Should the Next US President be Scientifically Literate?

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Tony Rook
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Should the Next US President be Scientifically Literate?

In a recent blog post, Jonathan Adler of The Volokh Conspiracy blog, reports on whether Must Our Next President Be Scientifically Literate?

A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Laurence Krauss of the Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH) addresses this very same question in Science and the Candidates.

"The day before the most recent Democratic presidential
debate, the media reported a new study demonstrating that
U.S. middle-school students, even in poorly performing
states, do better on math and science tests than many of
their peers in Europe. The bad news is that students in Asian
countries, who are likely to be our chief economic
competitors in the 21st century, significantly outperform all
U.S. students, even those in the highest-achieving states.

While these figures were not raised in recent Democratic or
Republican debates, they reflect a major challenge for the
next president: the need to guide both the public ..."

Dr. Krauss is a member of Science Debate 2008 which calls for a presidential debate regarding scientific policy issues.

Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges
facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need
for accurate scientific information in political decision making,
and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring
economic growth and competitiveness, we call for a public
debate in which the U.S. presidential candidates share their
views on the issues of The Environment, Health and
Medicine, and Science and Technology Policy.

A quite alarming fact is that in an early Republican debate this year, three candidates said they did not believe in evolution... this is clearly an issue that needs to be pressed.

I would like to hear what the rest of the board thinks about this issue.

Tony Rook
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Here is a link to a article

Here is a link to a article by Chris Mooney which appeared in Seed Magazine...

The article proposes a very anti-Bush administration position on science and the presidency. I would venture to guess that this is a rather common sentiment amongst research scientists in the United States and around the world.

What do you think?

Dr. President

The next president of the United States of America will control a $150 billion annual research budget, 200,000 scientists, and 38 major research institutions and all their related labs. This president will shape human endeavors in space, bioethics debates, and the energy landscape of the 21st century.

Jason King
Jason King's picture
Is it important that the

Is it important that the President understands the important issues?

Surely it only matters if the president is actually making the important decisions. From this side of the pond it would appear that a host of unelected individuals with enormous personal interests in commercial organizations are running the country. It would not happen (legally) here.

Tony Rook
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parvoman -

parvoman -

But it would seems that this is not only a problem in the US...

In a recent Guardian Unlimited post Nobel laureate accuses government of undervaluing science

The first couple paragraphs (paraphrased from the link above) says alot...

Britain's latest Nobel laureate has criticised the government and civil service for not valuing science highly enough.

Sir Martin Evans, who was awarded the Nobel prize for medicine last week, said a lack of understanding of science within the government was hampering policy-making. "Science has not been regarded with the same level of appreciation as things such as politics and economics as a basis of government and government service, and I think it should be equally important," he said.

The attitude to science in Whitehall reflected a wider ignorance in society. "Science should be part of the understanding, the education of any educated man or woman and also of anybody who really is going to make decisions. At the moment unfortunately it isn't," he said.