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A Call For Science Policy Debate Among Presidential Candidates 375

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-it-would-be-hilarious dept.
Marissa Fessenden writes about a campaign to get Barack Obama and Mitt Romney to address important scientific issues in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election. ScienceDebate.org and Scientific American have posed a set of questions to the candidates, as well as congressional leaders, and they're rallying support for those questions to be answered before the election. The responses will be published and graded for citizens to see. The questions include topics such as biosecurity, climate change, the safety of food and water supplies, vaccination, and environmentally sustainable energy. This comes at a time when the basic scientific literacy of elected officials is under heavy scrutiny.
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A Call For Science Policy Debate Among Presidential Candidates

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  • Why? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by jasper160 (2642717)
    Why? One can't talk or think without the teleprompter and other will quote the Old Testament.
    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @08:24AM (#41079597) Journal

      Why? One can't talk or think without the teleprompter and other will quote the Old Testament.

      Which is why it becomes important to determine(admittedly by way of various imperfect proxy measures) what their chosen science minions will do for them...

      While it might be an interesting change of pace to elect a scientist rather than a lawyer or executive, that seems unlikely. However, even the personally-dimmest are going to end up making choices about the sort of 'expertise' they choose to cultivate around themselves, and we'll likely see a few differences in that advisory group.

      • Science?!? (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Which is why it becomes important to determine(admittedly by way of various imperfect proxy measures) what their chosen science minions will do for them...

        What's with all that sciency guff?

        I want a candidate with character, morals, one who represents my beliefs on abortion and on the deficit and whether or not we should reduce spending or increase taxes. Because the other side is too stupid and ignorant to represent this country and steer it in the right direction! The other side has the wrong values and they are just going to drive this country into the toilet!!

        We don't need no science debate! That's just for eggheads! Why the Chinese leadership is made up a

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          What's with all that sciency guff?

          I want a candidate with character, morals, one who represents my beliefs on abortion and on the deficit and whether or not we should reduce spending or increase taxes.

          To be honest that's probably the kind of thinking you should be engaing in.

          Good scientists make terrible leaders, as they either tend to believe themselves to be experts in everything despite only knowing much about the migration habits of snow geese, or being so balanced and equivocal (ie scientific) about every issue that they will never be able to make a decision.

          • Re:Science?!? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Kohath (38547) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @10:28AM (#41080825)

            Bad scientists (and lots of other bad people) also tend to believe they know everything and should be empowered to enforce their will on others. In fact, that's the #1 characteristic I look for in a politician. Then I vote against him.

          • by fredrated (639554)

            Did I miss something? Are we asking Obama and Romney to become scientists?

            I thought they were just being asked their position on science, is it better we don't know their positions?

          • Really? And just how many scientists do that? I'm sure you can come up with the standard examples (Hubble, Penrose) but since you have tarred the majority of scientists with that brush, time to back it up, I want to know the percentage of scientists whoa assume they are experts in fields not related to their area of expertise.

            • Really? And just how many scientists do that? I'm sure you can come up with the standard examples (Hubble, Penrose) but since you have tarred the majority of scientists with that brush, time to back it up, I want to know the percentage of scientists whoa assume they are experts in fields not related to their area of expertise.

              Kind of like how you tarred engineers with one brush?
              http://politics.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3064031&cid=41080885 [slashdot.org]

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TapeCutter (624760)

        While it might be an interesting change of pace to elect a scientist rather than a lawyer or executive, that seems unlikely.

        You may be surprised how many politicians, lawyers, and executives have a BSc or better under their belt. For example the Iron Lady was a chemist trained at Oxford, her scientific training probably helped her to become one of the first world leaders to call for action on AGW in the 80's...OTOH...the Iron Lady did have other ideas in other areas, more than a few of those policies can be used to demonstrate that technocrats have shitty policy ideas just like everyone else.

        • by Entropius (188861)

          Europe is different. In Europe they put people like Gauss on their money, and elect people like Thatcher and Merkel (also a chemist) to positions of power.

