Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Politics Government Science

Bush vs. Kerry on Science 1618

chrisspurgeon writes "The science journal Nature put 15 questions to Senator Kerry and President Bush. Read the candidates' responses on topics such as stem cell research, greenhouse emissions, and manned spaceflight to Mars."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Bush vs. Kerry on Science

Comments Filter:
  • by jbarr ( 2233 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:13AM (#10264578) Homepage
    ...in .pdf format is here [nature.com] if you don't want to hassle with the Flash presentation.
  • for lazy slashdoters (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:16AM (#10264604)

    Climate change

    Throughout his time in office, President George Bush has been slammed by environmentalists for avoiding steps to reduce global warming. Climate experts recommend cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions - and John Kerry pledges to take a greener stance.

    Yucca Mountain

    Twenty years ago an act of Congress put forward Yucca Mountain as a possible repository for the nation's nuclear waste - but fierce disputes over whether the site might leak radioactive material have held up its construction ever since. Now the mountain, in the political swing state of Nevada, has emerged as a hot campaign issue in the US presidential race, and both candidates claim that sound science is on their side

    Stem cells

    Before President George W. Bush arrived in the Oval Office, most Americans had never heard of a stem cell - a microscopic biological entity that can transform into hair, muscle or other human cell types. But four years on, the issue has escalated into a divisive one in US politics, and looks set to attract continued attention in the forthcoming election.

    Manipulation of science

    George Bush's presidency has suffered a rash of accusations that he is either ignoring or manipulating science. Democratic rival John Kerry, meanwhile, pledges to follow impartial scientific advice - but observers say that they are yet to be persuaded.

    Nuclear weapons research

    Late in 2002, the Bush administration proposed controversial plans to begin work on new designs for nuclear weapons. The idea has prompted fierce scientific and political opposition ever since.

    • by Coryoth ( 254751 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:41AM (#10264777) Homepage Journal
      Throughout his time in office, President George Bush has been slammed by environmentalists for avoiding steps to reduce global warming. Climate experts recommend cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions - and John Kerry pledges to take a greener stance.

      Kerry is also very careful to not actually commit to anything. He'll consider options, but potentially he could continue right along with Bush's current policy, and it would not actually contradict what he said.

  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:18AM (#10264620) Homepage
    Each political party has agendas. Each party will use science to support their agendas. However, when there is no real science to support their agenda, or when real science contradicts the agendas, bad science will be created or the importance of science will be lessened.

    Both political parties are guilty of the above. Merely because the right believes in invisible beings who control our destiny, doesn't make it worse than the left, who believes that creating a permanent welfare culture will end poverty.

  • Next up ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Mgt ( 221650 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:21AM (#10264642)
    ... Dracula vs. Wolfman on childcare.
  • Gah...flash. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LarsWestergren ( 9033 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:21AM (#10264650) Homepage Journal
    Why the hell did they need to make this into Flash? There are no animations, no images, just hyperlinked text which is rendered too small... or not at all at first actually, as I normally use Firefox with adblocker.

    With regards to the questions, wouldn't it have been more fun if they had asked B and K unprepared questions on science directly in person, without any speechwriters to hide behind?

    "The HIV virus is a retrovirus. Can either of you tell us what that means?"

    "Give us the strongest arguments pro and con for the existance of man-made global warming."
    • Re:Gah...flash. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nodatadj ( 28279 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:45AM (#10264815) Journal
      And what would either of those questions have proved? That neither Bush nor Kerry are scientists?

      Bush and Kerry do not make policy, they are just the public faces presenting the policies of their respective parties.

      Whether the creation of personality politics where you vote for the most attractive public face ("Oh, I don't like him, he has a parking ticket, I'll vote against him") rather than on parties and their policies is a good or bad thing I'll leave for you to decide.
    • An excellent idea (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SolemnDragon ( 593956 ) * <(solemndragon) (at) (gmail.com)> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:45AM (#10264817) Homepage Journal
      In fact, why not expand this to other issues? Why not require an on-the-spot literacy and basic knowledge test? I think that this would be a great idea, no leader left behind, and all. I may sound snarky, but i mean it. I'd love to see them have to answer some basic stuff. Things they really ought to know if they've got their hands on the purse strings and their finger on the button...

      1. Which country does the US currently owe the most money to?

      2. How much is one trillion, in millions?

      (If you can't answer this, i don't want you spending my taxes. The English answer is often different from the American answer, too.)

