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Call for a Presidential Debate on Science

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the platitudes-and-geralizations-wont-cut-it dept.

Politics 610

Writer Matthew Chapman recently wrote a piece for the Washington Post calling for a science-only Presidential debate. While I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for the candidates to embrace such a potentially difficult series of questions, a bit more emphasis on modern science and technology certainly couldn't hurt. "None of the candidates should know in advance what questions they might face. Not knowing the questions in advance would force them to study as much science as possible, and this in itself would be a marvelous thing. However, a statement would be read at the start stating that no one expects politicians to understand every aspect of the many scientific disciplines. The debate's tone would try not to be adversarial, but cordial and educational. It could even be fun."

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That'll be the day... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158531)

When pigs fly (and I'm sure science is working on this).

Here's an idea (5, Funny)

Besna (1175279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158547)

What sort of physical conditions (pressure, temperature) would have to exist to produce carbon from a mix of hydrogen and oxygen? ;)

Republican answer (5, Funny)

paranode (671698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158591)

All you need is Jesus.

Re:Republican answer (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158801)

Is hate all you have left?

Good grief. You liberals have become what you supposedly hate the most, self righteous hypocrites.

Re:Republican answer (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158913)

Good thing it wasn't muslims you were making fun of, because that would have proved you were a Republican. From your choice of jokes it is rather obvious you are a Democrat.

Re:Republican answer (2, Insightful)

paranode (671698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158979)

Actually I probably lean more towards Republican side of the fence if anything but religious/superstitious intervention in science is one of my pet peeves.

Democratic Answer (0, Flamebait)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158935)

"What sort of physical conditions (pressure, temperature) would have to exist to produce carbon from a mix of hydrogen and oxygen? ;)"

Pick one of the following:

A)This will naturally occur due to Global Warming.

II)This will occur because of the war in Iraq.

3) Religious Nutball, everyone knows that's impossible.

e) All of the above

Re:Here's an idea (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158699)

What sort of physical conditions (pressure, temperature) would have to exist to produce carbon from a mix of hydrogen and oxygen? ;)

While I don't have the exact figures memorized, it would be similar to the temps and pressure required to create gold from helium (a few steps omitted, of course, but those are dwarfed by the whole idea).

Hillary's answer (5, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158729)

Under my administration, everybody, even poor people, will have access to FREE carbon! I mean, with the limited carbon availble, someone has to think of the children! It takes a village to produce carbon from hydrogen and oxygen, and I'll do my part to ensure that we all pitch in!

*whisper*

What? You can't produce carbon from hydgrogen and oxygen?

Well, I'm not anything if tough on crime! We'll make sure that anybody caught putting hydrogen and oxygen together to make carbon will get the justice they deserve!

Re:Here's an idea (3, Funny)

Surt (22457) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158923)

Temperature: something in the range of 4000 kelvin
Pressure: something in the neighborhood of 40 PPa

Of course, you can trade one against the other to some extent, I don't have the formula handy.

FIRST (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158549)

Well that's a first

Why? (1, Redundant)

fitten (521191) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158561)

Would this be fun just to see a bunch of people who don't know anything about science trying to answer questions about science? or actually, they'll most likely sidestep the questions. Either that, or they'll explain their policies towards the science in question, which would surely only make all of us angry or something. I don't see much good coming out of this except potentially to expose the candidates' ignorance.

Re:Why? (1)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158603)

Exposing their ignorance in and of itself would be a good thing. Nobody who denies scientific facts should be voted president. I'm not asking for someone who understands the ins and outs of quantum mechanics and relativity, but someone who doesn't deny evolution because some dead guy on a stick 2000 years ago told him not to would be nice.

Re:Why? (2, Informative)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158711)

The last study I heard said that almost half of americans believe that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago. What may turn you off to a candidate may make him more appealing to others.

Re:Why? (1)

butterwise (862336) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158763)

And the other half believe it was more like 4,000 years ago...

Re:Why? (2, Insightful)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158777)

The idiocy of the American public is the other half of the problem. The creationists deserve nothing more than unending ridicule and ostracism.

Shit, if it wasn't for the racial history, a simple test to see whether or not your vote would count would be a great benefit to this country. They wouldn't even have to be hard questions, just things like "does America have an official language", "does America have an official religion", and so on.

Re:Why? (5, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158829)

Yeah, locking people out of the voting process because they fall below some standard you set makes for a great defence of democracy. Whatever happened to the Slashdot support for the American ideal that all men are endowed with inalienable rights regardless of what some elite says?

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158895)

These people are actively trying to destroy the separation of church and state. A simple test to see if people actually know the rules of the constitution would go a long way to ensuring that people stop getting elected on unconstitutional principles.