          Here in the US, we have different attitudes about what sorts of things constitute "qualifications".

          • Re:Why? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Internetuser1248 (1787630) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @12:13PM (#41082275)
            Merkel is a moron, comparing her to Gauss and even Thatcher is wrong. Don't get me wrong I hate Thatcher, but she was way smarter than Merkel. There is a German political comedian who says "I like to quote Merkel because I can't find a better way to insult her". Although given some of the candidates/presidents the US has I can see why she may not seem so thick.
      • While it might be an interesting change of pace to elect a scientist rather than a lawyer or executive...

        You can say that again. Just think of the knowledge we could learn with proper experimentation. 1: Experimental control: do not launch a nuclear strike against large semi-communistic nuclear armed country. 2: Test Case: Do launch a nuclear strike against a large semi-communistic nuclear armed country.

        Just think of how much fun the statisticians could have with a scientist as president!

        ;)

        Actually, I think evidenced based policy with periodic refinement would be an excellent way to run a country. You nee

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MickyTheIdiot (1032226) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @09:42AM (#41080267) Homepage Journal

      Even though I agree with 1/2 of this, someone bringing up "teleprompter" deserves all communications flushed down the memory hole.

    • by ideonexus (1257332) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @12:13PM (#41082287) Homepage Journal

      I think Science Debate is the greatest thing to happen to those of interested in science and politics. When they got Obama and McCain [sciencedebate.org] to answer science questions in the 2008 election, I immediately cancelled my membership to the Union of Concerned Scientists [ucsusa.org] and started donating to this grassroots organization.

      I have one issue that I vote on, and that's science. It's the only issue I understand well enough to evaluate the candidates on. If they know their science or have advisors that understand science, then I will trust them with most everything else. I summarized Obama's 2008 responses here [ideonexus.com], McCain's here [ideonexus.com], and my calls for who won on each issue [ideonexus.com]. Obama's responses won on most issues, but McCain did not do poorly. Since Obama has taken office, he has impressed me with his support of science with Data.gov [data.gov], Science.gov [science.gov], a Memorandum on Scientific Integrity [whitehouse.gov], proposed major increases in science funding [washingtonpost.com], and put the Office of Science and Technology Policy [whitehouse.gov] back in the Whitehouse.

      These might seem like small accomplishments, but compared to the Dark Ages of the Bush Administration [wikipedia.org] they were a breath of fresh air. Unless Romney answers the science debate questions this election cycle, I won't even consider him.

    • Re:Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @01:40PM (#41083551) Journal

      One can't talk or think without the teleprompter ...

      Oh please, will you Fox News-watching nuts give it a fucking rest? Reagan used a teleprompter. Bush used a teleprompter. Clinton used a teleprompter. Bush II used a teleprompter. Did you not see Obama in his QA session with republicans in 2010? He answered every one of their questions point for point, not a teleprompter in sight. Watch [dailykos.com]. Could you imagine Dubya having a grasp of the issues and being able to think on his feet like that?

  • by goodmanj (234846) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @08:28AM (#41079615)

    Republicans will see the list of suggested topics ("biosecurity, climate change, the safety of food and water supplies, vaccination, and environmentally sustainable energy") as unfair and biased toward the Democrats' agenda. However, this says more about the Republican party's interest in science than it does about ScienceDebate.org's political bias.

    • Absolutely. The first test will be how each candidate responds to the debate proposal itself. Will either or both accept and, if so, will it be with a ton of conditions and modifications to the question list?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Each of those topics is relevant to Republicans and they take an active interest in it. The disagreement is how each of these topics are addressed.

      Pretty much the Left would argue for an absolutist policy based on the current popular science. So they would shut down all the coal fueled power plants, outlaw gasoline vehicles, have mandatory vaccinations, and who knows what oppressive crap they would come up with in the name of food and water safety.

      Republicans would look at each issue and weigh the cost vs.