      3.a. What's the basic standard treatment for radiation sickness?

      3.b. How thick should the walls of a fallout shelter be?


      What else should be on the test?

      • Re:An excellent idea (Score:4, Interesting)

        by stray ( 73778 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @09:17AM (#10265066) Homepage
        I'd like to hear them (well, the W anyway) answer some of these:

        - How many sovereign countries are there in the world?

        - How many world religions?

        - Earth's circumference? Land surface? the U.S. land surface?

        - How long does it take to cross the U.S. by car, east coast to west coast? How many timezones do you traverse? How much do you pay for the gas for this trip?

        Have a public debate, randomly draw 10 questions like those out of a pool of 100, and let the candidates answer them.

        I don't know any exact answers to any of these questions, but I think it would be very interesting to hear some unprepared guesses from the candidates, orally, with a bit of discussion about how they arrived at their answers.

        You'd get to know the guys a lot better than by being inundated by election TV ads and smear campaigns.

      • by Idarubicin ( 579475 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:40PM (#10268373) Journal
        3.b. How thick should the walls of a fallout shelter be?

        I'm pretty sure I'd be uncomfortable with the foreign policy of a national leader who was really familiar with fallout shelter design....

  • Unfortunatly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lifix ( 791281 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:22AM (#10264656) Homepage
    Bush's supporters have been shown to vote for him soely on moral ground. The poorest county in america voted more then 80% for Bush. Why you ask? Because Bush has the Christian Right, a sizeable population. Bush can screw the enviroment, tax people into the ground, reinstate the draft, declare war on canada and mexico and still have the christian right's vote.

    If people will wake up and realize that voting for Bush without understanding the issues is killing our country, then perhapse they will change... but until then bush can look forward to having all the bible thumpers under his belt, and abusing his power more and more. Ah well, personally, I think you should have to have a slashdot account to vote this year.
    • Re:Unfortunatly (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Plaeroma ( 778381 ) <plaeroma@nospAm.gmail.com> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:57AM (#10264900) Journal
      What is most unfortunate is that these people are tarnishing the already shot reputation of Christianity. Going from what it seen on the media, being Christian means hating gays, supporting war, turning America into a theocracy, and opressing anyone who disagrees. This is a far cry from love your enemies, forgive those who wrong you, and peace loving message I garnered from reading the Bible. Not saying that approach is the best either, but these Right wingers certainly have no place in calling themselves Christian.
    • by ShatteredDream ( 636520 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:59AM (#10264918) Homepage
      By supporting Arlen Spectre over his challenger, Bush basically guaranteed that any of his allegedly anti-abortion judicial candidates would be "Borked" again. It was Spectre, a republican, that went off like a rabid attack dog on Bork when IIRC Bush senior was trying to get him approved. And do you know what the irony of it is? Bork is the kind of conservative that would have ripped Microsoft a new asshole on its anti-trust case if it had gone to the SCotUS.

      Between his support for spectre, illegal alien amnesty, spending like a stripper with a stolen credit card, new entitlements and his equivocation on supporting Israel he stands to lose the Christian Right from the comments I've been reading on right-of-center sites. Most of them are not commentary sites either, but forums like FreeRepublic.

      Unfortunately most of these guys will be deusch bags in 2004 and would stay home rather than vote for Petruka the Constitution Party candidate. Why? If it ain't the big guy, and it ain't their big guy, no point in voting. Most of them are probably working class or barely in the middle class because they cannot connect two simple facts: if they came out and voted LP or CP instead of voting for Bush, the minor parties would get so many votes that the RP would be howling in pain in 2004 and would be whoring itself out to the right to get its base back. But they won't do that, so why should the Republicans give a flying fuck about the Christian Right anymore?

      As I have often quipped, we libertarians are the principled on the right, the "christian right" aren't principled, their voting habits show it. Rather they are merely the spoiled brats of the right.
  • Eurpoean perspective (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tx ( 96709 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:23AM (#10264665) Journal
    I really hope you guys elect Dubya again. We in Europe need all the help we can get competing in science, so Bush is our man.
  • by dcsmith ( 137996 ) * on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:26AM (#10264684) Homepage
    Not a bad read for anyone interested in science. In addition to revealing their stances on the individual areas of science in question, the answers also give some indications on how the candiates see science's impact on the US and global economies, the environment and even US interations with other nations. Actually more information than you might expect out of campaign rhetoric.