Re:Why? (4, Insightful)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158967)

Ah, so the right to self-governance only extends to people who agree with your principles, then. Excellent.

Re:Why? (5, Insightful)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 6 years ago | (#21159027)

I don't give a rat's ass about democracy. I care about freedom. Democracy is merely a means to an end.

Re:Why? (1)

N3WBI3 (595976) | more than 6 years ago | (#21159033)

Nobody who denies scientific facts should be voted president

I'm curious... Why? Some scientist make a killing fighting scientific 'facts'? If youre going to write current understanding of the physical world ont two stone tablets and label anyone who does not believe them all a heretic... well you see where this is going..

The problem is your post did not say if *X* does not understand science, you said the 'deny science' this attitude is an awful thing. The president is an administrator, the head of my company does not know jack about computers but hires people who do to take care of that aspect.

As a Christian I don't believe evolution, I think that if God could form a fully grown and mature man from the earth it would be a small task for him to form a fully mature (including geological features) earth. That being said I understand the theory and have a better grasp on scientific concepts than Bill Clinton (or Hillary) ever did, my career in in the sciences.

Re:Why? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158633)

Exactly. If you want them to answer questions on science, DO prepare them with a list of topics ahead of time. At least that way you'll know when the question is asked who did their homework and developed an opinion, and who didn't. Their ability to develop an opinion on a topic is very important, as THAT is what they'll be doing as President.

Re:Why? (1)

Assassin bug (835070) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158679)

Agree! This would be far more worth while.

Re:Why? (1)

TI-8477 (1105165) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158649)

Most people on slashdot would vote based on that alone.

Intertubes Part II (1)

n dot l (1099033) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158687)

Yeah. This would just be painful to watch. Can you imagine? We'd probably end up calling the debate "Son of the Intertubes".

And in an election that's going to be dominated by the Iraq debate (unless, you know, a bullshit issue like gay marriage rears its ugly head...again [rolls eyes]) it's rather pointless. All I want to hear out of the candidates regarding science is something along the lines of, "Yeah, I like science, sure I'd fund it." Anything more is just a waste of time.

Re:Why? (4, Interesting)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158897)

I disagree. Their policy on the issues surrounding the science is exactly what they should speak about, and why I for one would love to see a debate like this. They needn't discuss the science itself directly, but rather its policy implications.

For instance, some questions could be asked on subjects like...

- The place of Evolution in public education
- The responsibility of a President not to distort scientific truths
- The impact and possible solutions to global warming
- The benefits and moral implications of stem cell research
- The importance of spending money on pure science
- The direction for institutions such as NASA

The basic problem would be that the Rebublican candidates would never want to try to compete in a debate like this. It practically seems like a matter of party idealogy to ignore science, and respond with appealing to the public's feelings, or religious alternatives, rather than admitting the value of science, and the facts it delivers to us. When it comes to global warming, evolution, and stem cell research-- the biggest science-related issues up for discussion this cycle-- the Democrats clearly side with the science.

It'll never happen (4, Insightful)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158571)

It'll never happen as long as the religious anti-any-science-that-my-holy-book-says-is-wrong crowd continues to hold any real weight in American politics.

Re:It'll never happen (1)

grogdamighty (884570) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158675)

Correction: it will never happen so long as we have career politicians who not only have no science training to speak of, but have no incentive to learn anything about anything that does not directly relate to the 3-4 hot topics amongst their constituents. Furthermore, should one of those hot topics be a science-based issue, they need do no more than learn a few keywords to rile up the masses.

Re:It'll never happen (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158823)

Correction: it will never happen so long as we have career politicians who not only have no science training to speak of, but have no incentive to learn anything about anything that does not directly relate to the 3-4 hot topics amongst their constituents. Furthermore, should one of those hot topics be a science-based issue, they need do no more than learn a few keywords to rile up the masses.

If what you say is true, and it is, then the problem is not with the politicians, but the constituents. You can't blame a politician for following the will of his/her constituency. That's their job!

Granted, there is some "riling" up of the masses that some politicians are guilty of, but a politician can't do that without the press acting as a willing accomplice. It's the press that controls what the public sees, not the politicians.

Example from the left: The run up to the Iraq war
Example from the right: Global warming

(please do not try to debate me on either GW or Iraq. Those are merely prime examples of how the press, not the politicians take an issue, run with it and only report one side of the story)

Re:It'll never happen (0, Flamebait)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158755)

It'll never happen as long as public opinion and the democratic process continues to hold any real weight in American politics.
There, fixed that for you.

