Do the candidates know what science can and cannot do?

Short answer- some candidates *cough* Hillary *cough* are way more informed than others. NPR has a nice commentary piece:

Tania Lombrozo poses three science questions for the presidential candidates.

Monty Rakusen/Getty Images

This election season, voters should be evaluating the presidential candidates’ attitudes toward science. proposes a set of 20 science and science policy questions for all candidates, suggesting that “science impacts voters at least as much as the economic policy, foreign policy, and faith and values candidates share on the campaign trail.”

Yet beyond questions about specific scientific issues are broader questions about how each candidate understands the value of science itself. Science is unique among human enterprises in its insistence on systematic observation and reasoning as a means of drawing generalizations about the natural world. Scientific claims are at the mercy of evidence, subjected to constant scrutiny and revised as we learn more.Scientific methodology gives science special authority when it comes to answering empirical questions, an authority that isn’t shared by other human endeavors.

But is this an authority that the candidates recognize?

In her speech accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, Hillary Clinton affirmed her belief in science, an affirmation that an article in Slate derided as “bizarre,” since science shouldn’t be a matter of personal or partisan preference: “Science is a fact, and either people acknowledge reality or they do not.”

Yet Clinton’s affirmation makes sense in the current political context. It’s no secret that not all politicians hold science in equal esteem. Republican nominee Donald Trump has offered little in the way of science policy and has questioned scientific consensus. Astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss writes that “for science, research, and their impact on the economy, the election of Trump would simply be a disaster.”

When it comes to these attitudes toward science, it’s not a straightforward matter of liberal versus conservative. Another article in Slate describes Green Party candidate Jill Stein as “a Harvard-trained physician who panders to pseudoscience.” It’s a mistake to deny scientific claims the authority they deserve (as Trump has done), but it can be just as deadly to confer that authority where it doesn’t belong (on pseudoscience).

A related mistake comes from thinking that science — on its own — can settle questions of policy. As I’ve written about before, science can answer empirical questions that should inform policy decisions, but the policy decisions themselves aren’t just a matter of science — they typically involve complex trade-offs between different risks and benefits, and evaluating those trade-offs is also a matter of values.

Vetting candidates on their views about specific scientific issues is clearly important — policies related to energy, innovation, education, water and beyond will profoundly shape the coming century. But the only constant in science is change. As science progresses, technology advances, and local and global issues take new forms, politicians will confront new challenges that science can inform, and we need to know that our future president will face those challenges with an appropriate appreciation for what science can — and cannot — do.

Some of ScienceDebate’s 20 questions for candidates do get at more basic issues about the process of doing science, including scientific funding and how to preserve the integrity of science. But to complement their list, here are three more questions for today’s presidential candidates, questions about the nature of science itself:

  1. Science is one of the most successful human enterprises. What do you think accounts for this success? What would you do to ensure the continued success of science during your term and beyond?
  2. Do you think science has special authority when it comes to answering certain kinds of questions? If so, what kinds of questions? How will you ensure that your decisions are based on the best answers to these questions? In particular, how will you differentiate good science from bad science and pseudoscience? (If this is a matter of having good scientific advisers, how will you select those advisers?)
  3. There are some questions that science cannot answer — either because it is insufficiently advanced or because the questions are, in principle, beyond the scope of science. Can you provide examples of questions of each type, and explain how science will — or will not — influence the way you approach those questions?

Tania Lombrozo is a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley. She writes about psychology, cognitive science and philosophy, with occasional forays into parenting and veganism. You can keep up with more of what she is thinking on Twitter: @TaniaLombrozo

Lots of talk about Science at day 1 of the DNC #ImWithHer #DemsLoveScience #Proscience

So overjoyed to hear so many comments about science at the first day of the DNC! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the speeches from science supporters Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders! Here are some snippets:

From Grist– what Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders all had in common in their speeches: Climate change!

PHILADELPHIA — Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders each chose different words to unite their party on the first night of the Democratic National Convention, but there was a unifying theme to their speeches. In outlining the high stakes of the election, they all talked about the huge consequences for future generations.

Take Michelle Obama, who said, “In this election, and every election, it is about who will have the power to shape our children for the next four or eight years of their lives.” Warren later said, “Hillary will fight to preserve this earth for our children and grandchildren. And we’re with her!” And then in Sanders’ big finale, he noted “the need to leave this world in a way that is healthy and habitable for our kids and future generations.”

Anyone who’s concerned about climate change should recognize this argument. Perhaps more than any big issue in this election, climate change is about the decisions we make now and their impact on future generations. Whether they were referring to climate change or not, Obama, Warren, and Sanders were pleading with the Bernie-or-bust section of their party using the same logic.

“This election is about climate change, the great environmental crisis facing our planet,” Sanders said, in remarks that were nearly word-for-word what he said when he endorsed Clinton two weeks ago. “Hillary Clinton is listening to the scientists who tell us that unless we act boldly to transform our energy system in the very near future, there will be more drought, more floods, more acidification of the oceans, rising sea levels. … Hillary Clinton understands that a president’s job is to worry about future generations, not the profits of the fossil fuel industry.”

