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Archive for Saturday, September 8, 2012

Science should be part of presidential debate

September 8, 2012

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This fall, President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney will have a series of debates covering domestic and foreign affairs. The first debate should be about Science, with a capital S. Why? Because Science affects every aspect of society, underpinning smart policy governing energy, food production, human health, national security, economic growth, environmental fitness, natural resources and the quality of life.

How well versed or advised are our candidates in the science of climate? Water? Biofuels? Biomedicine? Is the science they cite credible or quack? Face it: Political expediency never lets the scientific facts get in the way, opting for soothing delusions over tough, responsible policy implications.

Let’s begin with two questions.

  1. Climate Change. As The Economist magazine declared recently, we have entered the Anthropocene Era, in which humans are the greatest agents of change on a planetary scale. Global warming, much of it human-induced, is playing with the life-support systems of the planet. If unchecked, potentially we face: devastation of our oceans, protein resources, fresh water and agro-production; virulent diseases run amok; disruption of ecosystems that clean our air, water and soil; extinction of half or more of Earth’s plants and animals; and sea-level rise and inundation of coastal cities. Yet, during the Republican primaries, all but one of the candidates proudly ridiculed climate change and the science behind it.

Recently, Richard Muller and his Berkeley Group, formerly one of the fiercest critics of climate change, announced his epiphany in the New York Times (“The Conversion of a Climate Change Skeptic,” July 28, 2012) after re-analyzing all the data and blessing the results of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Earth’s land temperature has increased 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit during the past 250 years, with a 1.5-degree rise in just the past 50 years. “Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.”

Question for Gov. Romney: You have pledged to exempt carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, from the Clean Air Act. As president, then, what policies would you promulgate to control climate change nationally and globally?

  1. Science and Public Literacy. Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” But what if the people that form the government are not well-informed? This spring, a study by North Carolina’s Coastal Resources Commission predicted a 39-inch sea level rise by 2100. To placate coastal real-estate developers, the GOP-led legislature passed a bill on July 3 that outlawed consideration of a sea-level rise above 8 inches. As comedian Stephen Colbert put it in his June 4 show, “If your science gives you a result that you do not like, pass a law saying that the result is illegal.”

The motto in Congress is: If you don’t like the cure, deny the disease. In a March interview with Rachel Maddow about climate change, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said, “I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.” Other disease deniers include most Republicans on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, including its chair, Rep. Ralph Hall, R-Texas, and Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga.

Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., who also sits on the House Science Committee, is campaigning for the U.S. Senate seat in Missouri. On Aug. 19 he assured a St. Louis television audience that rape victims have a biological defense against becoming pregnant, justifying his stance against exempting rape from anti-abortion legislation. “From what I understand from doctors,” Akin said, “if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” One of the “doctors” is Jack Willke, long-discredited by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as contradicting “basic biological truths.” On taking his seat alongside Hall and Broun on the House Science Committee, Akin could lead them in a rendition of Sam Cooke’s classic, Wonderful World: “Don’t know much about history/Don’t know much biology/Don’t know much about a science book …”

Question for President Obama and Gov. Romney: How can we entrust the best interests of the nation to members of Congress and its committees who are scientifically challenged, blithely dismissing the science they just don’t like?

— Leonard Krishtalka is director of the Biodiversity Institute and a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Kansas University.

Comments

Mike Ford 1 year, 7 months ago

uggady.....go troll that pizza guy that lifted President Obama.....since you sound soooo educated????? liberty275whatever.......go live at Braithewaite, Louisiana or better yet go to Wiggins Circle off of Washington Avenue in Pascagoula, MS, where my mom's family home was washed away by a 30 foot Katrina wave on August 29, 2005 and where they lived in a fema trailer for two years until state farm ponied up the $ in court. Katrina did what Frederic and Georges didn't do. Katrina did what Hurricane Camille didn't do in 1969. Why did this happen? superheated gulf of mexico water fueled the surge in katrina. What is warming the atmosphere and the water.....an overheated atmosphere caused when pollution blocks the return of sunrays back to the sun thus warming our atmosphere. I thank the Manhattan High School Science teachers talking about global warming and acid rain in 1985-86 during reagan. Man you people have short and uninformed memories.

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uggadyboogadyboo 1 year, 7 months ago

How does that story go.......... henny penny told ducky lucky that al gore

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Fossick 1 year, 7 months ago

Rather than worrying about the science of people who might not even get elected, the good professor should bemoan the lack of geological knowledge that leads at least one current member of Congress to worry that if we put too many troops on Guam, it might capsize: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzgbUT...

Then again, that's probably the wrong kind of science - the kind with a D behind it.

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Mike Ford 1 year, 7 months ago

hey blind guy.......look up James Imhofe.....then go deny some more....

