As the general election draws near, Americans find themselves knee deep in the relentless onslaught of campaign ads. What will the candidates do about improving the economy, creating jobs or going after Iran and other rogue nations?
And there’s no escape anytime soon: Voters will get three, 90-minute doses of sound bites and campaign rhetoric when the two presidential candidates debate one another mano-a-mano. The first one focused on domestic policy, the second will be on domestic and foreign policy and the last on foreign policy. But, as Matthew Chapman recently blogged on the Huffington Post, there is one glaring topical omission: science.
He laments that science is missing from the topics to be covered in the debates and argues that it should be debated because “science and technology have been responsible for over half the growth of the U.S. economy since WWII.”
To many people, including Chapman, excluding science from the debates is a serious omission. So, what’s the problem? People not interested? Candidates not interested? Surely, the engine of our modern economy, the “seedcorn” of our country, is a viable debate topic, no? After all, science affects the lives of everyone and, without it, our nation would be stripped of its ability to innovate, compete, discover, cure and explore. So, what’s the problem?
According to Shawn Otto, ScienceDebate.org head honcho, it’s because “they’re stuck in 20th century thinking.” Otto adds, “… It’s taking them time to realize we’re in a new century – the century of science…..” The unwillingness of the candidates to address science as a debate topic is all the more ironic because the current president says he’s a strong supporter of science.
Maybe the candidates are scared they’ll get really hard, science-y questions from the moderator?
Not really, says veteran political analyst and Presidential advisor David Gergen.
“….[science] is not part of the national dialogue. It’s not in the news…the political journalists think that this is not what the public really wants to hear about…”
So, how do we get science on the national agenda, and even into the Presidential debates?
According to Gergen, “You have to have a certain number of people in the culture who step forward and say: This is really important. We need to talk about it.”
And dare I say, Mr. Gergen, that those people can and should be the scientists themselves.