It Is Time For A Presidential Debate On Science

We must adapt to the fact that over the last few decades it has become critical that our politicians and policymakers understand science and implement policy that is consistent with scientific facts. And it is past time that we made science enough of a priority to merit a presidential debate on science. The need is clear, these days policymakers must be able to respond in an informed fashion to new technologies, new scientific findings, and potential disasters (such as climate change). Despite the need for a scientifically-literate political leadership, we have a president who says the jury is still out on evolution, who promotes failed abstinence-only sex education programs, and refuses to make any substantive changes to address global warming.

We must do a better job vetting our politicians for scientific literacy and competence.

Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum at the Intersection have been working on a solution to this problem. They’ve gathered a coalition of luminaries to support a presidential debate on science in 2008. The mission statement reads:

Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness, we, the undersigned, call for a public debate in which the U.S. presidential candidates share their views on the issues of The Environment, Medicine and Health, and Science and Technology Policy.


I agree wholeheartedly, the citizens of the United States deserve to know whether or not their political leaders are scientifically-informed, or actively hostile to science. Science has become too important to just be an afterthought in political elections, we must put it front-and-center. This is a brilliant idea and I’m thankful for Chris and Sheril’s leadership in putting this together.

I know what question I’d ask at such a debate. Which candidates would encourage congress and provide funding to bring back the OTA. After all, having a scientifically-literate leader is nice, but laying the foundation for long-term scientific policymaking is better.

You can support the scientific debate too. Let’s make this a reality.