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George Lippencott 1 year, 7 months ago

Would somebody point me to the part of the Republican Platform that denies climate change! Suspect there is none because the party does not deny it. The party has public ploicy questions as to how to address it with emphasis on not destroying our economy by going to fast.

It seems to me that we have once again provided support for a recognition that some scientists are confusing science with public policy. Science has spoken on climate change - it is happening. What we do about it is not their call (except as a citizen) . That call belongs to politicians who appear to be arguing over scope not existance.

The Democratic solution of a cap and trade regime suggests an approach where the levied tax to make carbon more costly is fed back to the poorer citizens. That means that the upper middle class will pay much more for their carbon and see no return - in a sense a large tax on the middle class.

But then I though the campaign claimed no increased taxes on the middle class?? How can this be??

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Machiavelli_mania 1 year, 7 months ago

THis makes ya go hmmm! But then we knew this already. They are also muted within the political parties as well.

Moderate voices muted in political news

September 6, 2012 While commentators and scholars argue that political groups have become more polarized in the US, a new study finds that moderate political groups are not as well covered in newspaper articles as more radical right and left-wing groups. This study is found in a recent article from Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, an official journal of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-09-moderate-voices-muted-political-news.html#jCp
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Mike Ford 1 year, 7 months ago

I have an idea for two new reality shows. One involves moving deniers to Gulf Shores, AL, Biloxi, MS, or Morgan City, LA, and seeing the results of their denial firsthand. Of course the deniers who already live there rail against government and scream when the aid doesn't get there quick enough after Isaac, Gustav, or Katrina. I guess hypocracy and denial and a lack of scientific education go hand and hand. The other idea involves moving all of these hardy individualists??? to the Inupiat communities in Alaska to teach them how to live off of the land like these people's ancestors have done for millenia only to have the consequences of denial melt their hunting grounds into the sea. I love to see James Imhofe scream take me out of here back to the no rain, killer tornado, dry as h?ll Oklahoma where his denial and idiocy is king amongst simpletons.

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yourworstnightmare 1 year, 7 months ago

The GOP have a problem with science.

They do not like it because it is a reality that conflicts with their deeply held ideology.

Science is at heart an anti-ideology machine, relying on observation, rational thought, and experimentation to derive an understanding of the workings of the universe. The world as it is and as we can observe and experience it, not as ideology wishes the world would be.

Note to the GOP: there is no Santa Claus.

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Ken Lassman 1 year, 7 months ago

By the way, both Romney and Obama have responded to questions about science and science policy on this website: http://www.sciencedebate.org/debate12/

I found the answers to clearly distinguish the two candidates and recommend that folks read them, and use dare-I-say critical thinking skills to figure out which candidate is answering the questions more directly and clearly.

There is clearly room for more questions and answers, and I hope Krishtalka's questions get into the mix before it is all over--they are excellent.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 7 months ago

58 days until election day.

59 days until the 2016 campaign begins.

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rockchalker52 1 year, 7 months ago

//SoP sot shhhht//

Whatever is included in the debate, I hope a live audience is not.

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SageonPage 1 year, 7 months ago

Funny to see the godless Libs try and take over science as if any Liberal made any real contribution to science. Most scientists of any gravitas gave proper credit to God. If they were the least little bit honest they would admit that God gave most of his insights to those believers in a Creator. There is not enough space to list the discoveries made by Christians and Jewish scientists.

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George Lippencott 1 year, 7 months ago

By all means scientific fact must triumph over emotion and ignorance. In my life time it has been my experience that historically that has been the case – until about a generation ago. Around that time I noted that scientists (and other experts) became conflicted as to where science ended and where public policy began. Perhaps, IMHO, many now are somewhat suspect of scientists and their ability to confine their advocacy to science and science alone.

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voevoda 1 year, 7 months ago

Climate change and rising oceans are perfect examples of why businesses can't be left unregulated. Their goal is to maximize their profits (and reasonably so), but their activity can have massive consequences for the population as a whole. Only governments can ascertain that businesses bear the indirect but very real cost of their waste by-products and are obligated to reduce the harmful effects of their operations. In the middle of the 20th century, those environmental costs included rivers so polluted that they caught fire; fields so contanimated that their produce was poisonous; air so polluted that people died of asphyxiation. Things in the US are a lot better now, because government took the lead to protect the citizenry. Compare with the places in the world where that didn't happen: in the communist states of China and the Soviet Union, where the governments promoted industrialization without regard to ecological consequences; in capitalist strongholds in the Third World, where governments didn't bother to regulate businesses at all. Those countries have been experiencing ecological disasters, which consequent health consequences for the population. Why would Americans want to see their government go down either of these bad paths?

