Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Quiz candidates on science

According to Science Debate 2008, 85% of Americans want a presidential debate "on how science can be used to tackle America's major challenges. The poll found no difference between Democrats and Republicans on this question." Very interesting, and I whole-heartedly agree. But there is a problem.

Now, I do not claim to be the all-knowing science guru. I do not claim to have a complete grasp on all of the basic scientific concepts (I blame public school and my lack of drive in high school), but I have been playing catchup. I regularly read up on science and the latest discoveries (thank God for Viigo and RSS feeds). However, I am not running for President of the United States (yet).

My point: I am pretty sure that the presidential candidates lack the scientific knowledge to have such a debate. My guess is that they'll do what candidates do in any political debate: cater to the popular voice of the times. What do you think? Do the candidates have the scientific knowledge to govern this nation in a scientifically positive way?


Griffin said...

I completely agree with you. Debates are a "look-good" campaign with that one goal in mind.

It isn't sexy to be debatable with strong values. What'll win you the White House is to pay attention to what everyone is thinking at the time and to come up with a compromise of your beliefs of what is best for the country and what everyone else thinks to win over as many people of as many demographics as possible.

Scientists are no different. They want approval and that'll probably bag them some federal funding.

Just a hunch...

Tim said...

Well not only do the candidates not understand science well enough to have such a debate, but most Americans don't understand science well enough for it to really matter. The 85% comes from the fact that it is a loaded question. Most people would not say no, because however little they know about it, they like the things science has given them. You might as well ask people if they would be for a ban on torturing puppies.

Just as an example of how scientific consensus could help solve problems though, Legislating as though global warming is a man-made problem, would have positive impacts whether or not it is a man-made problem. Getting rid of our oil based economy and basing it on something else will help stabilize the economy just as much as eliminating the gold standard did. Oil has caused 2 bouts of stagflation in this country inside of 50 years. That should be reason enough to find a less scarce fuel source, most of which will probably also reduce carbon emissions.

Or how about basing our education policies on a government funded study of how to make our schools more effective, rather than basing it on the results of idiotic standardized tests?

I got a million ideas like that, which wouldn't ever be implemented because that isn't the way politics is done in this country. Those questions don't get asked on polls and they wouldn't necessarily be popular answers anyway.

By the way, in regards to my man-made distinction earlier: Mars has global warming also. Let's see them try to blame that one on us. Global warming is a red-herring anyway, really the least of our worries environmentally.

Simon Says: said...

Well said Tim. I totally agree. Eliminate standardized testing. It isn't getting us anywhere, not to mention that highschoolers take those test days as a joke anyhow. I would like to see both an independent committee and a government study on how to improve schools and combine the results of both. Next up, critical thinking: Why is it that our education system sucks at teaching it? It would seem to me that teaching critical thinking is perhaps the most important thing one can learn in school/from the school experience.