The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

Candidates and science

Posted by Bill Nance on September 9, 2008

No one would disagree that we are in a new technical age. This requires policy decisions about where to spend research budgets, how best to deal with global warming, balancing between species preservation and development and how best to direct education policy, just to name a few. (I’m not a fan of the feds having ANYTHING to do with education policy, but that’s not the world in which we actually live.).

I’ve already written about the predictably awful performance of a McCain administration with regard to science, but lets expand on that just a bit.

Presidents decide policy. Of course they should have experts advising them all these decisions. (We’re hiring a chief-executive not university department head.). Still, some understanding of basic scientific principles is needed just as a bullshit filter if nothing else. And of course in this day and age hiring a technophobe is probably a poor choice.

So I have a question that I would like to be put to each of the Presidential candidates. A question any college sophomore should be able to answer:

Can you give us your understanding of the what the scientific method consists of, and the difference between a scientific theory and an opinion?

Followup: Why is there there a difference between the latter two and why does that difference matter?

I’d be very interested to see if any of the candidates can give a coherent answer to those questions. I’d give you 3-2 odds that none of them could and 20-1 that neither McCain nor Palin could.

*cheat: Wiki has a fairly decent article on the subject

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