Political Science

Ok, a sidestep into politics for a short, but important moment.

With all that’s going on with all the presidential debates and press conferences and other appearances, has anything struck you as a major topic (or class of topics) that is simply missing from the national discussion? A topic that affects our lives in so many ways, and helps shape our futures in a most profound manner?

I’m thinking of science. I’m thinking of it in all the forms in which it intersects with politics – where decisions made by the president involve policy directly related to science (climate change and stem cell research are two of the most obvious), scientific research (both basic and applied), safety and security issues (consider the EPA, Katrina and other natural disasters), resources (the ongoing and coming battles about water sources, for example, pollution and air quality go here too, as well as under other headings), and energy (well, take your pick of example issues there). There’s also science education, on which there ought to be coherent effort for many reasons too (including the pragmatic one of long term competitiveness of the USA). Ironically, the lack of science education helps reinforce the lack of discussion of these issues. Given the dismal state of basic science literacy, right now the populace just leaves the setting of policy and the making of decisions about so much of the above to be made by others – most often behind closed doors, and by people who do not have our best interests in mind. The electorate as a whole doesn’t require our politicians to have much in the way of independent thoughts about these matters (as hugely important as they are) since it mostly doesn’t have independent thoughts about them itself.

Don’t you want to know what presidential candidates think about these matters? Should they not be evaluated on their promises and positions on these matters as much as any of the other issues currently being discussed?

So what to do? Well, my friends Sheril Kirshenbaum and Chris Mooney of the blog The Intersection* have been working on this. They’ve compiled an impressive list of scientists, science writers, editors, and others sympathetic to the issue that have joined their voices under the banner “Sciencedebate 2008″. They’re basically calling for a debate (or debates) on science as we approach the 2008 Presidential election. I’d like to point you to the list – it’s here.

Chris and Sheril also asked a number of bloggers whether they’d like to add their voices to the call (as I am doing now). The list of voices may be found here. Thanks for leading on this, Chris and Sheril!

So that’s enough from me. What do you think?

-cvj

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*Both Sheril and Chris write a lot about the intersection of science and public policy over at The Intersection. I recommend their blog. Chris had an interesting article in Seed not so long ago expressing his thoughts on science policy and the presidential office. It is here.

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