Re:It'll never happen (1)

JoshJ (1009085) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158835)

Ah yes, because the population should be held hostage to the whims of a bunch of undereducated morons who are hellbent on forcing their religion on everyone else.
Nevermind the fact that the Constitution is intended to protect the rights of the minority even if the majority is full of blithering morons. (This ignores the fact that the Constitution has been pathetic at actually fulfilling this role, and America has consistently been held hostage by blithering morons. See: slavery, Jim Crow, gay marriage, etc.)

Re:It'll never happen (1, Flamebait)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158985)

By forcing religion upon everyone, you mean the Environmental Earth worshipping Wackos who are foisting the idea of Global Warming, right?

Re:It'll never happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158857)

Fuck you.

Science is not politics (4, Insightful)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158575)

I would not want Albert Einstein as President.

There are some things you SHOULD delegate.

Science is either settled or debated.

Settled science is just memorization. Debated science is pretty much already publicized.

What I would like is for someone to say "The White House will no longer rewrite scientific reports made by agencies. If we believe something should not be 'promoted', we will move it to an appendix instead of removing it entirely."

Re:Science is not politics (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158665)

I wouldn't want Einstein as President, but I wouldn't want George W. Bush as President either.

No one should require their President to be a scientific genius, but the ability to deal intelligently with matters of science is actually quite important.

Re:Science is not politics (4, Insightful)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158707)

> What I would like is for someone to say "The White House will no longer rewrite scientific reports made by agencies."

What I would like is for someone to say "The White House no longer has the power or authority to rewrite scientific reports made by agencies." With all due respect, I don't want to take their fucking word for it.

Re:Science is not politics (1)

Elemenope (905108) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158855)

Problem is, since many of these agencies are under executive branch control, they do have the power to redact these reports. Obviously, they shouldn't use that power as they have been (and I don't want to "take their fucking word for it" either), but for them to claim that they don't have it would be just factually wrong.

Re:Science is not politics (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158779)

Settled science is just memorization. Debated science is pretty much already publicized.

What I would like is for someone to say "The White House will no longer rewrite scientific reports made by agencies. If we believe something should not be 'promoted', we will move it to an appendix instead of removing it entirely."
(1) Science is never really settled. But I agree: such a debate would amount to memorization and endorsement of arbitrary scientific "facts" rather than any kind of understanding or engagement with science.

(2) How about the White House sees agency reports at the same time I do? That seems to me how an open democracy should work.

Science IS politics (4, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158819)

What I would like is for someone to say "The White House will no longer rewrite scientific reports made by agencies. If we believe something should not be 'promoted', we will move it to an appendix instead of removing it entirely."

That's crazy talk. The only thing about science that is apolitical is a repeatable result of a given experimental condition. Everything else, from conclusions, interpretations, recommended course of action is political, and can certainly be edited by the White House, no matter who is elected.

What, do you think scientists don't lie?

Re:Science is not politics (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158849)

What's needed is a rule like the one the US Army has: If your superior rewrites your report, you have the right to attach a copy of the original when the report goes up to a higher command. This discourages internal coverups.

(External coverups are another matter, but the Army tries reasonably hard to insure that bad news makes it to higher commanders. Historically, when it doesn't, battles are lost.)

Fair and Balanced (5, Insightful)

Ruprecht the Monkeyb (680597) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158583)

That'd be cool with me. Let's make the reporters asking do the same. They're just as culpable for the shallow and sensationalist charades that that compose the election cycle. Actually, more so, since they hold themselves up as the self-appointed watchdogs.

Host (5, Funny)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158595)

It should be hosted by Bill Nye.

Re:Host (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158793)

I'll support that, as long as the camera guy gets to talk...

cordial and fun (4, Funny)

Speare (84249) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158601)

The debate's tone would try not to be adversarial, but cordial and educational.

Not sure if this was meant as a joke, but Brownback of Kansas has already dropped out. There goes about half of your fun factor. The rest of the Republicans will hem and haw around the edges of the Creationism issue like a complex number approaching the Mandelbrot set, but Brownback came from the state so bold they redefined pi. The Democrats will try (and fail) to evoke Kennedy's passion for a moon launch while simultaneously explaining how scientifically advanced the latest V-Chip self-censoring technologies are getting.

Re:cordial and fun (1)

AmaDaden (794446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158805)

but Brownback came from the state so bold they redefined pi
http://www.snopes.com/religion/pi.htm [snopes.com] Kansas is dumb but they didn't try to pull that off.

Re:cordial and fun (1)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158839)

Brownback came from the state so bold they redefined pi.

Um...no. Brownback is from Kansas, and the fictional urban legend is about Alabama [snopes.com]

Re:cordial and fun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158893)

Brownback came from the state so bold they redefined pi.

You know that this is an urban legend, and you still got the state wrong, right?

