Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


ScienceDebate2008 Update
September 1, 2008 7:16 PM   Subscribe

Barack Obama has responded to the 14 questions posed by ScienceDebate2008 (discussed previously). The Martian Chronicles has outlined some key points of his response. John McCain has not responded to the questions, but has indicated that he will respond.
posted by gruchall (63 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
How many houses do you have... ON MARS?
posted by Artw at 7:17 PM on September 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


This is excellent news--- I've never heard a president support basic science research this strongly, or even heard of it, at least not since Kennedy.

Great news for people like me, coming out of school and trying to decide between corporate R&D or academic research; it actually makes it a choice between two excellent options and not the choice between conscience and money.
posted by supercres at 8:04 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hey, this looks good. Hope he means it.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:05 PM on September 1, 2008


15. Mythical beasts. Our development of new mythical beasts has slowed to a standstill, as television and video games have decreased creativity among children and the imagining of new mythical beasts becomes increasingly difficult because of the challenge of inventing mythical beasts that are not entirely derivative of the mythical beasts we have already conceptualized. What will you do to facilitate creation of new mythical beasts?

The development of mythical beasts is critical to our nation's economic growth and also an important part of the future that we owe to our children. That is why one of my first acts as President will be to create an Office of Mythical Beast Development (OMBD) that will coordinate more than $22 million in grants and low-interest micro-loans to assist disadvantaged communities with creating their own mythical beasts -- beasts that will be able to compete with mythical beasts conceived in China and Japan. As President, I will fund the OMDB by imposing a series of use taxes on existing beasts, with a progressive tax system that ensure that 95% of all American families never have to pay a tax on existing beasts at all.
posted by Slap Factory at 8:06 PM on September 1, 2008 [44 favorites]


I feel confident that McCain will have a central role in actually writing the responses that go out under his name, that they will represent policies that he has stood by in the past and genuinely intends to work for in the future, and that he furthermore won't take advantage of that Obama responded first by reading Obama's and tuning his responses accordingly.

In all seriousness as to that last, it would have been more useful from an honest compare-and-contrast perspective if they had waited until either both responses were in or some deadline had passed before publishing either of them. It's like that cone of silence thing, only about shit that actually matters.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:06 PM on September 1, 2008 [8 favorites]


I would also like to see the outcome of a similar "debate" between the candidates on other intellectual topics -- geography, for example. Better to leave maths out of it though, that could get sticky.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 8:10 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


5MeoCMP -- on the same terms? McCain doesn't answer until after Obama's answers are in and made public? For questions that have a single, provably correct answer, I imagine the McCain camp could just about cope with that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:15 PM on September 1, 2008


Seriously, though, this is heartening. The education answer is a bit of a mish-mash of acronyms, and it's not clear that he's promising anything serious in terms of overhauling the abysmal "every child left behind exactly the same amount" program, but the rest is good.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 8:15 PM on September 1, 2008


George_Spiggott -- I expect that McCain will crib quite a few answers from Obama. He couldn't quite look over Obama's shoulder while he was writing, so he has to scramble and copy down some of the good points while the teacher is reading Obama's answers to the class.
posted by 5MeoCMP at 8:17 PM on September 1, 2008


Science? I thought the past eight years had established a governmental policy that it's all just a matter of opinion.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:17 PM on September 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


GOP Platform Calls for Banning ALL Embryonic Stem Cell Research...
posted by homunculus at 8:20 PM on September 1, 2008


Metafilter: Obama good, McCain bad.

not that I disagree with the POV
posted by Slothrup at 8:22 PM on September 1, 2008


How many houses do you have... ON MARS?

Oh man, look at those cavemen decorate...
posted by homunculus at 8:26 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


duuuuuude. <3
posted by bonaldi at 8:26 PM on September 1, 2008


Aw crap, not the piano of doom again!
posted by Artw at 8:30 PM on September 1, 2008


15. Mythical beasts.

I think these times call for more undead beasts.
posted by homunculus at 8:31 PM on September 1, 2008


Oooh, geek pandering. You know it's fake, but it feels so gooooooooood....
posted by tkolar at 8:37 PM on September 1, 2008


At this point in the game, can we really believe Obama answered these himself? Or that McWayne is going to jump three gears on the learning curve and embrace the internet? ScienceDebate2008 does have an impressive list of Organizational Signers, and that gives good credence to it all none the less.
posted by buzzman at 8:47 PM on September 1, 2008


How many houses do you have... ON MARS?

Oh man, look at those cavemen decorate...


Dude has three fireplaces in one home!
posted by furtive at 9:02 PM on September 1, 2008


He should totally buy this place. 47 fireplaces, bitches!

