Calls For A Presidential Science Debate

December 10, 2007

Mooney and Kirshenbaum of The Intersection are calling for a Presidential Debate on Science in the 2008 Silly Season. Here’s the manifesto:

Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness, we, the undersigned, call for a public debate in which the U.S. presidential candidates share their views on the issues of The Environment, Medicine and Health, and Science and Technology Policy.

They have a website up and everything. Go look.

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Followup randoms:

Nick Anthis of The Scientific Activist actually mentions NIH funding as one of his ScienceDebate2008 hobby horses. Some readers around here might be interested.

Dr. Free-Ride gets into the “reality” issue.

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8 Responses to “Calls For A Presidential Science Debate”

  1. physioprof Says:

    Under ordinary circumstances, maybe this kind of thing could be mildly useful, or at least entertaining. Right now, it is a complete waste of time. The only characteristic of a presidential candidate that means anything right now is that they not be completely, utterly, gobsmackingly batshit insane.

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  2. drugmonkey Says:

    Hmm, isn’t this just a vehicle to bash, well, the current administration and hope to tar any current candidates that seem a bit anti-science?

    First, this is way too late to actually hope for a debate. All they can possibly hope for is a couple of questions raised at a “regular” debate.

    Second, dude, nobody in politics actually likes science! Because there are little things like facts and falsifiable hypotheses that are antithetical to political behavior.

    My optimistic neuron (singular) hopes that this is an even deeper game in which science advocates know all of this but are going to leverage the first-mentioned purpose to Trojan science issues into the Democratic candidates’ mainstream messages. as in “We know nobody gives a crap about science but if the Dems think it is a winning talking point, we can use them for our own PR and propaganda purposes”.

    Now that would be some good thinking.

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  3. physioprof Says:

    I’m sure that is the goal. I’d rather see these people spending their political capital–such as it is–on advocating simply for a return to sanity in government, rather than on the narrower concerns they are focused on.

    How about this revised manifesto: “Given the shitstorm currently facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for non-insane political decision-making, and the vital role that non-insane political decision-making plays in saving our sorry asses from the shitstorm we’re in, we, the undersigned, call for a public debate in which the U.S. presidential candidates share their views on the issue of whether and how they intend to implement a non-insane political decision-making process if and when they take office.”

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  4. neurolover Says:

    How abut Al Gore? Isn’t he a scientist? :-).

    I don’t think politicians hate science any more than the average non-scientist does. I think that we’ve built ourselves a way of looking at the world that makes enormous sense (it actually predicts things!), but I think that we still have work to do in showing others that it’s is the right way to look at the world.

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  5. drugmonkey Says:

    neurolover, in the best science scenarios we approach every experiment fresh. sure we have a valence to our predictions but structurally it is supposed to be neutral on which way the data point after the experiment is completed. individually, as institutions, as groups. we are supposed to conclude that we’ve given our best attempt at the experiment and we alter our understanding of the world based on the results. we’re big into positive and negative controls, into actually doing manipulations to see what happens.

    to me this just stands in contrast to most politics. where adherence to traditional Party ideology and adherence to a consistent personal track record is paramount. the freedom to say “okay, we’ll try it your way for X amount of time but then if you are wrong you will admit this and change course” is absent.

    and no, I don’t think Al Gore is anything special in this regard. Admittedly I haven’t seen the movie yet and I’m biased by his/tipper’s music thing back in the day. so let’s just call it a prediction that he leans more toward the political approach than toward the scientific…

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  6. neurolover Says:

    Notice the smiley face? by no means do I think Gore is a scientist, by the definition you describe.

    I don’t think most politicians are, either. But, unfortunately, I don’t think most _people_ are scientific, by your definition. I think “party” ideology & anecdote & testimonials drive most of their decision making. I realized when talking about vaccines with my friends and neighbors that I evaluated the evidence completely differently. I think politicians are people in that regard.

    The one argument that politicians can hold on to is decisions need to be made when evidence is insufficient. We scientist unlike generals and presidents and physicians often have the choice of making no choice.

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  7. physioprof Says:

    Politicians do not have to be “scientific” to be effective at governance. They just have to be responsive to reality.

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  8. [...] effort. This is especially important for me to recognize because I have been a bit skeptical from the start. For example when I first heard of this in December 2007 I thought: … this is way too late to [...]

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