      • by Entropius (188861) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @09:28AM (#41080093)

        I don't know any non-kooks who want to completely ban fossil fuels. Most want either to say "no burning fossil fuel without a permit" and issue permits equal to a desired level of emissions, or implement a carbon tax tuned to reduce emissions to that level.

        As for vaccinations: yes, they should be mandatory. No religious whackjob exceptions or crystal-clutching hippie exceptions. Go read about the polio epidemic and you'll understand why. Possibly there can be one exception: a parent puts up a bond for the cost of getting their kid tested for the presence of polio/measles/whatever every couple of months, and if the kid tests positive at any time then parent goes to jail for assault against both the kid and whoever the kid may have infected.

        Again, nobody on the Left wants to outlaw water treatment plants, either, given that they're rather fond of building the things in the first place.

    • Of course they would choose topics that are points of contention between the parties. If Republicans see that as bias, maybe they're not as confident about their positions as they pretend to be.

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      They are important questions, but they aren't related to science. This bias strengthens the anti-science attitude. Science should focus on the pursuit of knowledge not on daily politics.

    • Climate change is a stupid question to bring up, regardless on where you fall on the issue. America has already lowered carbon emissions a great deal, if you're that worried about it talk to the rest of the world.

      "environmentally sustainable energy" is equal silly, since the answer is simply "nuclear power" and letting the market bring forth efficient solar options at its own pace (wind is not now, nor ever has been a good alternative energy source).

      As to "safety of food and water supplies, vaccination" -

      • by timeOday (582209)

        wind is not now, nor ever has been a good alternative energy source

        What's wrong with wind? Hook it up to pumped-storage hydro and you have reliable energy. It's cost-competitive too. [wikipedia.org]

        • Wind power has historically always been dumped eventually, leaving rotting wind farms dotting the nation. When you say it's cost-competitive, I really doubt that is taking into account long-term maintenance, or the real costs of building the systems without heavy subsidization. The DOE is hardly a neutral source on the matter since they are pushing wind power like mad.

          You also note that you can simply hook it up to pumped-storage hydro - but that means you are using a significant quantity of water and fur

      • by necro81 (917438)

        Climate change is a stupid question to bring up, regardless on where you fall on the issue. America has already lowered carbon emissions a great deal, if you're that worried about it talk to the rest of the world.

        The lowering of U.S. emissions is largely due to slowdowns in the economy and a gradual shift from coal to natural gas. Neither of those trends are sufficient in the long term, and we still emit roughly twice the emissions per capita and per GDP compared to Europe. Are you suggesting that there

  • by trout007 (975317) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @08:38AM (#41079667)

    Here is what I would love to see.

    I big grid with specific topics for the rows.
    Then have the following columns titles. Federal, State, County, City, Family, Individual.

    For each topic the candidate has to put where they think that control should exist.

    • by mjr167 (2477430)
      Is there a difference between family and individual?
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        For children yes, and Conservative Christians would also lump women in with that.

        • by mjr167 (2477430)

          How many families actually exist in the U.S. where the woman stays home barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen while the man works?

          How many women (in the US) are actually denied jobs or education because they are women?

          How many conservative, christian families (in the US) have women who bow to the every whim of their husband?

          You are making up crap because you have been conditioned to beleive that concervative christians are evil and hate women. Open your eyes and actually look around at your friends and neig

          • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @09:41AM (#41080229)

            I think you need to travel into the rural areas more often.

            I have relatives that fit every single one of these questions. I agree they are a minority, but they exist and the Republicans cater to their every whim.

      • Is there a difference between family and individual?

        Yes. For instance, should a woman be able to get an abortion without her husband's permission? Since Roe-vs-Wade, the answer is "yes", but before RvW the answer was "no" in many states.

    • I would love that debate (yes, even more than the science one) but just like answering science policy questions, it raises the same issue: what's in it for them? Why would a candidate share their opinions on these matters?

      We only punish them for speaking their minds. And we never EVER punish them for being silent. Even Romney is likely to get somewhere around 50% of the vote, give or take 5%.