    I was amused that most of Kerry's responses mentioned John Edwards, but Cheney is not mentioned ONCE in Bush's answers. I suppose that makes sense for the questions about energy policy...

    Its clear that the candidates don't ever plan on using these responses verbally. I'd love to see W try and pronounce "carbon sequestration". (In the Bush response to question #12.)

  • Funding (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Zorilla ( 791636 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:30AM (#10264712)
    It should be noted that the current ban on stem-cell research actually only prevents funding research on the topic. Has anybody else seen that piece on 60 Minutes about the Howard Hughes research center that has been able to research it anyway because of its massive private funding?

    That said, I'm still against the blocking of research funds. More eyes can be useful on this subejct, obviously.
    • Re:Funding (Score:5, Informative)

      by Blitzenn ( 554788 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:40AM (#10264768) Homepage Journal
      The fact that you missed in the funding ban is that if a research lab pursues embryonic stem cell research, they will lose ALL of their funding in ALL of their areas of research. The Bush administration has made it clear that they do not want to be tie to this in any way. Nearly every major research firm in America recieves federal funds to aid their research in one fashion or another. They are not going to pursue private funding for research in this area and risk losing all of their funding in others. It is a scare tactic used by the government to stop the research and it works pretty effectively.
  • by someme2 ( 670523 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:35AM (#10264735)
    This is interesting: "what would you do to ensure that your administration receives genuinely impartial scientific advice?"

    Both essentially answer: "It is really important to get impartial advice, that's why I will take only impartial advice."

    Both don't get at all into the problem - which is "how do you know what advice is impartial?".

    Both answers have nice parts like Bush's world class sentence "I have sought out the best scientific minds..." - completely ignoring that the question was "how do you deal with the problem that it is hard to know what good science is?"

    Kerry's reasoning is equally interesting when he says "[Hey, how do I ensure that I receive impartial advice?] My administration would never utilize biased advice."

    That's true Mr. President. You can very well be sure that you receive impartial advice when you just don't utilize the biased advice!


    Both candidates didn't say anything about the problem itself stating trueisms of the worst order.
  • Missile defense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:36AM (#10264745) Homepage Journal
    They ask an interesting question about star wars here. Bush claims that the program is working, and will be much more fully operational soon, Kerry says that more research is needed. However, the question only focuses on the scientific aspects of the system, not on it's stratagic usefulness. The world is much different than it was during the Soviet era. During the soviet era, outside the possibility of submarines the only way for the Soviets to attack the US was through missiles, because we hardly did any trade at all with our "enemy", but today the world is much different.
    Suppose North Korea really wanted to nuke the US. They have missiles that could potentially reach Alaska, MAYBE California, and will soon have the nuclear technology to make weapons, if they don't have it already. But if North Korea really wanted to attack the US, why would they use a missile whose source can be detectable when they could just sneak a missile on one of the thousands of Chinese ships that come to the US each year that go virtually unsearched by customs? North Korea would have to be morons not to have spies working in the Chinese shipping industry(unbeknowst to China of course).
    We are just dumping money down the drain on a system that is questionable both scientifically and strategically.
  • by ghostlibrary ( 450718 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @08:45AM (#10264819) Homepage Journal
    For those who didn't RTFA, here's the answers:

    Bush, questions 1-2, 4, 6-15: Yes, but no.
    Kerry, questions 1, 6-15: Yes, but no.
    Bush, questions 3, 5: No, but yes.
    Kerry, questions 2-5: No, but yes. ... I can't believe I actually tallied these up.
  • summary of responses (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 16, 2004 @09:09AM (#10264988)
    On most of the questions the responses from the candidates were equally uninformative. Overall I was impressed with the use of actual figures and specific plans in the Bush responses, versus the vague generalizations and even clearly ambiguous answers on questions like Mars and ballistic missile defenses that Kerry gave.

    For the slightly interesting questions, here is the summary of responses(I am sure that Bush did not write his responses personally; for Kerry I am unsure, but I suspect that he didn't either):

    Stem cell research: Bush quotes amounts of federal money given for stem cell research, whereas Kerry promises to allow federal funding of stem cell research on new lines. Scientists interested in stem cell research will all prefer Kerry's response.

    Nuclear weapons: Bush promises to fund development of new types of nuclear weapons, Kerry promises not to.