Actually for all we know he may own it already.
posted by Artw at 9:07 PM on September 1, 2008


At this point in the game, can we really believe Obama answered these himself?

I imagine not, but that shouldn't be a problem. By this time of year, a presidential candidate should have a well-elaborated set of policies that s/he intends to enact once in office. If the whole campaign is well-versed in what those are, it doesn't need to be the candidate who answers questions like this.
posted by invitapriore at 9:10 PM on September 1, 2008


15. Mythical beasts. - How tall is the invisible sky-wizard?
posted by pompomtom at 9:12 PM on September 1, 2008


These are not science questions, these are policy questions.

What I want is for the candidates to answer questions like these:

Basic Science Exam for Presidential Candidates

1. Which of the following is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming?
a) oxygen
b) methane
c) nitrogen
d) argon

2. Which kind of fat is widely considered unhealthy to eat in large quantities?
a) saturated fat
b) unsaturated fat

3. Which of the following is a key concept in Darwin’s theory of evolution?
a) genetic drift
b) taxonomy
c) acquired characteristics
d) natural selection

4. Do antibiotics work against viruses?
a) yes
b) no

5. Which hormone is involved in diabetes?
a) dopamine
b) insulin
c) melatonin
d) progesterone

6. Which gas do plants produce during photosynthesis?
a) oxygen
b) methane
c) water vapor
d) carbon dioxide

7. Which of the following would reduce or eliminate CO2 emissions from coal-powered energy plants?
a) hydrolysis
b) carbon transmutation
c) carbon sequestration
d) hydrogen synthesis

8. Which of the following processes powers the Sun and other stars?
a) nuclear fusion
b) nuclear fission
c) ionization
d) quantum tunneling

9. Which of the following could be used as fuel in a nuclear fusion reactor?
a) uranium
b) oxygen
c) hydrogen
d) lead

10. What do photovoltaic cells convert sunlight to?
a) heat
b) electricity

11. Which of the following can contain the other?
a) atoms
b) molecules

12. Can sound be heard in a pure vacuum?
a) yes
b) no

13. Can gravity bend light rays?
a) yes
b) no

14. How old in years do geologists think the Earth is?
a) 6,000
b) 130,000
c) 65,000,000
d) 4,500,000,000

15. Did humans and dinosaurs ever live on Earth at the same time?
a) yes
b) no

16. How much of the Earth is covered in water?
a) 10%
b) 25%
c) 50%
d) 75%

17. Which of the following is true?
a) the Earth orbits the Sun
b) the Sun orbits the Earth

18. Which of the following statements is true?
a) The Sun is smaller than the Moon
b) the Sun and the Moon are the same size
c) The Sun is bigger than the Moon

19. Which of the following is the universe doing according to astronomic observations?
a) contracting
b) expanding
c) staying the same size?

20. Which of the following is not part of the scientific method?
a) observations
b) hypotheses
c) dogmas
d) experiments
posted by humannaire at 9:34 PM on September 1, 2008 [47 favorites]



What disappoints me about Obama's energy policy - and I'm a big supporter of the candidate - is his lack of articulated support for public transit initiatives and rebuilding our passenger rail system. We can't just make more efficient cars and expect to come out alright.
posted by bukharin at 9:40 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


wow, those responses are amazingly dry to the point of unreadability. Anyone have any idea what "STEM education" is?

As a tangent, I'm assuming the "omg us education sucks so bad" stats here are, as usual, a result of the fact that we give everyone a chance. Many 15 year olds in a lot of first world countries probably aren't even TAKING these tests, because they've left school or been shunted onto a technical track.

posted by drjimmy11 at 9:49 PM on September 1, 2008


What disappoints me about Obama's energy policy - and I'm a big supporter of the candidate - is his lack of articulated support for public transit initiatives and rebuilding our passenger rail system.

Well, there's this: "Rail-Riding Biden Is a Strong Backer Of Amtrak in Senate."
posted by Knappster at 9:50 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


9. Which of the following could be used as fuel in a nuclear fusion reactor?

You misspelled nucular.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:58 PM on September 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


drjimmy11- Science Technology Engineering Mathematics
posted by Jpfed at 10:01 PM on September 1, 2008


Drjimmy11, STEM is most likely some variant of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics.

And as to the 'Obama himself didn't say this', not only do we have the fact that it's not important since his opinions will be known to his campaign, it's a public pledge on his part. Whether or not he said it, it was said with his authority, and so he's put under a bit more pressure to enact these policies.
posted by Lemurrhea at 10:01 PM on September 1, 2008


Hmm. 90 percent on the science test. Missed the one about saturated fats and the one about how to improve coal energy plants.