      Our candidates aren't the problem; we are. Because 99% of us vote for whatever they (the two biggest parties) put

  • by Kohath (38547) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @08:38AM (#41079673)

    Group of people interested in [science] want a debate about extending government control over your life in the name of [science].

    Replace [science] with religion, health, nutrition, education, morals, national security, the environment, commerce, or any other issue you want. It's all essentially the same. The answers should be the same too: "No, we'll make our own choices."

    There's no need for any special debates for [science].

    • by drooling-dog (189103) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @09:27AM (#41080071)

      The attack by conservatives on science and reason has nothing to do with "control over your life". It's quite the opposite, in fact. Once you defeat the idea of rational governance, you're free to exercise power in a completely arbitrary way, in response to the needs of your corporate patrons or any whim at all. Total power is not constrained by the requirement of rational justification.

      And before conservatives complain about government abridging their freedoms, they should reflect on the long list of groups (women, gays, non-christians, etc. etc.) that they deem undeserving of the same consideration.

      • by Kohath (38547)

        Once you defeat the idea of rational governance, you're free to exercise power in a completely arbitrary way, in response to the needs of your corporate patrons or any whim at all. Total power is not constrained by the requirement of rational justification.

        Once you decide it's OK to exercise power over people based on some arbitrary rationale, you can shape the rationale to provide whatever powers fit your whims.

        Rational justification does not constrain. Rational arguments can be made for or against any action or policy. And they're all amazingly persuasive after you've already decided what you want to do.

        Lack of government power over people constrains the exercise of government power over people. When there are no enforcers, force is unavailable as an opt

      • The attack by conservatives on science and reason

        Bullshit. There are some crazy Republicans - but also equally crazy Democrats, against food irradiation, or nuclear power.

        There's nothing conservative about an attack on science.

        they should reflect on the long list of groups (women, gays, non-christians, etc. etc.) that they deem undeserving of the same consideration.

        It's funny you should mention that since it is conservative groups that ended segregation, and supported suffragettes. Through history Democra

        • by drooling-dog (189103) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @12:22PM (#41082383)

          It's funny you should mention that since it is conservative groups that ended segregation, and supported suffragettes. Through history Democrats have long been the party to resist real progress, and very little has changed.

          You're really going to have to elaborate on that gem a little. Conservatives as advocates for the downtrodden and disenfranchised. If they were the real champions of progressive values, wouldn't they, ummm, not be conservatives anymore? Or is this yet another shining example of their prodigious talent for turning reality upside-down?

    • by Sarten-X (1102295)

      People making their own choices often make very bad choices, and the consequences of those choices affect others. Government control is a means of making those choices by (ideally) popular choice, so that if bad choices are made, it's because the majority of us wanted it that way.

      Of course, the system is flawed in that politicians are now package deals, so a popular choice in one field means a you're stuck with an unpopular choice elsewhere. That's still no reason to abandon the system, but rather a reason

      • by Kohath (38547)

        People making their own choices often make very bad choices, and the consequences of those choices affect others. Government control is a means of making those choices by (ideally) popular choice, so that if bad choices are made, it's because the majority of us wanted it that way.

        Like when the two wolves and the lamb voted on what to eat for dinner. The lamb wanted to make a very bad choice. But another choice was made by the majority. They took what they wanted.

        • by Sarten-X (1102295)

          And two thirds of the population were well-fed, while one third died.

          The alternative was that two thirds of the population starved while one third watched.

          It seems popular choice is the ethical one here. Or am I supposed to be swayed by the emotional appeal of the lamb?

          • by Kohath (38547)

            Nope, you're doing just fine representing your beliefs. Everyone can be fat and secure in your society as long as they never lose a single election. Every vote is a life-or-death struggle for survival against a ravenous, remorseless enemy. Choose your side carefully.

  • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @08:41AM (#41079697)

    How about implementing safer forms of nuclear power?

