That's why I was looking forward to seeing what Barack Obama and Mitt Romney had to say about science. Do they personally believe in evolution? Do they understand that homeopathy is useless? Do they think that science conflicts with their religious beliefs? Do they personally believe that the universe began almost 14 billion years ago with a Big Bang? Do they understand what causes earthquakes? Can they tell us why the discovery of the Higgs boson was important? Do they know what a gene is? Can they personally tell us in a few sentences how an eclipse of the sun occurs? Do they understand the concept of a chemical reaction?
ScienceDebate.org is a group dedicated to encouraging science debate in American politics. All the big science organizations are affiliated with ScienceDebate.org including AAAS and the National Academies and the organization I belong to, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). Here's how ScienceDebate.org describes its goal on their website.
"Whenever the people are well-informed," Thomas Jefferson wrote, "they can be trusted with their own government."There are many ways to be well-informed but when it comes to science there are not many options. In order to be well-informed you need to understand science and you need to understand what science has discovered. You need to understand that evolution is a fact, for example.
Science now affects every aspect of life and is an increasingly important topic in national policymaking.
ScienceDebate.org invited thousands of scientists, engineers and concerned citizens to submit what they felt were the the most important science questions facing the nation that the candidates for president should be debating on the campaign trail.
ScienceDebate then worked with the leading US science and engineering organizations listed at left to refine the questions and arrive at a universal consensus on what the most important science policy questions facing the United States are in 2012.
Candidates readily debate jobs and the economy even though they are not economists; they debate foreign policy and military intervention even though they are not diplomats or generals; they debate faith and values even though they are not priests or pastors. We call on the candidates for President to also debate these Top American Science Questions that affect all voters' lives.
So, are the presidential candidates well-informed about science? We'll never know since all of the questions are about science policy and most of them are about how to keep America at the top of the heap when it comes to innovation and productive technology.
This ain't about science, folks. The answers from the Obama and Romney campaigns are boring and predicable. Don't bother going to the website to read them unless you are having trouble falling asleep, especially if you're not an American.
Here's the first question ... 1
1. Innovation and the Economy. Science and technology have been responsible for over half of the growth of the U.S. economy since WWII, when the federal government first prioritized peacetime science mobilization. But several recent reports question America’s continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will best ensure that America remains a world leader in innovation?I know lots of people disagree with me but you cannot make a scientifically literate society if you only promote science for the sake of the economy. Another opportunity lost.
1. Before reading the answers, try and imagine how you would answer if you were a politician who was completely ignorant of science and you assign the answer to your political advisers. Pretend you're a Republican then pretend you're a Democrat. Check to see if the actual answers are any different. What's the point? This is such a waste of time.