Voting Science


How important is science in the 2012 elections? It gets little mention directly and appears most often as policy statements.

Is it important? Are you reading this post on some ‘net enabled device? Thank science.

Are you reading this post on a mobile or tablet device? Thank science. Does your computer fit in your hand rather than fill a room? Thank science.

Do you get your calls via cellphone more often than landline? Thank science. For that matter, thank science for your landline, too.

You don’t think Science is important?

Science is business. Don’t forget that. And business is economics. Italy is imprisoning six scientists who failed to correctly predict the extent of an earthquake in L’Aquila in 2009. Think of the insurance bills that had to be paid in that city. Italy’s courts have also decided mobile phones cause brain tumors. Think of the medical costs! Think of the caveats mobile phone developers will need to have written into purchase agreements to indemnify them from heretical liability claims!

And in the US? Textbooks are bought and ordered more on what politics are in the largest sales territories. If everybody in a given sales territory thinks Creationism is truer than Evolution, guess what goes in the textbook? Voting with one’s pocketbook is fine but the short-sightedness of that approach is incredible. Vote that way long enough and the US — already losing some of its technological advantage — becomes a scientific backwater relying on other countries for innovation. Lose technological advantage and military strength is not far behind.

And we thought Wikipedia was dangerous?

Who’s for Science? (a view from across the pond)

The following is from the British science journal Nature v490 25 Oct 2012. The full article is High stakes for US science and a worthy read.


In their own words

Barack Obama (blue) and Mitt Romney (red) speak about science issues on the campaign trail.

CLIMATE

Obama: “Climate change is one of the biggest issues… we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.”

Romney: “I oppose steps like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system …Economic growth and technological innovation, not economy-suppressing regulation, is the key to environmental protection.”

The bottom line: Romney opposes all climate regulations. Obama used regulatory powers to push through energy and climate regulations, and subsidies for low-carbon energy technology.

EDUCATION

Obama: “Now I want to hire another hundred thousand new math and science teachers and create two million more slots in our community colleges so that people can get trained for the jobs that are out there right now.”

Romney: “I propose we grade our schools so parents …can take their child to a school that’s being more successful. I don’t want to cut our commitment to education, I want to make it more effective and efficient.”

The bottom line: Obama often emphasizes science education. Romney focuses on streamlining the federal role in education while encouraging school choice and voucher
programmes.

ENERGY

Obama: “I have supported an all-of-the-above energy approach that will allow us to take control of our energy future, one where we safely and responsibly develop America’s many energy resources.”

Romney: “A crucial component of my plan …is to dramatically increase domestic energy production and partner closely with Canada and Mexico to achieve North American energy independence by 2020.”

The bottom line: Romney and Obama have tussled over who supports fossil fuels the most. The difference is that Obama continues to push to develop renewable sources for the long
term.

INNOVATION

Obama: “I am committed to doubling funding for key research agencies to support scientists and entrepreneurs, so that we can preserve America’s place as the world leader in innovation.”

Romney: “The promotion of innovation will begin on Day One, with efforts to simplify the corporate tax code, reform job retraining programmes, reduce regulatory burdens, and protect American intellectual property.”

The bottom line: Obama deployed stimulus money to commercialize new technologies. Romney supports basic research, but leaves innovation and commercialization to the private
sector.

REGULATION

Obama: “Smart rules can save lives and keep us safe, but there are some regulations that don’t make sense and cost too much.”

Romney: “We must reduce the power of unaccountable regulators by requiring that all major regulations receive congressional approval and by imposing a regulatory cap that prevents the addition of new regulatory costs.”

The bottom line: Romney would slow or stop regulation where possible. Obama moved to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens, but also used regulatory powers to further his agenda.

SPACE

Obama: “Our goal is the capacity for people to work and learn and operate and live safely beyond the Earth for extended periods of time, ultimately in ways that are more sustainable and even indefinite.”

Romney: “America has enjoyed a half-century of leadership in space, but now that leadership is eroding …I will bring together all the stakeholders …and define the pathway forward.”

The bottom line: Under Obama, NASA has drifted into budgetary and mission limbo. Romney has underscored the problem but offers few specifics about what he would change.

STEM CELLS

Obama: “We will vigorously support scientists who pursue this research. And we will aim for America to lead the world in the discoveries it one day may yield.”

Romney: “I have a deep concern about curing disease …but I will not create new embryos through cloning or through embryo farming, because that would be creating life for the purpose of destroying it.”

The bottom line: Obama repealed limits on federal funding of stem-cell research. Romney has not specified his stance, but his religious views may stand in opposition to current policy.


Like your bigscreen TVs, your Facebook and Twitter? Are you a mayor in 4Square or have your family’s highest score in Angry Birds? Do you shop online? Is your refrigerator, computer or car energy efficient? Are you taking medication that keeps in check an illness that killed your grandparents?

Thank science.

What is the cost of undervaluing science? Living Under the China Skies or giving up personal security in ways most people can’t imagine.

Like your life, your gadgets and toys and want more for less at the grocery store and gas pump?

Vote Science.


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