Nazis killed a lot of people who had genetic imperfections (low IQ, susceptibility to some diseases) in order to improve the gene pool. If you go by a strictly scientific viewpoint, such actions are defensible. Eugenics programs are immoral, but they do improve the gene pool. It's safe to say the Holocaust would never have happened if Darwin and Mendel hadn't been born. This is why I don't want an overly pro-science candidate in office. Someone who believes the government should strictly adhere to scientific principles will ultimately attempt another Holocaust.

    And then you have the fact that genetic determinism is an excuse for racism. Most modern racists are strong supporters of science, genetics, and evolution, as they claim it validates their immoral beliefs.

    I don't want an anti-science creationist. I don't want a pro-science eugenicist. I want separation of science and state.
    • Argh--I need to proofread more.

      "I agree with that" in the first paragraph should be "I agree that those creationists shouldn't be in power".
    • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @03:32PM (#22362584) Homepage
      If you go by a strictly scientific viewpoint, such [eugenics programs] are defensible.

      Actually, those who use this argument show an extremely poor understanding of biological science. In general, genetic diversity is a good thing. By taking our ideas about what are "good" traits within our current environment and breeding selectively for those, we open ourselves to biological disaster when the environment changes. Not to mention that these traits are usually chosen for aesthetic, and not particularly biologically utilitarian, purposes. That religious moralists always trot out this chestnut as an argument that "we need religion" shows both their biological ignorance and their desire to "Godwin" the debate.

    • Eugenics programs are immoral.
      Forced eugenics programs are immoral. I see nothing wrong with a person refusing to procreate because he has an obvious genetic fault that would condemn his children to suffering.
    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @04:08PM (#22362906) Journal

      It's safe to say the Holocaust would never have happened if Darwin and Mendel hadn't been born.


      The idea of racial purity predates Darwin and Mendel by millennia, my friend. This comment of yours is asinine. What made the Holocaust possible was technology. I can well imagine if the Spaniards had had Zyklon-B in the 15th century, they would have got rid of the Jews that way, rather than forced conversion and exile.

      It is, in fact, evolutionary biology and genetics which has made a lie of every single racist claim made in the last two or three centuries. The "races" that the Europeans saw are not even logical ways of dividing human populations, they're just simply artifacts of a mariner cultures skipping thousands of miles of intermediate populations.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Correct. For example, in pre-Darwinian days, it was believed that God had created blacks separately than whites (or that blacks were the result of Lot's curse, or some curse), therefore blacks were inferior. Post-Darwin, however, blacks were closer to monkeys and whites were more evolved, therefore blacks were inferior.

        It's funny how completely different justifications can so swiftly act as substitutes, but do you blame the emotion behind it or the ideas that have been twisted into a justification? I'
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        It is, in fact, evolutionary biology and genetics which has made a lie of every single racist claim made in the last two or three centuries. The "races" that the Europeans saw are not even logical ways of dividing human populations, they're just simply artifacts of a mariner cultures skipping thousands of miles of intermediate populations.

        Talk about letting political dogma get in the way of science. You just replaced the word "race" with the term "population". Let's see what evolutionary biology and genetics have said: that populations evolve to adapt to the specific conditions they find themselves in, that different populations in different geographic areas have different genotypes and phenotypes giving them an advantage in their native area, and that there is a strong correlation between geography and genetics. Almost no serious scientis

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by General Wesc (59919)

      If you go by a strictly scientific viewpoint, such actions are defensible.

      The science of ethicstology?

      Science is descriptive, not normative. You're claiming the a 'strictly scientific viewpoint' makes moral claims. It doesn't. Science doesn't say 'we should work on strengthening the gene pool'. It merely says that's what happens naturally, which some nutcases--not science--think means 'good'.

  • Why no concern that some of the candidates are wholly ignorant on the latest information on the testability of String Theory?

    Not merely are they unaware of a specialized area of study, no, not at all. They -reject all of science- by their stance! All of their policy decisions then, we can be thus assured, will not only reflect persistent ignorance of all scientific processes in all domains, but will actively hinder its pursuit in all cases.