    Such a technology does exist: the liquid fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR), a prototype of which was tested in the 1960's and early 1970's at Oak Ridge National Laboratory with very promising results for power generation but was discontinued because it couldn't generate uranium-235 and plutonium-239 needed for nuclear weapons production.

    There are numerous advantages to LFTR nuclear power plants, as I've mentioned in other posts in the recent past. And it uses thorium-232, which is quite abundant in nature, so finding it is not an issue. (Indeed, China wants this technology because they can't figure out what to do with all that thorium ore dug out as part of China's extensive rare Earth mining program.)

    Wind and solar power may be nice, but large installations of wind turbines could pose a major hazard to birds and most large-scale solar power array installations take up huge swaths of land. Meanwhile, a modern LFTR using Brayton turbines to generate power takes up a very small amount of land just to generate 500 to 1,000 MW, which means very cheap construction costs.

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @09:13AM (#41079935)

      Bullshit. Office buildings kill far more birds than wind farms, you never hear anyone mentioning that. Solar can take up huge swaths of land, we have it empty. What are your plans for our deserts?

      LFTR might do all of what you suggest, but no one knows that. First we need to build one in 2012 not 1970. Then we need to study it. I strongly support doing that, I do not support using bullshit against other forms of power.

      For all we know there are major problems with LFTR that have not yet been found, lets be realistic about this. We should try it, but not pretend like it is some magic unicorn.

      • by Bigby (659157)

        There are far more office buildings than wind power generators. Deserts are as much a part of the environment as non-deserts; I only support solar installation on roofs.

      • Bullshit. Office buildings kill far more birds than wind farms, you never hear anyone mentioning that.

        Primarily because it's not true. Office buildings in fact provide habitat for raptors...

        Solar can take up huge swaths of land, we have it empty. What are your plans for our deserts?

        How about we let the deserts live? I think it hilarious that people criticize conservatives as being anti-environment when YOU would casually destroy miles of the most fragile eco-system that exists. There is a LOT of life in

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          Glass sided office buildings kill untold numbers of birds. Walk around any of them you will find the small birds that smashed into them.

          I never said I was pro-environment. I am pro my environment. Since I do not live in a desert, pave it with solar cells.

          • Walk around any of them you will find the small birds that smashed into them.

            I can honestly say I have not once seen that in any major city I have ever visited, or in the city I live in.

            How do you know the birds did not meet ends by other means? Cats, cars, etc. are all forces that can kill just as easily.

            In the end though the argument is stupid, because people have to have buildings but we do not have to have wind farms.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      That's reasonable, and also one reason I'd like to see such a debate actually happen. It'd be a respectable answer if Romney's position on renewable energy was that he agrees with the need to move away from fossil-fuel sources, but believes implementing modern, safe forms of nuclear power is the most practical means of doing so.

  • The first question that needs to be asked in any science policy among presidental candidates is,

    What is your stance on Miracles [youtube.com] as relates to the overall state of American science education?

    • What is your stance on Miracles [youtube.com] as relates to the overall state of American science education?
      Do you also expect the candidates to provide you with an adequate explanation of magnetism?
      • I expect a more open-minded reply than "And I don't wanna talk to a scientist, Y'all motherfuckers lying, and getting me pissed"

  • There's no such thing as global warming... or kittens.

    Do NOT let the candidates know the questions ahead of time - any parrot can rattle off speeches. It takes a real mind to answer real questions without filibustering the question into the ground, while seeming to sheeple that you did in fact answer the question.
    • by mjr167 (2477430) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @09:09AM (#41079905)
      But isn't it the mark of a good leader to be able to delegate? Some of the proposed questions do not have simple answers and I would prefer a leader willing to take the time and effort to get his subordinates to research the question and provide him with good data before formulating policy answers. Or do you prefer politicians to randomly spout out the first thing that comes to mind as policy?
      • Actually, I do prefer they spout out the first thing that comes to mind - it lets you better know who you might be voting for.
  • Why Bother. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @08:57AM (#41079789)

    We are no longer electing a person we are electing an ideology.

