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Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Presidential Candidates Should Debate Science ... Thus Sayeth Religious People

By April 11, 2012

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Most people that I know are absolutely disgusted by politicians. No matter what a person's political affiliation, if you're an intelligent person then you want decisions to be based on a firm understanding of the reality of the situation. There may be perfectly valid disagreements about how best to address the problems within this reality, of course, but ultimately no one wants decisions to be made on a faulty understanding of reality.

And how do we understand reality? Well, the most well-established and consistent method for understanding the working of reality is science.

Why is this so? Basically it is because science (and, so far as I know, only science) has built into it a systematic method to continually question its base assumptions, to really get at the fundamental truths about how reality functions. Sean Carroll put this eloquently in a recent YouTube video, when he describes skepticism:

Scientists are taught that we should be our own theories' harshest critics. Scientists spend all of their time trying to disprove their favorite ideas. This is a remarkable way of doing things that is a little bit counter-intuitive, but helps us resist the allure of wishful thinking.

Unfortunately, virtually no politicians approach things this way. Political thinking typically starts with a conviction and then proceeds to amass evidence that supports that conviction ... and disregards evidence that conflicts with their conviction.

However, when really considering the policies that we want implemented, people believe that scientific reality is a fairly good thing to consider. Some science enthusiasts believe that religion and religious people are inherently anti-scientific, but a recent poll indicates that this isn't really the case. Even people who self-identify as religious provide a strong indication that they want a scientific-based debate between presidential candidates.

In fact, a science debate came in third among presidential debate themes, right behind economy/taxes and foreign policy/national security, but well ahead of themes such as faith/values or the environment.

Do you believe that there should be a Science Debate as part of the 2012 presidential election, focusing on science-themed areas such as innovation, healthcare, and energy policy? Is this a realistic proposition, or will both parties run from such an enterprise? Offer your thoughts in the comments below.

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Comments

April 16, 2012 at 10:39 am
(1) Joe Smith says:

Andrew,
I have read your article and I have to tell you that you are exactly right. I am an astronomer, scientist and a teacher and I have consistently looked for ways to prove or disprove theories and I have even challenged some laws. I have found things like the laws of science, math and physics can withstand the tests of time. However, politicians are for the most part………flaky people with an agenda. I too do not want someone sitting in an important decision making position that has no insight or idea of how important decisions are made in the best interest of the people. This scenario is easily comparable to tossing a rock into a pond with all the circles that touches every thing in the pond. Your insight is refreshing and I offer my thanks for a well written article.
Joe Smith

April 16, 2012 at 10:51 am
(2) Joe C. Smith, Sr. says:

Andrew,
I have read your article and I wish to compliment you. I totally agree with you and I personally think that if the rules and laws of science could be applied to politics that everyone could rest easier and have more confidence in our political system. I am an astronomer, scientist and a teacher and I have consistently been my own best critic. I too have always looked for ways to prove or disprove theories and even some laws. In my opinion most politicians are flakes that have their own agendas and are motivated by money, power or anything that puts them in the limelight. I personally do not want anyone sitting in a position of making important decisions that lacks the abilities to way the results of what they are doing. If, I compared your article to a baseball game, I would say that you just hit a home run.
Best wishes,
from
Hohenwald, Tennessee

PS. Keep up the fabulous job you always do at About Physics.

April 16, 2012 at 6:07 pm
(3) craig says:

Corrupt Politicians VS Mad Scientist ,what a joke!

April 23, 2012 at 10:39 am
(4) jgjenson says:

“Science debate?” This could be an oxymoron. Science is factual evidence. Debate is emotional banter. It’s not surprising that religious people want a “science debate.” They are always looking for new emotional arguments seeming to support and “prove” their religious beliefs while disproving science. Politicians debating science could provide them new insights and skills in this endeavor.

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