Thursday, August 13, 2015

It's Time Presidential Candidates Had a Science Debate

It's time for a science debate in which all the candidates for president - Republican and Democratic - engage in an honest discussion of science-based issues. Such is the premise behind ScienceDebate, a non-partisan, non-profit effort to require candidates to address science.

The effort began with the 2008 elections and continued through 2012 and now 2016. The ultimate goal is to have a stand-alone science-based debate or at least a science-based section in multiple official debates. They have managed to get the eventual nominees for each party to respond in writing to questions prepared by a group of scientists. Not ideal, but it's a step toward the objective of getting candidates to talk about science.

Why must candidates talk about science?

The following quote from the ScienceDebate website sums it up nicely:
"The world has changed. Science now impacts every aspect of life, with major economic, environmental, health, legal, and moral implications. Shouldn't the candidates for president be showing their leadership by debating these things on TV, so that voters can be better informed by coverage of them in the news media?"
Think about some of the current issues the United States must address, all of which are largely driven by our understanding of the science.

  • Iran nuclear agreement
  • Climate change
  • Vaccines
  • GMOs
  • Fracking
  • Evolution/Education
  • Chemical regulation
  • Pollution
  • Obesity
  • Food

And that's only a short list of the most obvious ones. These science-based issues, individually and as a group, affect not only the specific topic of each and the environment, they affect human health, the economy, energy, national security, international politics and power structure, and much more.

In short, these science-based issues affect, and determine, our future.

So how are the candidates doing on science-based issues?

Not very well. This page wrote an Open Letter to the 2016 Presidential Hopefuls about man-made climate change. It's a critical issue and based on unequivocal, undeniable science. We humans are warming the global climate system and action is necessary. The Republican party has made a political decision to deny the science, which disqualifies all of their candidates for the job they seek. The Democratic candidates all acknowledge the science, though they have been inconsistent in their support for policies to deal with it. This page will have more on Democratic proposals and their inconsistency in future posts. At least they are trying, as demonstrated by President Obama's and EPA's Clean Power Plan (though he too has been inconsistent).

In this modern world, science drives our decision-making and our future. It permeates our every day lives, from our reliance on industrial food production to our energy sourcing to our handling of man-made climate change. Science impacts our economic and national security...and our well-being.

It's time to have a science debate.

[More information on ScienceDebate can be found on their website and their Facebook page. Two of the founders, Sheril Kirshenbaum, and Chris Mooney, co-authored a book called Unscientific America, that is also worth reading.]