I'm happy to see Obama's views on science policy, and I look forward to McCain's response. Good post Gruchall.
posted by snwod at 10:07 PM on September 1, 2008


buzzman: I certainly haven't heard all of this from Obama, but I have heard the basics of a lot of it from him.

Thing is I think he is actually smart enough to know what all of that means and has a decent shot of trying to implement it, McCain... well lets say with all the bits and pieces I tend to think of him as a bespoke man, and suspect he'll have to have someone break it down to small words for him.
posted by edgeways at 10:09 PM on September 1, 2008


This is really excellent. Thank you.
posted by digaman at 10:32 PM on September 1, 2008


So lame -- Obama just answered "hope" on each question. I sure wish he'd get specific...
posted by punkbitch at 10:32 PM on September 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


10. What do photovoltaic cells convert sunlight to?
a) heat
b) electricity


Both, silly.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:45 AM on September 2, 2008 [4 favorites]


This is nice, but imagine how much better it would be if there was an actual, in person, live debate on nothing but science topics.

If that seems impossible, note that Obama and McCain just had a "town hall" on the theme of Faith, for crying out loud.
posted by rokusan at 2:47 AM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


2. Which kind of fat is widely considered unhealthy to eat in large quantities?
a) saturated fat
b) unsaturated fat


Sorry, but that's just a terrible question. Large quantities of any fat are unhealthy. 'Large quantities' is unclear. What does 'widely considered' mean?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:58 AM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Obama opines on optimal integer sorting algorithms.
posted by nfg at 3:04 AM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Me likes, mostly. I'm still disturbed about this defense research stuff. I just hope it doesn't lead to any more useful $62 billion projects like the F-22. Those things stop roadside bombs like it ain't no thing. Or not.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:30 AM on September 2, 2008


McCain has indicated that once he figures out how to use a computer he will provide his answers.
posted by clearly at 3:43 AM on September 2, 2008


As a tangent, I'm assuming the "omg us education sucks so bad" stats here are, as usual, a result of the fact that we give everyone a chance. Many 15 year olds in a lot of first world countries probably aren't even TAKING these tests, because they've left school or been shunted onto a technical track

From the PISA 2006 statistics of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries

OECD average 500

1 Finland 563
2 Canada 534
3 Japan 531
4 New Zealand 530
5 Australia 527
6 Netherlands 525
7 Korea, Republic of 522
8 Germany 516
9 United Kingdom 515
10 Czech Republic 513
11 Switzerland 512
12 Austria 511
13 Belgium 510
14 Ireland 508
15 Hungary 504
16 Sweden 503
17 Poland 498
18 Denmark 496
19 France 495
20 Iceland 491
21 United States 489
22 Slovak Republic 488
23 Spain 488
24 Norway 487
25 Luxembourg 486
26 Italy 475
27 Portugal 474
28 Greece 473
29 Turkey 424
30 Mexico 410

Non OECD Jurisdiction countries scoring higher than the USA

1 Hong Kong-China 542
2 Chinese Taipei 532
3 Estonia 531
4 Liechtenstein 522
5 Slovenia 519
6 Macao-China 511
7 Croatia 493
9 Latvia 490

I am not certain that you can say that of the countries who scored higher than the USA on these tests only excel because they encourage children to take an alternative path. Japan, Canada, the Scandinavia and several European nations have excellent academic reputations. Certainly in the UK at least, no matter how crap you are at maths and science you will be in school until 16 years of age.
posted by longbaugh at 4:03 AM on September 2, 2008


This is excellent news--- I've never heard a president support basic science research this strongly, or even heard of it, at least not since Kennedy.

I seem to recall President Clinton pushing for more money for university research. It was probably part of his re-election campaign in '96.
posted by NoMich at 4:08 AM on September 2, 2008


McCain has indicated that once he figures out how to use a computer he will provide his answers.

You forgot that he used the phrase "new fangled" when he indicated this.
posted by thanotopsis at 5:35 AM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Obama opines on optimal integer sorting algorithms.

Here is John McCain in the same forum: Candidates@Google. Unfortunately, it is a little less focused on science and technology issues.
posted by gruchall at 9:32 AM on September 2, 2008


I'm disappointed he used the term "bio-terror". Is "bio-terrorism" less scary?
posted by Dragonness at 10:22 AM on September 2, 2008


This is nice, but imagine how much better it would be if there was an actual, in person, live debate on nothing but science topics.

If that seems impossible, note that Obama and McCain just had a "town hall" on the theme of Faith, for crying out loud.


Heh. What you are saying is completely contrary to what I know of how Americans work.
posted by Artw at 10:35 AM on September 2, 2008


wow, those responses are amazingly dry to the point of unreadability. Anyone have any idea what "STEM education" is?

Actually his wording wouldn't be out of place in a science education grant proposal. And yes, those are extremely dry.