Warren talked about how dysfunction in Washington, D.C., benefits the fossil fuel industry rather than the public. “Washington works great for those at the top,” she said. “When huge energy companies wanted to tear up our environment, Washington got it done. … When we turn on each other, bankers can run our economy for Wall Street, oil companies can fight off clean energy.”

Obama didn’t hit on climate change directly in her rousing speech, but she didn’t need to. It’s clear enough what inaction on global warming would do to hurt younger generations.


Trump and Clinton- VERY different opinions on science #ImWithHer

This comes as a surprise to NO ONE, but Clinton and Trump are worlds apart on their views of basically anything, but especially science. Also not a huge surprise, but Clinton is very pro-science whereas Trump is… well… Trump. Nature News explains:

Science is slowly coming into focus in the US presidential campaign. Although neither Republican Donald Trump nor Democrat Hillary Clinton has emphasized core research issues, the candidates — and their parties — are beginning to flesh out their positions on climate change, education, biomedical research and other topics that involve the scientific community.

Trump’s pick of Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate on 15 July signalled a sharp turn towards the Republican party’s conservative base. Pence, a self-described Christian conservative, has questioned the existence of climate change, waffled on evolution and criticized President Barack Obama for supporting embryonic-stem-cell research. His new role aligns with the hard-line policy platform adopted at the Republican convention, where Trump officially became the party’s nominee on 19 July.

If Trump wins, Pence’s rise could embolden conservative Republicans to seek new limits on federal funding for embryonic-stem-cell research. But predicting how Trump would govern is a dangerous parlour game, says Michael Werner, executive director of the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, an advocacy group in Washington DC: “We really don’t know what a Trump–Pence administration would do.”

It’s a common refrain. Deciphering Trump’s views on core science issues has been difficult given the free-wheeling style of his populist campaign. He has often seemed to focus more on taunting the political establishment than on staking out policy positions. By contrast, the Clinton campaign has consulted dozens of scientists on topics that include health, education and the environment.

“Trump doesn’t have a prominent policy shop and a prominent set of policy advisers,” says Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who counselled Republican senator John McCain (Arizona) on economic policy during his failed 2008 presidential bid. “Clinton has a vast bureaucracy and a ten-point plan for going out to lunch, so they couldn’t be more different.”

The two candidates — whose campaign staff declined multiple interview requests — also seem to think very differently about the role of science. Although Clinton has described science and innovation as a foundation for the future, science funding seems to be an afterthought for Trump, says John Karsten, coordinator of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington DC. Instead, the Republican has focused on issues such as national security, immigration and crumbling infrastructure.

Climate change is one of the few science topics that has grabbed the campaign spotlight — in part because of Republican anger over Obama’s regulations to limit greenhouse-gas emissions from power plants, vehicles and oil and gas development. Clinton’s climate and energy proposals would largely maintain the current course; by contrast, in a major policy speech on 26 May, Trump promised to roll back Obama’s “totalitarian” regulations and withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. Trump, who has long denied mainstream climate science, also said that his administration will focus on “real environmental challenges, not phony ones”.

Split tickets

This yawning philosophical divide is apparent in the party platforms that the Republicans and Democrats developed ahead of their nominating conventions this month. Environmentalists have criticized the Republican platform for labelling coal a “clean” energy source, even though it produces more carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy than any other fossil fuel. Democrats, meanwhile, are poised to adopt a platform this week at their national convention that calls for using “every tool available to reduce emissions now”.

“Climate is going to be talked about in this campaign, because the candidates have distinctly different positions,” says Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University in New Jersey who is advising the Clinton team. Although his workload was light during primary season, Oppenheimer anticipates questions from the campaign about how global warming might affect certain regions, or the extent to which an extreme weather event might be related to global warming.

Some experts say that the Democratic party’s adoption of science as a campaign issue — which Obama kick-started in 2008 — risks further polarizing thorny policy debates around scientific issues such as global warming. “The Democrats found that science was a good thing for them, just like historically strong support for the military was good for the Republicans,” says Daniel Sarewitz, co-director of Arizona State University’s Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes in Washington DC (and a regular contributor to Nature). “If the Democrats are the party of science, and you are a Republican, what does that make you think?”

But Holtz-Eakin says that the Trump campaign’s apparent decision to forgo science advice is a reflection of Trump himself, not of Republican priorities. In 2008, he notes, the McCain campaign consulted scientists to formulate its positions on issues such as global warming — just as Clinton has done.

With just over three months until the election, there is still a chance that Trump will assemble his own coterie of science advisers, says Andrew Rosenberg, who heads the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Doing so not only informs policy positions, it builds relationships that are useful after the election, when the winning candidate begins to assemble a government.

“These things widen the network,” Rosenberg says. “I know it’s happening with the Clinton campaign, and at some point I would expect it would happen with the Trump campaign.”

Get out and vote! #science #climate #GMO #vaccines #NIH #NSF

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