Can't happen... (4, Insightful)

Otter (3800) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158611)

The debate's tone would try not to be adversarial, but cordial and educational. It could even be fun.

You get the candidates you deserve. The voters and the media have made it impossible for candidates for major office (who are almost by definition smart, personable people) to do anything but recite polished talking points.

C'mon, do you think if any candidate stumbled on the tiniest fact, or said something that could be taken out of context to sound silly, the loudmouths here would ever let it slide? Go ask poor Ted Stevens about why it's 1337 to refer to Internet connections as "pipes" but you're a retard if you say "tubes"...

How old is the Earth? How old is the Universe? (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158615)

Let's weed out the dead wood.

"How old is the Earth? How old is the Universe? Answer both questions with a number."

Jesus freaks can vote for the guy who says "6,000 years".

Scientists can vote for the guy who says "4.5 billion years, 13.7 billion years, respectively, give or take a few hundred million"

And both the Jesus freaks and the scientists can agree on one thing: that any candidate who answers "they're both the same age, 4.5 billion years", or "both the same age, 13.7 billion years", or who splutters out something on the order of "millions" of years was so ignorant as to be wrong by at least three orders of magnitude.

Re:How old is the Earth? How old is the Universe? (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158871)

What about me who says 13.7 Billion at a minimum, but could quite honestly be infinite?

President on power (5, Funny)

hey0you0guy (1003040) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158619)

Announcer: Mr President, with all of the issues about clean energy and rising oil prices, Americans are turning to alternate sources of energy. What are your thoughts on nuclear power? President: Its pronounced nuke-u-lar.

This will never happen (1)

ShiNoKaze (1097629) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158621)

This is what's called a pipe dream. The candidate's will not be forced to study science, they're presidential candidate's! That why they hire advisors. An entire segment would have to alienate their constituents. It will not happen. The entire idea is mental masturbation. While you're at it tell the RIAA to stop sueing people and microsoft to open it's code.

Why bother? (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158625)

Do we know if there's actually much correlation between positions that candidates espouse while running, and how they act when in office?

(I mean beyond what we can already know broadly based on their voting records and on their party affiliation.)

Why would they agree? (4, Insightful)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158631)

Think of this from a politician's perspective. This type of debate could really hurt them if they answer poorly, but it probably wouldn't help them at all with the vast majority of the population if they did well. So why would they agree to participate?

There are all sorts of great ideas for debates (including an actual debate instead of the charade debates we have now), that will never happen for the same reason. People, and the media, aren't willing to hold candidates accountable for refusing to hold a real debate, so it doesn't happen.

Re:Why would they agree? (2, Insightful)

chaossplintered (1164745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158713)

I never got why Presidental Candidates were given the *choice* to participates in debates. If they are running to hold an office, why aren't the obligated to answer a set of questions regarding their ideas?

Re:Why would they agree? (2, Insightful)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158809)

The candidates are only accountable to the voters beyond the very minimal rules specified in the constitution.

Why aren't they obligated to answer a set of questions? Simple; it's because people are willing to vote for them without them answering a set of questions. Worse, the media will punish them for answering some questions by picking the worst bits and playing them on a 24 hour loop. We actually reward our candidates for shutting up about all but the most divisive (based on belief, not fact) or irrelevant (the Supreme Court isn't going to change their mind, no matter who gets appointed) issues.

Idiots vs. Heathens (1)

sultanoslack (320583) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158747)

Well, mostly because it's a wonderful chance to play The Polarization Game where they could peg the other side as idiots / heathens.

Re:Idiots vs. Heathens (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158885)

So as a candidate, which would you rather be labeled as: an idiot, or a heathen? Keep in mind that the country is divided almost 50/50, and to get elected you need at least a few people from the other side to vote for you. Where's the positive label that could come out of this?

Re:Why would they agree? (1)

dyslexicbunny (940925) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158875)

Yea, I thought this would be an amazing concept when I first read the article but thinking about it more and more realized that there would be no real incentive for the politicians to compete. Like you said, they gain nothing and can lose everything. It would be interesting to see their views on science, their thoughts on what we should study and strive towards, etc but again, most of America doesn't care at all.

Since no one cares and the politicians won't throw their careers up to any real debate, I propose a new "debate" stage: American Gladiators. Our grand American voters can watch as candidates compete in events like Joust, Assault, and the Eliminator!!! Sadly, I think this may draw a large crowd than actual debates.

Re:Why would they agree? (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158881)

In the case of the current sitting occupant of the oval office, he'd be fitted with an ear but, and there'd be a time delay, as is invisible prompt would cue him the answers.