Seriously, as someone working in this area, I am astonished. This is a fluent use of language that, yes, is program-speak and drives me crazy, but also is only used fluently by someone who knows their shit. This reads nothing at all like hand-waving or glibness. These are not answers from someone who's only passingly familiar with this area and is making it up as they go along. Not by a long shot.

In short, these answers are the single most encouraging thing I have see answered by his campaign so far. All the big issues the candidates are being glib about-- energy independence, education is important, we need a new green economy-- this right here is the engine that drives every single bit of that behind the scenes.
posted by Tehanu at 10:48 AM on September 2, 2008 [6 favorites]


"Scientific and technological information is of growing importance to a range of issues. I believe such information must be expert and uncolored by ideology."

This alone would make him better than anything we've had in the last eight years.
posted by quin at 1:06 PM on September 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Like most presidential promises, this only matters if he can get funding through Congress, which I seriously doubt. Especially given the economic / budget situation.

(That goes for both candidates -- both want to increase government spending overall at a time when that seems... insane).
posted by wildcrdj at 6:22 PM on September 2, 2008


wow, those responses are amazingly dry to the point of unreadability. Anyone have any idea what "STEM education" is?

Soon after Wes Clark entered the presidential race in 2003, he was asked in a debate, "You're a licensed investment banker. Specific reforms from you on corporate governance?" His answer began, "I think Sarbanes-Oxley is a step in the right direction." He took some flak for being too wonkish in his answer. His supporters, on the other hand, had the curious idea that a presidential candidate maybe ought to know such things. (As King Arthur rightly observes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, "Well, you have to know these things when you're a king, you know.")
posted by Creosote at 8:29 PM on September 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed reading Obama's response to these policy questions. It is nice to see him drill down on some specifics and I agree with or at least respect almost all of his answers. I don't think it is necessary for a successful presidential candidate to score 100% on that science quiz off the top of their head, just as I don't think he has to be an expert in economics, law, math, military strategy and literature. I expect them to be familiar with the issues and hold an informed opinion, and to have the sense to guide policy in a sensible direction and pick expert advisers. Being a good president is about leadership, integrity, communication, flexibility and delegating responsibility as the situation demands. The presidency encompasses far too many specialties to expect a good leader to be an expert in all of them, and the details change quickly enough that it would be foolish to go down that route. Obama is well educated, and I expect his spur of the moment answers to the science quiz would be comparable to most of the readers of this site, and considerably better than the average American citizen's.
posted by sophist at 10:58 PM on September 2, 2008


Palin's creationist views would endanger U.S. progress
posted by homunculus at 9:03 AM on September 7, 2008


Our bright and glorious future
posted by homunculus at 4:08 PM on September 7, 2008


Tech Czar Might Rule Policy Under Obama
posted by homunculus at 2:30 PM on September 11, 2008


If anyone is still keeping track of this old thread, John McCain has responded. A side-by-side comparison.
posted by gruchall at 3:24 PM on September 15, 2008


Short version:

1. The market!
2. He was in the navy
3. a kind-of-sort-of admission of global warming, worded very carefully and using the term “stewardship”, which IIRC is a fundie codeword.
4. He wishes people wouldn’t use embryonic stem cells, but he won’t make it illegal, except he will
5. Continuation of the Bush governments mars exploration programme.
posted by Artw at 3:36 PM on September 15, 2008


McCain Bucks Party Platform, Affirms Support for Embryonic Stem Cell Research
posted by homunculus at 4:21 PM on September 15, 2008


And then, McCain Makes Sharp Right Turn on Stem Cells
posted by gruchall at 2:08 PM on September 17, 2008


He should at least support the research necessary for doctors to grow him a new spine. Then he'd be able to stand up to the Christian right.
posted by homunculus at 9:49 PM on September 17, 2008


Obama Campaign Reveals Science Advisors
posted by homunculus at 9:53 PM on September 17, 2008


Science Debate has opened the two policy statements for comments.
posted by gruchall at 8:46 AM on September 22, 2008


Burned by Bush, Skittish Nobel Laureates Rally Behind Obama
posted by homunculus at 2:15 PM on September 26, 2008


In the first debate (transcript), Obama directly addresses the importance of science and technology funding twice to McCain's zero. And by my count, Obama indirectly addresses the need to support science and technology research (i.e., investing in the development of alternative energy development) twice to McCain's zero.
posted by gruchall at 7:59 AM on September 27, 2008


On a second reading, McCain does mention one scientifically related topic. The Northern Divide Bear DNA Project, which he mocks as wasteful spending.
posted by gruchall at 8:16 AM on September 27, 2008


« Older Amy Goodman Arrested!...  |  For the first time in at least... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments