Who should moderate a Science Debate?

Science Debate Dot Org asks the question: In a nationally televised presidential science debate, who would be the best moderator?

I find the suggestions that have been made so far to be interesting. A lot of people seem to be suggesting people who are obviously good scientists, or good communicators, but who are not especially known for being moderators. They are not the same thing.

Go have a look, make a suggestion, or vote for the existing suggestions.

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18 thoughts on “Who should moderate a Science Debate?

  1. Yeah, and the current sex ratio on the count of names suggested is roughly 6 to 1 male to female. Once again, Auto Default-sexism rules the day on an on line poll.

  2. An unequal distribution of sexes does not automatically mean sexism. You have to show that these men were selected because they are men (How do you explain that most justifications say nothing about them being men as the reason for suggesting them?) and that women were left out because of prejudice against women as potential moderators.

    In other words, you are performing the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Sexism will probably result in uneven distribution of sexes, but uneven distribution of sexes does not necessarily indicate sexism, especially not in the situation when individuals submit single names. So it is not necessarily the case that any single individual voting is being sexist (although some undoubtedly are); it just so happens that the aggregated figures show that the number of individuals that have suggested a man are higher than the number of individuals that have suggested a woman. This may be for any number of reasons, including sexism and the fact that men are overrepresented in positions that makes them plausible candidates for moderators for many people.

  3. Yes, Greg. You should know by now that there is no sexism unless you prove that there is, and that it’s a crime worthy of more words than you spent on the post and comments to even bring the idea up unless you’re going remove all shadow of a doubt. Also, you know, this doesn’t happen every single time someone starts asking for names.

  4. My comment got lost in the mail … Right. Emil: If you re-read what I said, then re-read what you said, you’ll see that no only do you agree with me, but you agree with Stephanie.

  5. Emil, actually, you don’t get to tell me what to do, what to write, what to spend my time on. The fact that you think this is somehow your role is troubling. I think you should reconsider why that is the case, what brings you to think that this is OK.

    Having said that, as is sometimes the case with comments like the one you made, which includes a number of valid points as well as a number of serious misconceptions (or at least points of confusion) and that address an important issue, I was actually moved to write a blog post in response. So, in the end, you’ll be getting a lot more than you bargained for!

    I hope to have a productive and forward moving discussion on this issue. The question at hand, here, arising from my comment on sex bias in naming names, is part of an ongoing discussion, and the blog post I’m writing will bring that together with some other lines of thought.

    I am going out in one hour and will not be back until late, and I’ve got a major obligation this week and I owe some people some other writing that I’m late on, so don’t expect this post to come out until late tonight, and if not late tonight, mid week at the earliest.

    Stay tuned. Mean time, if you feel moved to write something on your blog about this, send me the link!

  6. Phil Plait – aka the Bad Astronomer – would reasoned, polite, very intelligent blogger and thinker who I think would make a great choice.

    I tried to suggest this there but the #@!#@!! computer system thingummywhatsit there wouldn’t let me.

    I think you’d also be a good choice too, Greg Laden!

  7. I’m not convinced a presidential science debate is a very good idea. It’s easy to come up with plausible but bogus arguments at the podium. Creationists do it all the time. It’s only in the field and the laboratory, where the hard work of science gets done, that the intellectual (and, for that matter, moral) bankruptcy of the anti-science arguments become apparent.

    I shudder to think what it would be like for an earnest, somewhat scientifically literate, candidate to get blind-sided by, for instance, Rick Santorem. Santorem is probably brilliant at the Gish Gallop. And if the moderator- male or female- tried to rein him in, it would look to a lot of the audience like partisanship.

  8. The first question to answer is whether it would be an actual debate or the crap that the current political climate passes off as debate.
    I would prefer to see an actual interview, in which the candidates are required to actually address and answer questions about how they view science, how they judge issues, what they understand, what they don’t, and what the view as the role good, solid, scientific results will play in the decision making process of their administration.

  9. Dean, that is not a question at all. Science Debate Dot Org has been around for years, and their intention is to have a real debate. So far candidates have pretty much avoided that.

  10. I wasn’t aiming at Science Debate. I don’t think any candidate will ever agree to those terms. I meant (and didn’t say well at all, I see) that unless care is taken a science “debate” would be as worthless as a hog on ice.

  11. I’m also not convinced that science should be debated in a public forum. The likes of Monckton are a very clear example that an experienced debater can say just about anything and get away with it on the night. While the cleanup can takes weeks or longer.

    A debate on science policy by the respective candidates would be far more useful.

  12. I agree that debates over science where one component is an anti-science stance (and I’ve done that with creationists, serving my time) are hogs on ice. (Though I quickly add, in the part of the country where I grew up, they shoed the hogs with tiny little hog shoes so they did OK on ice.)

  13. “who would be the best moderator?”

    Someone good at dragging people back to topics they’re trying to avoid and better at calling BS when that is being shoveled. Being able to control attempted Gish gallops would also be a big plus. A strong personality (but not abrasive), good science background and quick wit are needed.

    I don’t know exactly who has these skills.

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