Almost five years ago, a small group of individuals began to call for a Presidential candidate Science Debate. The idea quickly gained momentum, with support from dozens of Nobel laureates, the leaders of over 100 major universities, prestigious scientific organizations (among them AAAS, the National Academies of Science and Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine), and tens of thousands of American citizens. From thousands of submitted questions, a list of 14 was eventually developed. Science Debate 2008 had bipartisan Congressional co-chairs, a television deal with NOVA, and even rented a venue. Unfortunately, although both the McCain and Obama campaigns produced written answers in 2008, neither side agreed to make science the topic of a debate.
The story in 2012 has been very much the same — tremendous support for a colloquy on the important scientific issues to be faced in the next few decades, a set of 14 serious questions, written answers but no debate. This cycle, the editors of Scientific American graded the Obama and Romney responses:
To make our determination, we invited readers to send us leads and solicited input from our board of advisers and other subject-matter experts. We scored the candidates’ answers on a five-point scale (with five being best), using the following criteria: how directly and completely they answered the question; scientific accuracy; feasibility (including economic viability and clear accounting for both revenues and costs); potential benefits to health, education and the environment; and sustainability (meaning how well the proposed solutions balance the needs of current and future generations).
While SA’s evaluation found Romney to be more specific in his plans, and to have greater feasibility, Obama greatly exceeded Romney in scientific accuracy. In particular, Romney’s responses on climate change, ocean health, and freshwater “revealed an unfamiliarity with the evidence that shows how urgent these issues have become”. Also, as an opponent of Net Neutrality, Romney scored 0 on the question about the Internet.
The Science Debate people presented a subset of their questions — those particularly relevant to the Evergreen State — to the candidates for Governor of Washington. The issues on that list were:
- Climate Change
- Ocean Health
- Vaccination and Public Health
- Science in Public Policy
As would be expected from the author of a well-received book on green energy, Jay Inslee provided extensive and detailed answers to the six queries.
Rob McKenna’s responses, in full, are displayed below:
McKenna was invited to answer the questions on six different occasions. He failed to reply to any of the invitations. Even on what is allegedly his signature issue — education — his silence was deafening. In his typical weaselly fashion, McKenna opted to say nothing whatsoever instead of revealing his Republican anti-scientific orientation. He’ll do anything not to offend the teahadist GOP base in Washington while passively thumbing his nose at the reality-based voters in the Puget Sound environs.
Playing mute has worked for McKenna in the past; it worked well (and may almost have been appropriate) when he was running for a statewide service position. But after Dino Rossi’s twin failures to fool enough people in gubernatorial — that is, executive — elections, we the people of Washington are onto these barefaced attempts by conservative Republicans to bamboozle us.
If you haven’t already mailed in your ballot, what are you waiting for? Vote for Inslee (and Obama, Cantwell, Ferguson, Drew, Goldmark, Kreidler, McCloud, et al.), seal it up, and drop it in the mail!