Sunday, September 07, 2008

McCain – Palin silent on science…for now

Months ago a group of scientists and concerned citizens urged science become a major part of this year's presidential debate. They set up a website, Sciencedebate2008, and asked the presidential candidates to join in a serious debate about science in order to "to restore science and innovation to America's political dialogue." Senator Barack Obama was the first to offer responses to the 14 questions submitted to the two campaigns, though according to the Sciencedebate2008 website McCain has indicated he intends to eventually respond.

The folks at Sciencedebate point out in their question to the candidates regarding science education "A comparison of 15-year-olds in 30 wealthy nations found that average science scores among U.S. students ranked 17th, while average U.S. math scores ranked 24th." Science education has never been more important to maintaining our competitive edge in an increasingly global economy. Raising a generation of scientifically literate citizens is essential to solving problems like global climate change, finding clean means of meeting our growing energy needs, curing diseases like AIDS and cancer, and much more.

While Senator McCain has yet to answer the fourteen questions Sciencedebate2008 has put to him, his recent selection of Governor Sarah Palin speaks volumes when it comes to his attitude toward science and the importance of improving science education in America. McCain has picked as his running mate a global warming denier, someone opposed to stem cell research, and a person alleged to have advocated for banning books from the local library during her service on the Wasilla, Alaska city council. None of these positions represents a recipe for improved American competiveness.

After years of doctored scientific reports to cover up the extent and urgency of global climate change, pollution, and other problems the selection of Sarah Palin demonstrates a McCain administration offers at best four more years of ambivalence about science and technology. This isn't change, just more of the same. It hardly matters what McCain's answers are to the Sciencedebate2008 questions. His actions have already spoken for him.

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