Presidential science debate: we need your help

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Feb 11, 2008
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This post is about a Presidential science debate, and we need your help! Please see below for how you can help make this happen.

There is no doubt -- none -- that science plays a major role in our lives today. There is also no doubt that science has been under vicious attack by politics recently as well, from Plan B to Fish and Wildlife to stem cells to evolution and beyond.

That is why a large group of scientists and science writers has been gathered to promote a Presidential debate on science. This idea has been gathering steam, and is now a major force. The National Academy of Sciences just signed on, for example, and the list of supporters is awesome to behold.

This force was started by Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum from the science blog The Intersection, and they have now announced that the Presidential candidates have been officially invited to participate in a science debate!

You read that right: this is for realz. We want the candidates to stand on stage and talk about their stance on various topics in science, and discuss the policies they have about scientific issues. We already know how many of them feel on various issues, but this would be a chance for them to debate, air out their policies, and see who stands where.

Here is the actual invitation sent to Clinton, Obama, Huckabee, and McCain.

The invitation is clear that this is not a science quiz, it is a debate on policy:

The debate may include such policy issues as: American economic competitiveness and support for scientific research; policy approaches to climate change; clean energy; the healthcare crisis; science education and technology in schools; scientific integrity; GM agriculture; transportation infrastructure; immigration; the genome; data privacy; intellectual property; pandemic diseases; the health of the oceans; water resources; stem cells; conservation and species loss; population; the space program, and others.

This is a policy debate. It is not intended to be a science quiz. Nor are we interested in state-level battles such as the evolution versus creationism/ID debate. Our goal is to find out how aware candidates are of America's major science and technology problems and opportunities, and how they propose to offer the kind of visionary leadership and policy solutions that will tackle those challenges and ensure America's place as the most scientifically and technologically advanced nation on earth. This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you are such a leader.

Cooooool. The debate is scheduled for April 18 at The Franklin Institute.

To make this a reality -- let's face it, we want to pressure the candidates into accepting -- we need your help. Here's what we need you to do:

1. Contact the campaigns, and tell them to attend ScienceDebate2008! A list of contact information for the campaigns can be found here.

2. Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers, raising further awareness about this initiative. Some handy letter writing tips can be found here.

3. Tell a friend about ScienceDebate2008 (handy link here). We need to spread the word as much as possible at this critical time. We're at 13,000 supporters right now; we want to get to 15,000 supporters by the end of the week and 20,000 supporters by the end of the month.

I know that well over 20,000 people read my blog (and it's probably closer to twice that). If half of you sign up, we'll blow right past what we need, and if even a fraction write letters to the campaigns, this will become a reality. Just like that. I will be sending out my letters very soon (I'll post the copy on the blog when I do).

We have a chance to be active in our own leadership here beyond just pulling a lever in November. Let's make this happen.