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Liberty_One 1 year, 7 months ago

This editorial is a fail because he assumes the very thing he's trying to prove: that the President should be involved in such decisions in the first place.

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uggadyboogadyboo 1 year, 7 months ago

Nobama doesn't need to debate...... His al goreish scientific expertise on Solandra, goverments motors chevy volt closure (goggle Ener1 Inc.),
Keystone pipeline, gulf oil drilling moratoruium, (platforms have moved off to Brazil) and on and on .......besides he knows it all. What a punk

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tange 1 year, 7 months ago

Political Science should be part of presidential debate

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Chris Golledge 1 year, 7 months ago

I don't think there is much point to the candidates debating the science. It would be sufficient to ask the candidates:

Every national science body on Earth has stated the position that humans are the primary cause of the current warming, and that to continue business as usual will lead dangerous consequences. Do you agree with this position, and if not, what do you know that they don't?

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Chris Golledge 1 year, 7 months ago

“I thought it must be true until I found out what it cost.”

I think you will find a variety of cost estimates for addressing climate change. The higher ones tend to come from those connected to the fossil fuel industry. It appears to be a case of them saying bad things will happen to you if you quit buying what we're selling.

I'm leery of painting the GOP with too broad a brush; not every Republican lives in denial. Although, as we have seen, the moderates are being pushed out.

The basics of climate science are easy - same energy in, less energy out, the planet gets warmer. More GHG in the air means less energy out. But, beyond the basics, I really would not expect most politicians to understand it. Rather than listen to people who understand it better than anyone else, some convince themselves that they understand it better than the scientists. Birds of a feather flock together. They gather enough like-people around them to feel secure in whatever alternative reality they choose to believe. What we have is a group of people who don't like what they are being told, and deal with the problem by pretending that it doesn't exist.

But the politicians like this are more of a symptom than a cause; they are in positions of power because they were put there by a populace with the same tendency to listen to what the want to hear more than what they don't want to hear.

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Pastor_Bedtime 1 year, 7 months ago

One thing for sure: The Old and New Testaments and Book of Mormon are not Scientific reference manuals, nor are they pertinent legal references either.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 7 months ago

Debate science?? Don't you go to church, man! Science is the tool of the devil, don't you know?? What is wrong with you???

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pti3 1 year, 7 months ago

I hope science becomes a bigger part of the discussion, public education of science and issues relating, including ethics, benefits as well as potential misuses and possible unintended bad consequences. Nanoethics Group: http://ethics.calpoly.edu/nanoethics/ From the current issue of the Essex Human Rights Review: http://projects.essex.ac.uk/ehrr/V9N1/WELSH.pdf

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yourworstnightmare 1 year, 7 months ago

Al Gore wrote about this nearly a decade ago, in the book "The Republican War on Science". It lays out these arguments made by Krishtalka in a much deeper fashion. It s an excellent book.

Lest you think that this is just a partisan attack on the GOP, remember that it is the GOP who deny and ignore science when it conflicts with their ideology, be that economic or religious.

If members of the GOP don't want to be accused of denying science, I recommend that they stop doing it.

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FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 7 months ago

Agreed Dr.

Additionally, discussed in scientific detail by the prospective candidates, concise Nuclear 'reactions' of a Sun 'supernova' need to be "scientifically" extrapolated over a "social justice" histogram of events not yet happened, so the complex Proletariat's can deduce the 'here and now' cohesively with nuanced 'consensus' among them.

In my humble estimation 'as well.'

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Dan Eyler 1 year, 7 months ago

Interesting that our green house gases are currently at a 20 year low. A mix of affordable coal, natural gas, oil, wind and nuclear has demonstrated that we are able to effectively maintain our environment and grow our economy and expand our energy independence based on a free market and supply and demand. The global warming message promoted by the good professor is designed to control energy as a means to control the masses and not to expand liberty and individual prosperity. This has far less to do with science than psychology and social welfare engineering which is more in line with the authors beliefs and teachings.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 7 months ago

This will never happen. Since it deals with verifiable fact, science has a strong liberal bias, so Republicans will never allow a debate on something they try so hard to deny.

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Paul R Getto 1 year, 7 months ago

Good points, but good luck getting them to address these issues. Science is now just one more political football and we are paying dearly for this willing ignorance.

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Les Blevins 1 year, 7 months ago

Professor Krishtalka is correct in his position that science should be part of the presidential debate because if Barack Obama is president he will be in a very good position to declare war against global warming and create jobs here but if Mitt Romney is elected president he will deny, deny, deny and deny the seriousness of global warming for the next four years and allow China to maintain its lead in clean tech and create tens of thousands of clean tech jobs in China manufacturing products that China will export to America that the United States could be making.

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