    Get real. You're concerned about "anti-evolution" solely and spec
  • Scientific method? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by John3 (85454) <john3@NospAm.cornells.com> on Saturday February 09, 2008 @02:51PM (#22362264) Homepage Journal
    Wouldn't it be nice just to hear the candidate's position on the scientific method [wikipedia.org]? I'd bet several of the candidates would be against the scientific method, and most everything else on those position statements is dependent on their belief in using observable and measurable data to form a hypothesis.
  • by Theovon (109752) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @02:53PM (#22362292)
    A popular conception of what it means to be scientifically informed is to swallow the party line given to you by popular sources of so-called scientific knowledge. There is precious little involvement from the actual scientific method, no better than just accepting on faith everything the pope says. The fact is, many people feel mistreated and mislead by this nebulous thing we call "science" and made to feel stupid when they question the status quo. That's ironic because science should be all about questioning the status quo. But when I was a child, questioning evolution and asking for more support for it (I was a kid in high school; I had no clear definition of it) was not met with the knowledge I asked for but derision for so stupidly questioning the God-given truth handed down by our priestly scientists.

    Skepticism should be the default position of everyone who studies science, even skepticism of those things that are very strongly established. Yes, it is often the case that someone who is questioning a position may question it less if they have more knowledge in the area. But no one can be an expert in all areas of science, and it should ALWAYS be okay to question what we're told. (ObSlashdot: If we here weren't the questioning sort, we'd all be using Windows instead of Linux.)

    So I put it to you that, by taking a skeptical position, some of these anti-science people are in fact more faithful to the underpinnings of science than those people who arrogantly call themselves scientists.

    To the masses, "science" (much like "politics" or "medicine") is defined purely in terms of the output of those people who practice it, and not by the principles those practitioners are supposed to follow. Scientists are often full of shit. Plus, most of the science that people are exposed to is the stuff they didn't pay attention to in high school and the stuff they watch on Discovery Channel, both of which are utter crap. So what do you expect people to think?

    Oh, and one other thing. Don't think anything's going to be fixed by improving science education. Yes, the education is crap, but science can be unintuitive even when taught well. The solution is to fix the scientists and their massive egos.

    • by sorak (246725)

      Skepticism should be the default position of everyone who studies science, even skepticism of those things that are very strongly established.

      IANA Sicentist, but, Skepticism means doubting until one sees the evidence. When, after seeing evidence (or worse yet, refusing to see the evidence), one still clings to the null hypothesis, that is called "dogma".

  • FTA: He linked up with Chapman and two other proponents, journalist Chris Mooney, author of The Republican War on Science, and screenwriter Shawn Lawrence Otto.

    Well, I see right there this will be an impartial "debate".

    Reading the summaries of each candidate I also notice that the Democrat's summaries are roughly twice the length of the Republicans, and are formatted in a much easier to read, bullet-point style.

    Nothing to see here...

  • and that some who are running are sufficiently anti-science as to deny evolution.
    There are so many other scientific issues out there (alternate energy, genetic engineering, environmental protection, ect.), why is that inane creation-evolution pissing match always at the top of the list?
    • by bjorniac (836863)
      It's a good testbed. It's the major issue (apart from, say global warming) where science is inconvenient and actively refutes a major belief held by many of the population. I know it's annoying to have the same stupid argument over and again, but it's a good test of a politician: Are they going to believe the science and follow that, or take a more 'populist' view? Are they willing to stand up and back an unpopular position because the scientists tell them that it's true? That is why it is so important to a
  • Stem cell research (Score:3, Insightful)

    by garyok (218493) on Saturday February 09, 2008 @03:58PM (#22362804)
    I know this is going to be contentious but, possibly for the only time in my life, I have to say that I think Bush made the right decision banning Federal funding for stem cell research using foetal tissue. Abortion is a woman's right to choose as far as I'm concerned but the use of the discarded tissues is ethically questionable - I'd prefer the tissues were treated as remains rather than resources. Coercing scientists into discovering ways to convert a person's own tissue back into stem cells for treatment seems to be a more useful avenue of research in the long run than implanting foreign tissue.

    Of course, if there are compelling arguments to be made for the use of foetal tissue, I wouldn't mind hearing them. But I'll be very skeptical about "it'd make stem cell research way easier". Sometimes human dignity has to outweigh purely scientific advancement or we're making only a very narrow form of progress.

    • Fighting disease in adult humans is only one possible application of what can be learned by studying stem cells. And you're right that the possibility of creating stem cells from adult cells would be a big step in this direction.

      But stem cell research was originally (and some still is) just one aspect of wide-ranging pure research into human genetics and biology. The main reason to study fetal stem cells is that it is the only way to understand the biology of how humans reproduce, and how genetic informatio

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