(An aside: In any case, the Obama and Clinton should run together, irrespective of to WHOM the P/VP seat goes. They should just say, "we'll trade seats half-way into the term, and if we win re-election we'll alternate, again."

Hell, for that matter (since the goddamn corrupt parties ONLY want D/R alternations, the P/VP should be one D, one R in the SAME office election, then rotate half-way thru the term. This way, the assholes would (theoretically) be COMPELLED to "get work done". They couldn't bicker as much in the SAME office since blame would fall at BOTH their feet.)

Re:Why would they agree? (1)

ivan256 (17499) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158975)

It would be interesting (I'm not necessarily saying it would be a good idea, but it would be interesting) to see what would happen if the VP spot went to the #2 candidate in the election. Not only would it provide contrast in the administration in most cases, but it would probably get other candidates from outside the two major parties some additional clout.

I don't think your Obama/Clinton idea would ever work. Clinton wants the power and the office too much to ever agree to that, and Obama wouldn't have enough clout as VP under Clinton to push his agenda. As much as they agree on some issues, I think they are polar opposites when it comes to why they want to be President.

Scientific debates? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158635)

I'd love to see it, or some variant of it. I've grown tired of the lack of truthy-ness in scientific reports that have been influenced by the current nuke-u-lar president.

Re:Scientific debates? (1)

nuzak (959558) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158771)

Jimmy Carter pronounced it "nook-yer", and he served on a nookyer submarine.

Of course with dubya, it's all about the word being a reminder of all his OTHER problems with, well, thinking.

Not a go. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158645)

"However, a statement would be read at the start stating that no one expects politicians to understand every aspect of the many scientific disciplines. The debate's tone would try not to be adversarial, but cordial and educational. It could even be fun."

This is a promise I could see science activists fail to deliver on.

There's no point giving leeway or opening yourself up to shit, even if that is "just for fun", from people who hate you.

This seems a little silly, they are politicians (1)

poet (8021) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158647)

These people are scientists. They are politicians. Do I think they need to have the basic fundamentals of science down? No more than the normal person driving down the road. Do I believe they need to have a firm understanding that science/math/music/english etc.. are some the most important subjects within our academia and they need to be supported? Absolutely. Do I want to know who they "may" consider to have a scientific advisors? You bet!

Do I want to know if they have a clue about what E=mc2 means? No.. I really don't care.

Re:This seems a little silly, they are politicians (1)

Paulrothrock (685079) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158783)

Do I want to know if they have a clue about what E=mc2 means? No.. I really don't care.

You might not care, but I'd like someone who is in charge of the Executive branch of government to be at least as smart as I am. I don't use E=mc^2 in my job, but I at least know what it means.

Knowing something that is not directly applicable to your vocation or avocation shows a level of intellectual curiousity that I expect in someone who has to make complicated decisions.

Science AND TECHNOLOGY (4, Insightful)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158655)

Sure, it is nice to know a President's stance on Stem Cell Research and the accelerating rate at which National Science Foundation budgets are being cut...

But equally important would be having a president who understands basic internet technology and whether they have intelligent opinions regarding the regulation thereof. It seems like there are a shortage of ladies and gentlemen in Washington who understand the latest technology. This would be helpful in Congress, too... because the aging Senators don't seem to be able to keep up with the time and young "with it" 20-30 year old candidates would help with adding much needed diversity in that branch of government.

Re:Science AND TECHNOLOGY (1)

OwnedByTwoCats (124103) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158749)

Having a President, and a press corps, who had basic knowledge of Economics would be a good start. And elementary arithmatic. 1 + 1 + 1 is greater than 2, yet the voices that publically called Bush on his tax cut plan in 2000 were strangely mute. Now America owes about a trillion dollars more than we would have otherwise.

Re:Science AND TECHNOLOGY (1)

cheezedawg (413482) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158981)

A basic knowledge of economics tells me that the amount of debt that a government can support is based solely on the size of it's economy, and our debt-to-gdp ratio is currently at ~64% and falling, so in that regard we are doing quite well.

What's the point? (4, Insightful)

RingDev (879105) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158663)

This has all the makings of a bad idea.

If done straight up in a science only, non-political debate, it would be an hour of 'uhh, I don't know's. With only a touch of bias it would quickly turn into a series of loaded questions (Science X will destroy the world and kill babies, do you support Science X?). At best you'll get the candidates up the talking about the importance of science, technology and invention in the US and how they'll pledge to fund it. Which is great and all, but they'll all just sit there agreeing that science is good and should get funded.

So what's the point?

If you give them a list of topics in advance, and change the questions to a political nature, ie: Topic X, how do you feel X is going to effect the environment, and with that concern how do you intend to minimize/maximize it's effect on the economy and working class?

