Smackdown 2012: Where’s the science?

When was the last time you heard aspirants to the post of leader of the free world holding a reasoned debate about the role of science in American society or the future of the country? Umm, I mean not counting foaming at the mouth about moving to moon colonies  after slashing and burning the planet we currently call home. That  candidate is history — but maybe it’s just a coincidence.

But seriously folks. Alternative energy? Stem cells? Changing climate? Burgeoning nanotechnology? The human genome project? Heck, the music genome project? Couldn’t we maybe squeeze a few minutes about these subjects into the months of argument about whether giving people a minimum wage will be the downfall of civilization? believes we can and should. And so do I. So I was heartened (as I was last time around) to see that, contrary to what one might deduce from the media, most of my fellow Americans (appear to) agree.

Here is the dope according to results of a new poll of 1005 likely voters in the US by

‘In a surprising rebuff of recent political wisdom that Republicans and religiously affiliated voters are becoming “anti-science,” eighty-two percent of Catholics and eighty-three percent of Protestants say it is more important that the candidates for president debate the major science challenges facing the United States than it is they debate faith and values, according to a new national public opinion poll of attitudes about science, faith and public policy commissioned by’

This, evidently, is not a partisan issue, though you'd never know it.


Nor is it a faith versus reason thing.

Look at these graphs: Can you see the difference between Democrats and Republicans? between those identifying themselves as born again and those who feel OK the way they were born the first time? (sorry, couldn’t resist) Sure, there are differences but they are pretty trivial.

Even granting that poll results depend on how the questions are worded (“Have you stopped beating your wife”?), these results and the others summarized in the report would seem to suggest that Americans really do care about important stuff like what the impacts of different energy policies are, what their kids are learning (or not) in school, and whether our electronics industry will remain competitive as what has long been euphemistically called the “developing world” actually does start developing with a vengeance.

This is heartening in a generic sense. But raises the question: Yo, Presidential candidates, where’s the love?






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