I’m a little ashamed to say that I always thought the science debate was a stupid idea. It just always seemed oxymoronic to me. “The political candidates are going to get together to debate ‘science!’” What the hell did that even mean? Were they going to sit around and debate whether or not water froze at zero degrees Celsius? Would they actually have a “debate” about evolution, and just show that one side used facts and the other a bunch of baloney? It wasn’t that I didn’t think it was important to have the candidates discuss science. I knew that we needed to have the information out there. I knew that the American public had to realize that science was an important issue and actually focus on it, but a debate?
And then I saw the questions they’d put together. An enormous amount of work had been put into the ScienceDebate2008 idea, and it ended with McCain and Obama answering 14 questions on scientific topics, and they were actually interesting questions with nuanced answers. I look now at the fact that we really do have a scientifically minded president, and I hope that the Science Debate team’s work continues to influence him.
I continue to have more respect for the work Shawn Otto has done to try and move science into the political realm. They are a group whose sole purpose is to motivate policy makers to examine the evidence and think critically. Below is Shawn Otto’s keynote address from this year’s Nobel conference. It’s a little long, but it’s worth it to see a guy fighting the good fight for all of us.