THAT would be a bunch of questions worth listening to answers from a would-be president.

Unfortunately, it would take a huge amount of the candidate's time to stage such an event, and to be honest, they'll get more votes shaking hands and giving passionate speeches on the steps of some historic land mark while preaching to the choir about security, war, and money.

-Rick

The worrying thing is (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158677)

Not the lack of scientific knowledge, but the naivety of the proposer:

Not knowing the questions in advance would force them to study as much science as possible
No it wouldn't (they have neither the time nor the inclination). All it means is they would answer "I don't know".
However, much more likely is that they would not take part as it would make them look like idiots if they couldn't answer a question.

Why not make it international and rename it: "Is your president smarter than a 10 year-old?"

Re:The worrying thing is (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158813)

Why not make it international and rename it: "Is your president smarter than a 10 year-old?"
Because we've got enough of a stigma in the international community already, without making it explicit?

Oh come on! (1, Flamebait)

PHAEDRU5 (213667) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158683)

On the Republican side the first, and I mean *first* question would be about "Intelligent Design". The next would be about stem cell research. Things would go downhill from there. And the answers would be gone over with a fine tooth comb for items to ridicule, inspire outrage, or generate fear of the Impending Christofascist Regime (TM).

On the Democrat side, there'd be no questions to ask, since the Democrats and MSM are in complete agreement on all the major issues.

So, the Republicans aren't going to play because of the "Gotcha!" factor, and the Democrats won't play because, well, who needs boring TV?

It would be interesting (1)

ILongForDarkness (1134931) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158697)

To see which candidates would admit they don't know the answer and which would try to guess.

Don't hold your breath (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158731)

A science-only debate would be an interesting (and funny) thing to watch. But in a country where nearly half the population believes the Earth is less than 10 000 years old, and where politicians regularly pander to this ignorance. . .I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for such a debate to happen.

politicions & science (0)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158743)

from what i seen (especially the bush admin) is that politicians prefer to avoid science and keep their constituents as ignorant as possible about science, the more ignorant the constituents the better the politicians chances are of getting reelected and the better the government can lie & manipulate them...

Science? (1)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158761)

Don't touch the stuff.

Bush inspired question... (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158765)

How do you pronounce 'nuclear'?

Asking politicians science questions is dumb. (2, Interesting)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158767)

How about instead.

Which is better for science:

1: Publicly funded science where scientists are encouraged to seek grant funding from the state.
2: Privately funded science where Universities would be encouraged to fund research through licensing.

Then answer the same question with respect to society.
 

How about this idea... (1)

m93 (684512) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158775)


The problem with choosing leaders in American society today is that it usually boils down to who can sell their lies more craftily than the opposition, and can create a PERCEPTION of superiority over their opponent. Why not choose our leaders based upon something they cannot escape: the truth. This could be measured by a compromise between primitive and modern methods. At some point in history, humans chose their leaders based upon true physical competition. Whoever won the contest through their own strength or cunning, won the mantle of leader. We should ditch elections altogether once and choose the president through a competitive tournament style system, where they would all be subjected to questions on history, philosophy, and science, as well as competitions involving problem solving skills. Surely, a transparent, competitive, quasi-gladiatorial style ritual of choosing would surely produce a more fit leader than our current method of choosing someone based upon who can spin the best media performance, financially and otherwise.

Excellent idea! (1)

mr_resident (222932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158781)


I would love to see these politicians explain how they're able to do what would normally be regarded as scientifically impossible. Such as:

1.) How they can be on both sides of every issue at the same time.
2.) How it's possible to speak for over an hour and not say anything.

And the answer is.. (1)

internetcommie (945194) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158937)

1: I think quantum theory might have the answer to that one.
2: That's so easy my old pointy-haired boss could do it. And the current president, of course.

Re:Excellent idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158963)

How they can be on both sides of every issue at the same time.
Follow on to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle: You don't make a decision until you are forced to.
How it's possible to speak for over an hour and not say anything.
$[][][]4][4][]4[4&***&**

Doomed from the start (3, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158803)

The author pretends to want a debate, but then goes on to claim evolution as a fact, ridiculing those candidates who believe otherwise including the current president of the US of A.

DOn't get me wrong, I think bush is a looney and that evolution is self-evident HOWEVER if you already go into it with an opionin that evolution is true AND global warming (and related stuff) is true, then what is left to debate?

It is an intresting idea, but sadly it won't happen.

