Presidential campaigns to answer science questions …

| 8 Comments

Update, Sept 5, 2012: The answers have been posted, but the site cannot handle the traffic. Scientific American has posted the candidates’ answers here. I have not studied them yet, but according to a press release,

Notable highlights include a shift in Romney’s policy toward climate change away from his more recent position of “My view is we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet…” back toward his view in June of 2011 when announcing his run for president. However Romney’s ideas about what to do about the problem are not clear. They contrast with Obama’s, who says he has specifics plans and is taking specific steps such as doubling fuel economy standards, but who was unable to get a cap-and-trade bill through congress.

Shawn Otto, the founder of ScienceDebate, further adds, “Some of the questions aren’t fully answered when they become politically difficult and others could really benefit from followup discussion.…”

***

… but Congress refuses.* See here for the presidential edition and here for the congressional edition of the questions. The presidential campaigns’ responses will be published here. Science Debate is an “independent citizens’ initiative” sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academies, and others.

* Well, OK, Representatives Henry Waxman and Chris Van Hollen have responded to the questions, so 2/535 = 0.0037, or about 0.4 %, which is close enough to 0 for my taste. Besides, John Boehner refused outright.

8 Comments

The presidential answers are up, at least according to this news item on the sciencedebate web site, though I haven’t had any luck connecting to the link they give for the answers. Perhaps they are overwhelmed by science geeks.

tomh said:

The presidential answers are up, at least according to this news item on the sciencedebate web site, though I haven’t had any luck connecting to the link they give for the answers. Perhaps they are overwhelmed by science geeks.

The link they give for the answers - http://www.sciencedebate.org/debate12/ - appears to be working.

Paul,

Yes, the link should be working. I saw it this morning. Overall, I will only say that these were interesting, occasionally insightful, answers from Obama and Romney.

I was particularly disappointed with the answers to the last question. I think I would recommend to SciAm and partners that, next time, they make the question much more pointed. Like so:

“Right now in the US, child vaccination for diseases such as whooping cough and chicken pox is voluntary and linked to attendence at public schools. Given the increase in preventable, life-threatening outbreaks both here and overseas (with some child fatalities being reported for preventable diseases such as whooping cough), do you have any plans to change this voluntary system, and if so, how would you change it?”

Mitt Romney Wrote:

I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.

My reply:

Gov. Romney, you admit not being a scientist, yet what you say, while technically correct, is stated in a way that would be disapproved by the great majority of scientists working in relevant fields - the very ones who have the most to gain by finding new explanations, or finding data that successfully (by virtue of independent verification) challenge conventional wisdom. Why did you not seek their help in phrasing it properly?

Certainly those scientists have disagreements. That is trivially true, and is common in every field in science. By failing to mention that, on this issue*, the degree of differences among scientists is very minor compared to that among those who don’t understand the science (or pretend not to), you are reinforcing the common misconception that those who refuse to do the work, and spread agenda-driven propaganda instead, are equally qualified to contribute to the “debate.” By failing to mention that scientists welcome the opportunity to publicly debate their differences, you are reinforcing the common misconception that they are either unwilling or discouraged to do so.

* You are probably aware that this issue is often coupled with that of biological evolution. On that issue the disparity in both degree, and type of disagreements among practicing scientists is radically different than what the propaganda peddlers pretend that they are. Because these issues are typically coupled, you are indirectly allowing even more serious misconceptions to persist.

Frank J said:

Mitt Romney Wrote:

I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.

My reply:

Gov. Romney, you admit not being a scientist, yet what you say, while technically correct, is stated in a way that would be disapproved by the great majority of scientists working in relevant fields - the very ones who have the most to gain by finding new explanations, or finding data that successfully (by virtue of independent verification) challenge conventional wisdom. Why did you not seek their help in phrasing it properly?

Certainly those scientists have disagreements. That is trivially true, and is common in every field in science. By failing to mention that, on this issue*, the degree of differences among scientists is very minor compared to that among those who don’t understand the science (or pretend not to), you are reinforcing the common misconception that those who refuse to do the work, and spread agenda-driven propaganda instead, are equally qualified to contribute to the “debate.” By failing to mention that scientists welcome the opportunity to publicly debate their differences, you are reinforcing the common misconception that they are either unwilling or discouraged to do so.

* You are probably aware that this issue is often coupled with that of biological evolution. On that issue the disparity in both degree, and type of disagreements among practicing scientists is radically different than what the propaganda peddlers pretend that they are. Because these issues are typically coupled, you are indirectly allowing even more serious misconceptions to persist.

I agree, which is why I gave Romney an “F” for this question.

eric said:

I was particularly disappointed with the answers to the last question. I think I would recommend to SciAm and partners that, next time, they make the question much more pointed. Like so:

“Right now in the US, child vaccination for diseases such as whooping cough and chicken pox is voluntary and linked to attendence at public schools. Given the increase in preventable, life-threatening outbreaks both here and overseas (with some child fatalities being reported for preventable diseases such as whooping cough), do you have any plans to change this voluntary system, and if so, how would you change it?”

Make that suggestion directly to ScienceDebate. It’s website is:

http://www.sciencedebate.org

Mitt Romney Wrote:

I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.

My reply:

Gov. Romney, you admit that some uncertainty remains, and yet the only course of action you propose is more debate. By your own admission, the extent of global warming could be significant, even more significant than is currently recognized. The human contribution could be extremely significant, even up to 90% or more of the driving force behind the increase. The severity of the risk could be extreme, including famines, wars and mass extinctions. And yet, despite these very real possibilities you propose no solution whatsoever, no plan to reduce carbon emissions, no plan to development alternative energy sources, no plan to free us from the grip of big oil. In short, you are wiling to assume unknown risks, with the future of humanity at stake, and you offer no solution whatsoever.

Of course it will cost money. Of course it will be difficult to do. But the benefits will far outweigh the costs, if we act now. If we continue to demand more and more certainty, we condemn ourselves to the sure knowledge that we could have acted and we choose not to do so. That is not the kind of vision or leadership that this country needs. Please reconsider your position on this issue. At the worst we can provide cheap energy for all and reverse some of the mistakes of the past. At the best, we just might save the species and the planet. Certainly is not a requirement, action is.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on September 5, 2012 9:30 AM.

Save Siccar Point! was the previous entry in this blog.

ENCODE hype? From now on I’ll just reply: #oniontest is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.38

Site Meter