In the past week or so, I have seen a few references to a proposal put forward by a group of prominent scientists, journalists, and politicians among others to hold a presidential debate devoted solely to issues of science and technology. To me, one who has always been a fan of science as a biochemistry major and frequent reader of several science-related blogs as well as one who has been actively involved in campaigning for the 2008 election, this seems like a marvelous idea.
For almost the past 7 years, we have had a President who has disregarded scientific evidence in areas like global warming, actively campaigned against scientific programs such as embryonic stem cell research, cut funding for a broad range of scientific programs, and otherwise created an air hostile to science.
Furthermore, when I see possible party nominees like Mike Huckabee who has openly stated that he doesn’t believe in a theory central to biology that has be solidified by years of evidence, I worry about the possibility that Bush’s policies toward science could continue.
What a debate like this would do would attract the attention of the American public back to issues of science and technology, which are key to our economic prosperity and standing in the world, not just the whims of science geeks like me. It would force candidates to go through this an important vetting process as, even if they don’t participate in the debate, the media will hound them for their views.
Now, we are in a tricky position. The Iowa caucuses are approaching quickly and it’s difficult to imagine that such a debate would be organized and that candidates would agree to attend on such a short time frame, especially with the holidays in the way. In some ways it would be nice if the debate occurred in the primary season as it would allow voters to choose according to their preference from a pool rather than a dichotomy of candidates.
On the other hand, a debate during the general election would probably get a greater viewing audience and better put the issues of science into the minds of the American public.
However, right now, the main concern for me is to build support for this idea. Support Science Debate 2008!