Subjects like this make me wonder about Slashdot (1)

director_mr (1144369) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158811)

You realize, of course, politicians attend debates to enhance their electability. I am scratching my head and wondering just exactly what Slashdotters are hoping to learn from a debate like this, and how it would actually influence an election. I really don't care what my candidate thinks about science. I doubt he or she will be researching anything when he or she is president. I care more about his foreign policy inclinations, his position on government and social programs, and what he is actually going to do as a president. The only thing science related I care about is what money should go to research what.

Does it really matter if the candidate agrees with you on all matters of science? Or does it matter more that their policies they will actually put into place are in line with what you want for the country. I found the article juvenile and silly and written with a snide and "superior" tone. The writer wants the world to know how smart they are, and to "educate" the politicians (It could even be fun). Although I'm sure I would do quite well in a science debate, if I were a politician, I would have no interest in joining such an activity, especially if the writer of this article were there.

Here is what I want debates on: Social Security funding, Iraq War, Iran and nuclear weapons, Taxes, The rightful role of government in America, What countries we are going to work with and to what end, What scientific research will be a priority for the USA, Our Energy Policy, and How we will address Environmental issues. I couldn't care less about what they think about science.

this is stupid (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158821)

it is ironic really. the scientifically inclined poopooing the president's lack of knowledge on science... thereby revealing their own profound ignorance about what government and politics is all about

there's a tendency amongst the politically ignorant that every problem in the world, every pot hole, heart attack, lost job, lost football game, barking dog, homeless drug addict, etc., is the fault of the guy at the very top: "the president should be deeply involved in what matters to me, me, me" pffft

1. as if he knows
2. as if he cares
3. as if he should care

the point of government and real leadership is to delegate responsibility: the local public works department of your local city are the people to go to, not the president of the united states

the exact same logic applies with science. the president doesn't need to know ANY science

in fact, if the president were really into science, i'd be worried: he has better things to spend his time with. he should delegate the scientific inquiries to subordinates and departments. with all of the problems in the world, you really want our president spending hours exercising his mind on the homeobox gene or the source of cosmic rays?

i for one don't

seriously, this debate is a really stupid idea

This will happen about the same time... (1)

MeditationSensation (1121241) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158845)

...Ron Paul and Ralph Nader are allowed at the debates.

Scientists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158859)

How about a nationally televised debate between scientists?

Science is useless to presidents (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158863)

Why yes, they can push laws that supersede the laws of science. People fall from bridges and die? Why make gravity illegal!

Some laws are that stupid.

I don't agree with the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158865)

This probably won't be a popular view with the slashdot crowd but I disagree with the article on two and a half points.

First, I agree that there should be more science in politics but I disagree that the focus should be scientific topics. Instead, I'd like to see the scientific method applied political discussions in general. In particular, I'd like to see politicians define their viewpoints with sufficient precision and specificity that those viewpoints could be assessed using the scientific method. What do I mean by the "scientific method"? I mean comparison to patterns in factual observations.

Suppose we are concerned about people in the Middle East traveling to the USA and carrying out terrorist attacks. We should look at when we observe this to happen and when we don't observe this to happen and try to identify the observed patterns. If we think there might be a genetic component (that people in the Middle East are genetically predisposed to travel to the USA to carry out terrorist attacks) then we should address whether such a predisposition is consistent with what we observe about other genetic predispositions. Have we ever observed other similar genetic predispositions in other ethnic groups? Are ethnic groups even sufficiently uniform genetically that such a predisposition could be observed?

Second, the article claims that it is bad for politicians to not believe in "evolution". However, unless we define "evolution" much more precisely, the question is fundamentally meaningless. Are we asking whether bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotics or are we asking whether life has any fundamental purpose?

Finally, I disagree that the politicians should not be allowed to know the questions in advance. I don't expect that a politician is going to be able to learn much science in a week or two of preparation. What I want to see is whether a politician already has enough of a scientific background that they can figure out the answer (in consultation with experts) to specific scientific questions that arise in the course of their job.

Understanding of the Scientific Process (1)

tigheig (546423) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158877)

I don't think it's critical that a US President has great scientific knowledge, but I would like to see some evidence that a successful candidate understands what science is and why the thought processes involved are important.

Good science involves the ability on the part of the scientist to abandon ideas and modifying hypothesis that don't accord with the facts found via their investigations. It means accepting all facts that apply, not merely the ones that support the end-result that the scientist would prefer to reach. And it means an acceptance that inquiry can lead to important discovery in areas nobody expected, so you can't necessarily tell up-front whether funded research will produce results.

For some time in the United States we've confused technology with science. Each can contribute to the other, but they're not the same. A good question for those candidates might be to find out if they know the difference, and why it's important to know. But in the end, I think it would be more important for a President to demonstrate a knowledge and dedication to the scientific process of finding answers rather than to the current fascination for accepting or rejecting facts based on the result they want to achieve.

