US presidential candidate Barack Obama took up Nature's invitation to reply to some questions on science policy. McCain declined. Both candidates responded to questions presented by ScienceDebate 2008 but, surprisingly, the topic of evolution was not addressed in that. Fish hatcheries apparently being more important than science education in schools.
Macmillan Publishers Ltd.-owned Nature doesn't have the same political origin as Science Debate so their questions leaned a little less toward the liberal skew and a little more toward plain old science, namely in questions like 'should intelligent design be taught in school?' and 'will you fix the visas so we aren't educating scientists here and making them go back to their countries of origin?' Nature does not completely lack for 'framing' - nowhere does Democrat Joe Biden, Obama's VP, get a mention but Sarah Palin's opinions on science are used as qualifiers twice, even though they are at odds with McCain, the actual person who would be president.
I can't say I'm a fan of using actual responses from Obama and then using responses extracted from prior McCain statements plus conjecture about his VP in lieu of actual responses but that was their editorial decision. I think Obama is pandering to his hard left wing base a little bit in his hesitance about nuclear power but for the most part his responses are what we want from a president in a scientifically competitive 21st century.
He has put a hard number in a campaign promise, something McCain has not (on the contrary, cutting spending is part of McCain's campaign, so forcing all branches of government to be more efficient would likely mean an end to the spending increases NASA and the NIH had under Bush) and both are fans of the ridiculous 'cap and trade' placebo for reducing greenhouse gases. Both candidates support lifting the ban on human embryonic stem cell research (thus my annoyance at Nature interjecting Palin's opinion on the matter yet never mention Biden's disagreement with Obama on oil drilling, for example) whereas McCain is clearly ahead of Obama when it comes to supporting space science.
On visas for scientists, Obama makes it a 9/11 terrorism issue, which is annoying spin. Visas were reduced as a protectionist scheme by the Clinton administration, supposedly to boost the competitiveness of Americans by reducing foreigners. Obviously this has resulted in more offshoring and Bush was ill-informed enough on the topic to continue that policy. Obama doesn't look like he will see the wisdom of immigration in a way that McCain does but campaign statements don't really tell us a lot about what actual actions will be taken.
I am betting that reality will cause both candidates to move a little more toward the middle than anything they say to get elected. In other words, I don't see anything that would make me alarmed about either candidate, despite the efforts by political operatives to mobilize constituents by saying either science or the culture will be ruined if the other guy gets elected.
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