    1. Innovation and the Economy: Democrats, More money into funding NSF, and Public Universities. Republicans, let the private market innovate themselves, allow competition to improve be the driving factor.

    2. Climate Change: Democrats, More money into less effective green energy in hopes that money will make it work better. Republicans Increase use in Nuclear and Natural Gas production and let the market decide what is best for them.

    3. Research and the Future: Democrats,More money into funding NSF, and Public Universities. Republicans, let the private market innovate themselves, allow competition to improve be the driving factor.

    4. Pandemics and Biosecurity: Democrats, Wait until something happens in the US then we will have an answer 15 minutes before the problem climaxes, From a federal funded scientist. Republicans, Wait until something happens in the US then we will have an answer 15 minutes before the problem climaxes, from a drug company scientist.

    5. Education: Democrates, More money into schools, we will put some stupid metrics to show that it works. Republicans, vouchers for private schools, all competition of schools force them to improve.

    6. Energy: Democrats, More money into less effective green energy in hopes that money will make it work better. Republicans Increase use in Nuclear and Natural Gas production and let the market decide what is best for them.

    7. Food: Democrats, screw scientific results they are just from some corporate drone anyways, ban anything that sounds scary. Republicans let it all go out, and lets not try to measure it, until enough people are dying.

    8. Fresh Water: Democrats, Find the most polluted areas spend a lot of money to clean it up (It cannot be used for drinking, or fishing. But there is a 50% reduction of pollution!!!), and show a nice big percentage number to show the improvement. Republicans, tell the population to buy water cleaning systems for their house.

    9. The Internet: Democrats, Policies that will favor the internet companies that fund them More Open, but we tax it more. Republicans, Policies that will favor the internet companies that fund them, less open but no taxes.

    10. Ocean Health: Democrats, heavy restrictions on all companies. Republicans, The Ocean is in in international waters... Not our concern.

    11. Science in Public Policy: Both sides will give some BS answer and only cite science when it is for their benefit. Discredit the source when it isn't.

    12. Space: Democrats, Wast of Time and Money. Republicans, a military strategy.

    13. Critical Natural Resources: Democrats Put money in protecting or expanding and regulating the users. Republicans, Supply and Demmand will correct itself, once becomes to scarce price will rise high enough for alternative.

    14. Vaccination and public health: Democrats, force it on everyone screw what their religion or belief is. Republicans let people decide for themselves, and allow the spread of misinformation too.

    We are no longer getting candidates for leaders, we are getting ideology enforcers.
    Democrats, Will spend want to spend more money to solve the problem, money will solve all problems.
    Republicans, Will want private business to solve the problem, businesses can solve all problem.

    What we need is a leader not an ideology. Who can look at these issues and say. If we change a process here we may be able to solve a problem without that much money. Or this area does have a good process but it needs some more money to reach critical mass. Analysis when there is policies are in conflict with each other and try to measure the trade offs.
    But one of those guys would be those horrible moderates, or as we call them Flip Floppers. They do crazy things like listen to both sides, and use their own mind to come up with a solution. We don't want one of those people to rule our country. We want easy to digest sound bytes that follows a consistent ideology. Because a simple ideology will solve all our problems, the problem is always the other guy who will not allow us to implement our ideology.

    • Honestly Republicans just sound lazy.

      Q1: Question?
      Rep: Meh. Let the Markets figure it out.

      Its like they can't be bothered to come up with anything, just let the "market" fix everything for everyone.

      • Q1: Question?
        Rep: Meh. Let the Markets figure it out.

        It's more like - eh - why can't markets provide that solution?

        After all, it's why America was founded, so that people would have to freedom to address problems as they arose through private industry. Government is NOT supposed to be doing a lot of work, because that is the job of the people.