"On Faith?" (2, Interesting)

StarEmperor (209983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158887)

Why is a discussion about a scientific debate under the "On Faith" section of the Washington Post?

It sounds like a "science-only Presidential debate" is code for "asking the Presidential candidates whether or not they accept the Theory of Evolution."

Why do geeks even ask this kind of question? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21158891)

Are we all in a fantasy world or what? Why even think about political candidates who have campaigns to run 18 hours a day, seven days a week cramming physics and chemistry for the benefit of slashdot readers and our like-minded friends?

Seriously, there's a fantasy world aspect to this where "our" people are dreamily off in science debate land when there are real issues to engage with.

You can't debate fact (2, Interesting)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158933)

You can debate theory. You can debate the impact and correlation of facts, but facts are facts and should not be "debated."

The current U.S. administration has been very effective at creating FUD around fact. Facts are those things that have been documented as 100% true. (not "truth" which is, of course different)

Once you allow "facts" to be debated, you allow any discussion of the result of those facts to be derailed. Any discussion then focuses on whether or not the "facts" are true. So the standard M.O. the last 7 years is to question the validity of facts, stall any discussion of the facts because there is question about the fact, and then politicize and censure scientists based on the FUD about the facts.

Debate science? no thanks. Take a science quiz/test, sure. We already have these idiots debating science, I'd like to see some measure of their understanding of science.

What is with the attitude (1)

N3WBI3 (595976) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158941)

The commander and chief should necessarily be some kind of science geek?

The Science of Politics (5, Interesting)

NetSettler (460623) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158945)

Politicians have gotten scientific about saying they are steadfastly for or opposed to an idea because that sells, but votes are about making compromises. And in a complicated bill with multiple topics, the reasons for the compromises are lost, so there's always something to cling to in explaining why you're for X but voted against it, since there's always a Y that was in the bill that you said you opposed.

The problem is that politicians have caught onto, but journalists have not, the notion that they can arrange questions to be "are you in favor" or "are you against", but no real world question is of this form. So there is no relationship between what they say and what they do. The real world presents choices between multiple things you want but cannot have all at the same time. The real world puts penalties on getting the things you want.

A single-issue debate will never do it. Let's see an Socratic inquiry. Each politician locked in a separate room, with a Faraday cage to prevent transmitting data, and asked the same questions at the same time, unable to know what others are answering. A fixed set of questions. As much time as they need to answer them all. Then we can play the results for people to compare. Let's ask them if they had to choose between health care and saving the environment because we just didn't have the money, which would they think was more critical? Ask them if we had to choose between letting terrorists into the country and investing in education, where would they think the money best spent?

If you're going to talk science exclusively, let's make sure to talk science policy and philosophy, not just science fact. Presidents aren't scientists, but they need to be good managers who will create sound policy capable of representing us without saying "gee, you elected me, but I delegated it and have no responsibility."

Here's an example question: "You're the president. A recent report suggests that the environment is going down the tubes in ten years unless we stop using fossil fuels altogether. How would you verify the truth of this claim? What would be the next step in determining policy? Would you make this policy or would you delegate it? How would you decide who you could delegate it to? Would you inform the American people that it worried you and why or why not?" Now the reverse, "You're the president. You've been telling people not to use fossil fuels at all, but a recent report says that's hogwash." Same set of questions: "How would you verify the truth of that? What would be the next step in determining policy? Would you make this policy or inform the American people that it worried you and why or why not?"

that would be awkward. (1)

BlueshiftVFX (1158033) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158955)

I squirm enough when I see GW Bush up at a podium trying to sound smart. In fact I can't stand to see him speak. seeing a bunch of lying politicians trying to sound extra smart would be even more uncomfortable, mind you I would have to say most are probably smarter then he is.

The Science is in....then not...then in...... (1)

MrHyd3 (19709) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158959)

Considering that Science is constantly an evolving process, how can you have a debate? I mean, wasn't too long ago they believed the earth was flat (Some still do), Sun revolves around Sun, US nvr landed on the moon, etc. Animals are extinct and ooops, there they are again. I have grown more skeptical of science in the last 10 years than I ever have especially since big $$ has entered the mix.

The scary one might be basic science questions (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21158995)

I'd be curious how many could pass a basic science test? Something you'd expect a science 101 student to answer. Everything from what is an element to the speed of light. I wouldn't bother to ask them to name the natural elements, I'd be shocked if most could name half. I couldn't name all the natural elements these days but I could probably name a 100 of them or close to. There's always a few rarer elements I forget. The real point is how can they make descisions about science subjects that affect us all if they can't even pass a science 101 test? It's a legimate question and far more important than their stance on abortion or gay marriage.
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