I have an unconfirmed report from a correspondent on Google+ that both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have agreed to address ScienceDebate's top American science questions during one of the presidential debates. If so, the entire evening could easily (and constructively) be devoted to SD's questions alone. I can think of no clearer way to judge a candidate's actual understanding of the issues, and his position on responding to the challenges we face, than in an unscripted, open debate.
Here are the issues which SD proposes as topics ~
- Innovation and the economy
- Climate change
- Research and the future
- Pandemics and biosecurity
- Fresh water
- The Internet
- Ocean health
- Science in public policy
- Critical natural resources
- Vaccination and public health
Notice that virtually every controversial issue which has long-term consequences is included in this list of science topics. Science is (or should be) at the center of policy and law making in Washington. Too often it is not, replaced by partisan political or religious agendas with no basis in fact. It speaks volumes that most members of Congress are lawyers, with very few scientists (very few PhDs in any field) representing the interests of the electorate.
An issue which is glaringly absent from this list is wilderness and wildlife. Globally, humans drive entire species to extinction daily, and entire ecosystems disappear weekly. All living things are connected. The temperate and tropical rain forests which we cut down are the lungs of the planet, converting carbon dioxide (a greenhouse gas) into breathable oxygen. We should be not only preserving all remaining wilderness, we should be expanding it. The same holds true for the birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, and microbes which inhabit the world ocean and all continents. They (we) form an intricate and fragile web of life. Disturb one element, and you interrupt the lives of all those beings connected to it ~ and all the beings connected to them ~ and on and on. There's a reason by biodiversity is the hallmark of a healthy planet.
Check out the link to learn more about the science questions proposed for debate. What are your thoughts on each topic, and what evidence would you present to back up your position, if you were participating in the debate? Because in a very real sense, we truly are participants ~ as voters. An informed electorate is the foundation of our republic. Those who choose to remain uninformed are not merely remiss in their responsibility as citizens, they are not worthy to vote. As screwed up as our political and economic system is, we allowed it to become that way. It is ours to repair, or ours to lose to those few wealthy Americans who would see our way of life become a rapacious oligarchy. If reform fails, this observer will incite for revolution.