Thursday, January 31, 2008

The proposed ScienceDebate is a significant political risk

The ScienceDebate2008 will not be a debate about science. And unfortunately, it poses a serious risk to those who care about science. The Republicans have done such a hatchet job on science over the past few decades that anyone laying out what one would normally think is a thoughtful position on science will be trashed by the right-wing echo chamber.

If the ScienceDebate2008 is going to succeed it will require not only thoughtful positions on science but science salesmanship. For a politician to risk debating science he or she will have to be prepared not only to have intelligent positions but also to mount a campaign to convince the uninformed that science matters. That's a big risk for politicians. Why should a politician who is ahead in the polls risk that? A politician who is ahead in the polls and who has an intelligent position on science already has the backing of those who respect science. So taking part in a debate won't help him/her. But it will open him/her up to right wing charges that might strip away support from those who are neither pro nor anti science but who support the candidate for other reasons. In other words, a ScienceDebate2008 may have the unintended consequence of weakening good candidates unless those candidates are prepared to campaign strongly for science and not just set out thoughtful positions.

1 comment:

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