        You seem to think of it as "lazy". Yet it's like the man who has 100 miles to travel - they are just sitting back in a car, pressing a gas pedal and letting a powerf

    • Leaders rule through an ideology. Things like the Carter doctrine and the Bush doctrine didnt just appear because Rush Limbaugh wanted them to happen. These are leaders who formulated a means of governing with the help of their party and appropriate policy advisors. The problem stands to reason with the idea that the GOP is a legitimate political party when for four years their position on anything and everything has simply been "no." The GOP's platform of business first has clearly failed as the invisi
  • I don't think either of these guys know much about science. It would only be sad.
  • by trickstyhobbit (2713163) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @09:54AM (#41080425)
    The people who actually need to be scrutinized are the cabinet members. Since the candidate probably know less about science than I do, a debate between them would just be sad and ideological. Instead, there should be some public debate regarding potential cabinet members and at least some democratic accountability for them.
  • by PJ6 (1151747) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @09:58AM (#41080469)
    when nobody I want to elect will get a chance to participate?
  • by _Lint_ (30522)

    I was with them until the "graded" part. Upon what criteria would they be graded? There's more to a policy than statistics, or experimentally verifiable facts. A policy's impact on human rights and individual liberty need to be taken into account.

  • by cbope (130292) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @10:05AM (#41080547)

    ... basic scientific literacy of elected officials

    I'm seriously trying to get my head around that one. Is this supposed to be a joke?

  • by necro81 (917438) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @10:53AM (#41081175) Journal
    As much as I would love to see such a debate, it simply not going to happen. In order to participate in a debate, or any other campaign function, the candidate has to see a significant upside that outweighs the potential pitfalls. In other words, the campaign needs to have a sense that they can win votes and avoid losing votes. Let us examine that calculus for the two leading contenders:

    Obama:
    Pros - Gets to look like an informed policy maker. Gets to highlight his record (real or perceived) as president: green energy, funding for innovation, R&D corporate tax credits, higher mileage standards, network neutrality, access to education. Gets to try to make Romney look like an ignorant fool touting flat-earth nonsense that panders to an ignorant base.
    Cons - The people who are going to vote for him anyway already know this. The people who are undecided probably won't be swayed by his performance. His record thus far hasn't really satisfied environmentalists. Could come off as an egg-headed wonk rather than a substantive leader. Solyndra! Killing jobs in coal country! Higher energy costs! Loss of manufacturing!

    Romney:
    Pros - Gets to pound Obama on his record (real or perceived). Gets to pound Obama about job-killing regulations from the EPA, FCC, FDA, etc. Drill, baby, drill! Innovators are harmed, not helped, by government.
    Cons - Doesn't have a coherent platform of his own to promote, other than the magic mystery of the markets and ending (unspecified) regulations. Will either have to 1) pander unscientific nonsense that accords with his base, 2) speak intelligently on science and technology and alienate his base, or 3) speak in platitudes (innovation good! climate change? I dunno. Government bad!) that won't win over anyone. The people who are going to vote for him anyway won't be any more committed to him any route he chooses. He might end up losing votes. He isn't likely to get many undecideds from his performance.

    In short, there really aren't a whole lot of votes to be won from such a debate. There are votes to be lost. Nobody wants to appear uninformed on camera. Despite its indisputable importance, science and technology policy just doesn't deliver votes.
  • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @11:14AM (#41081465)

    Why not ask more basic questions dealing with things like evolution or even how conception works whether you are "legitimately" raped or not.

  • by Shempster (2523982) on Wednesday August 22, 2012 @11:39AM (#41081819)
    I want to know, in a nutshell, will your administration be more likely to make decisions, and form policies, based on scientific realities, or on industry funded pseudoscience? Press for this debate loudly. All too often, scientists in general, are too polite, too subdued, whereas brash know-it-all MBAs & Lawyers can't restrain themselves & their abilities to whip up a crowd for obfuscated, short-sighted, often selfish (greedy) counterproductive reasons. It is pathetic, the progress science-deniers/ detractors have made in the public consciousness in areas that truly matter: habitat destruction, green house gases, marine pollution, stratospheric ozone depletion, aka collectively screwing around with the global nitrogen cycle.

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