    Ballistic missile defense: Bush promises to deploy a system within the next two years, Kerry promises not to deploy the system Bush proposes for immediate deployment. No word on whether Kerry plans to continue funding research or eventually deploy a different system.

    Greenhouse gas emmisions: Bush quotes previously announced goal of 18% reduction in US greenhouse gas emissions. Kerry promises to join Kyoto protocol.

    Space science: Bush quotes Mars mission plan. Kerry promises that NASA will be given sufficient support for any future missions he proposes. No mention of any planned mission proposals, and it implies that he will can the Mars mission plan, although it doesn't say that explicitly.
  • What the... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tgd ( 2822 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @09:39AM (#10265283)
    I don't believe for a second that Bush could even successfully read his responses in there, much less understand what they mean.

    Clearly the questions were provided in writing where others could answer, not verbally where they had to answer for themselves.

    That makes both sets of answers largely meaningless.
  • by merlin_jim ( 302773 ) <James.McCracken@ ... m ['apu' in gap]> on Thursday September 16, 2004 @09:59AM (#10265559)
    Most of Bush's answers seem to not make much sense or have major terminology errors...

    But in the answer to question 6... "ITER is a critically important experiment to test the feasibility of nuclear fusion as a source of electricity and hydrogen." (emphasis added)

    Perhaps one of the many scientific reviewers that parsed his comments before sending them to nature should've let him know that fusion actually consumes hydrogen?

    Oh and on question 3... is "fissile materials" really a word?
  • by tji ( 74570 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:26AM (#10265891)
    If you want insight into the candidate's views on science, you should look into views on basic issues, like Evolution.

    Bush has made several comments [msn.com] supporting the teaching of creationism in public schools. But, given the radical religious beliefs permeating his administration, this is not really surprising.

  • by pocopoco ( 624442 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:36AM (#10266015)
    I'm really disappointed the answer to so many of these questions is "Oh, we'll spend more, of course". Kerry's speech at the DNC was much the same. There he started out saying he'll balance the budget and then 90% of his speech is what he'll spend more on. I didn't get to see Bush's speech, but I imagine it was much the same. If politicians weren't allowed to be such flim flams maybe we would start seeing actual solutions being proposed like ending the war on drugs, tossing out the nuke stockpile, breaking up the two party system for something more democratic (lol, ok fat chance on that one), etc..
  • Fallacies (Score:5, Informative)

    by rreyelts ( 470154 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @10:53AM (#10266233) Homepage
    Let me point out some fallacies I see being repeated over and over again throughout the threads on this topic:

    Fallacy - The set of people who are scientists does not intersect the set of people who are Christians.
    Fact - Many scientists are also Christians, including myself.

    Fallacy - Bush does not allow stem cell research.
    Fact - Bush does not support fetal stem cell research with my personal tax dollars. Dollars for stem cell research are still being spent by our government, and private institutions can perform their own embryonic stem cell research if they so choose. You can even donate your own personal money to support embryonic stem cell research.

    That is all for now, thank you.
    • Re:Fallacies (Score:5, Informative)

      by ad0gg ( 594412 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @12:13PM (#10267205)
      Bush does not support fetal stem cell research

      Umm its embryonic stem cell research. In no way are these things ever fetuses. They never attached to the uterus lining which is the definition of a fetus. The cells in questioned are the waste of invitro fertilization. And his ban affects all universities from exploring embroyonic stem cell research which has greater possibility of curing nerve and brain diseases since adult stem cells cannot transform into nerve or brain cells(neurons). Calling them fetuses is pure FUD and leads me to question wheter your statement about being a scientist is truthful.

      Embryonic Stem cell research [wisc.edu]

      Statement from the white house about in vitro fertilization and embryonic research.

      The origin of embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are derived from excess embryos created in the course of infertility treatment. As a result of standard in vitro fertilization practices, many excess human embryos are created. Participants in IVF treatment must ultimately decide the disposition of these excess embryos, and many individuals have donated their excess embryos for research purposes.
      White house statement [whitehouse.gov]

  • by ate50eggs ( 647594 ) on Thursday September 16, 2004 @01:11PM (#10267960) Homepage
    Most of the question answer pairs go something like this: Nature: If elected, how will you balance [some issue - e.g. the environment] with [some conflicting issue - e.g. industrial growth]? Candidate: I plan on a adressing [issue one] without sacrificing [issue two]. sadly this is probably too late on the board to save anyone the trouble of actually reading the pseudo-interview, but hey, I tried.