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In Op-Ed, AAAS Leaders Urge U.S. Candidates to Detail Their Positions on Science Issues
Voters deserve more answers from the presidential candidates on how they view science and its role amid the current economic woes, AAAS Board Chairman David Baltimore and AAAS Chief Executive Officer Alan I. Leshner wrote in a 21 September commentary published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
They noted that Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) have avoided a head-on science debate despite repeated entreaties from science organizations. Although the candidates' campaigns have submitted online responses to 14 science-focused questions at the urging of ScienceDebate2008, Scientists and Engineers for America and other such groups, Baltimore and Leshner say the responses are "no substitute for direct debate."
The 2 October vice presidential debate at Washington University in St. Louis provides a critical opportunity for bring science to the fore, they argue, particularly given some of the ambiguous statements by Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, on whether creationism should be taught in the classroom along with evolution and on whether climate change is being accelerated by human activities. But they also say U.S. Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware), the Democratic vice presidential candidate, should be queried on whether he will continue to support embryonic stem cell research, given his recent comment that "life begins at the moment of conception."
According to Baltimore and Leshner, a recent Research!America poll found that 85% of U.S. adults—including equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats—believe that the presidential candidates should take part in a debate about how science can tackle America's major challenges.
"As the U.S. financial crisis deepens, it is encouraging that both McCain and Obama have expressed support for the science-based approaches to climate and energy issues, though they differ on the finer points," Baltimore and Leshner write. Both candidates also say they would bolster science education and innovation. "But the absence of a direct science debate has been a disservice to voters who care about the economy, health care, national security, energy and science education," Baltimore and Leshner say. "Let's demand more answers about science during the upcoming vice presidential debate."
23 September 2008