Presidential Candidates on Science

Indeed, in science. The current issue of Science reviews the positions of each of the major presidential candidates in the area of science.i-2c0ca97e2191ee539d0d830271c0c3d2-science_pols.jpgWriting the overview to this collection of views, Jeffrey Mervis states:

Many factors can make or break a U.S. presidential candidate in the 2008 race for his or her party’s nomination. The ability to raise millions of dollars is key, as are positions on megaissues such as the Iraq war, immigration, and taxes. Voters also want to know if a candidate can be trusted to do the right thing in a crunch. Science and scientific issues? So far, with the exception of global warming, they are not getting much play.”It’s pretty hard to find a candidate from either party who is gung ho for science,” laments Representative Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), one of two Ph.D. physicists in Congress and an indefatigable promoter of science and technology. (As a supporter of Mitt Romney, whose father was governor of Ehlers’s home state of Michigan back in the 1960s, Ehlers will be trying to pump science and technology into his campaign.)

The DemocratsClinton is noted to have produced the most comprehensive and pro-science statement, but it is also noted that the statement leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

…science policy expert Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado, Boulder, says her efforts to stop political meddling are poorly defined and won’t work. “What is ‘legitimate’ and ‘unwarranted’?” he asks. “As written, [the proposal] is a political Rorschach test.”

Edwards has specifically stated that his science advisor would be given more power than the current science advisor has, and would be a key oval office player.

Yet among scientists, Edwards “carries some baggage,” says Peter Agre, a Nobel Prize-winning biochemist now at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Although Edwards is a “good man,” says Agre, “I know people who would never vote for him” because of the way he and other lawyers pursued and won multi-million-dollar medical malpractice awards representing children born with cerebral palsy.

Obama has been forceful in his accusations of the Bush administration’s abuse and distortion of data.Various scientists who have worked with him on policy claim that Obama is hard nosed about data. He forces scientists to back up their claims in academic or investigative settings.

Since winning his U.S. Senate seat in 2004, Obama has continued to track health policy issues. He has proposed or supported legislation to promote embryonic stem cell research, increase research on avian influenza, and develop microbicides to protect women from HIV/AIDS. The measures suggest that Obama has retained his strong interest in applying science to public health challenges. For academic health centers, says Burnet, that means “getting the translational component going.”

Richardson is strong on energy policy (he was Energy Secretary for Bill Clinton). He’s known as either an effective, no-nonsense administrator when it comes to science related issues, or a s a mercurial reactionary, depending on who you listen to.Of the Democrats, Richardson may have the least specific science related policy, and has been known to frame his discussions of science with charming hay-seed ignorance rather than confidence building rhetoric.

Despite repeated campaign statements about the importance of innovation, Richardson isn’t above embracing his own scientific illiteracy as a way to identify with the average voter. In his new book on energy, Leading by Example, Richardson asserts that more people would use energy-saving technologies, including light-emitting diodes, if they were given simpler names. “Does anyone on Earth know what a diode is?” he writes. “Probably someone at the two national labs in New Mexico, but not me! And probably not you.”

The RepublicansGiuliani’c campain policy is to actively avoid discussion of science issues. Huckabee is against stem cell research, does not “believe in” evolution, is reasonably pro-health care, and is not necessarily fully on board with climate change. McCain is on board with global warming and equates environmentalism with national security, but most “nonclimate science issues are far down on [his] list of priorities.” He is opposed to taxing the Internet, but opposed biological anthropologists in his support of specific modifications to NAGPRA legislation. Romney has drunk the conservative Kool Ade in large gulps in order to compensate for his cult membership. Those who know him claim that he is pro science and will put rational thought before idealism. However, we are not choosing the next president on the basis of what some guy says about him, but rather, on what the candidate claims during the campaign. Therefore we must assume that Romney has cast himself as an explicitly anti-science candidate. Fred Thompson is liked by some scientists because he has supported funding for a major research facility while in congress. But….

a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, remembers something else about his interaction with the senator on SNS, which staved off the threat and opened last year. “The issue [for Thompson] was this billion-dollar project was happening in Tennessee,” says Moncton. “There was no discussion of how intrinsically interested he was in science.” Rick Borchelt, a longtime Democratic aide and former spokesperson for the Department of Energy lab, concurs. “He’s pretty much a cipher on science and technology,” says Borchelt.

Those are all of the candidates discussed in this overview from Science. It is too bad they did not get to discuss Ron Paul.

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6 thoughts on “Presidential Candidates on Science

  1. you forgot to include a link to the actual articleSorry, I should have mentioned this: The articles (actually several mini articles as separate writeups on each candidate) are in the current issue of Science, but one needs a subscription to the journal to see them, so there is no viable link to the articles that would do more than annoy readers. Subscribers would already know how to find them.

  2. I just caught this on C-SPAN, for what it’s worth: Hillary on “science” in New Hampshire.”The Bush Administration has waged a war on science. They have suppressed science, scientists, they have taken information off of websites, they have generally tried to undermine, ah, the kind of scientific process that has been so beneficial to us in America. It’s not only helped save lives, in so many ways, it’s helped us solve problems and improved our standard of living, so I am going to make it very clear that in my administration there will not be tolerated any interference with science. Let the scientists tell us what the facts are, and then we will decide what to do about them (applause).”

  3. Ron Paul IS a scientist. He’s a medical doctor, adores the internet and alternative energy. What more is there to say? A smart one too for steering clear of the Neo-Darwinism witch-hunt.

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