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Obama Answers Science Policy Questionnaire 550

Posted by Soulskill
from the one-down,-one-to-go dept.
thebestsophist writes "A couple months ago, Scientists and Engineers for America, Science Debate 2008, and a bunch of other science organizations sent McCain, Obama, and all the Congressional candidates a bunch of questions on science and technology. Topics included biosecurity, genetics research, and national security, as well as the more common questions on research and education. Well, Senator Obama just answered." Senator McCain has not responded to the questionnaire at this point in time, but the site has a profile of his views and actions relating to science policy, which provides a good basis for comparing the candidates' stances. We've previously discussed the differences between the two candidates' technology platforms. According to a recent NPR story, both candidates intend to keep politics out of science.
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Obama Answers Science Policy Questionnaire

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  • by houbou (1097327) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @01:07PM (#24820583) Journal

    So both candidates say they will keep politics out of science, but what about religion?

    Stem cell research for example is one of those field of research which is being blocked because of politics.. "well, because of religious groups, which uses politics as a tool to achieve their goals of blocking the research".

    I wonder if each candidate is willing to tell the religious groups to grow up and let science be?, especially McCain's party

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 31, 2008 @01:11PM (#24820629)

      Well, McCain bowed to the christian fundamentalist wing of the GOP when he picked Sarah Palin as his VP running mate. If he's willing to do that now, what makes you think he won't cave in the future?

    • by jjohnson (62583) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @01:14PM (#24820647) Homepage

      The national GOP just approved a plank in their platform that bans all embryonic stem cell research, publicly funded or privately funded. A private lab using discarded implantation embryos would be illegal if McCain and the Congressional GOP pass a law implementing that plank.

      • I guarantee you that if an American pharma company said that they could make 10 billion dollars on stem cell products from embryonic research, about 3/4 of the Republican party would immediately sell out on any contemplated private ban on stem cell research, if such a ban were even constitutional. Yeah, there's some 1/4 of the GOP that would oppose stem cells under any circumstances but for the rest of us, its like, well, we don't the feds to pay for it because it is morally squeemish, but if the private s

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by sycodon (149926)

          If "American pharma company said that they could make 10 billion dollars on stem cell products from embryonic research", then they wouldn't be at the federal teat looking for funding.

          • by tjstork (137384) <todd...bandrowsky@@@gmail...com> on Sunday August 31, 2008 @01:41PM (#24820893) Homepage Journal

            If "American pharma company said that they could make 10 billion dollars on stem cell products from embryonic research", then they wouldn't be at the federal teat looking for fundin

            Yeah they would. Why spend a billion dollars to make ten billion dollars, and get only 9 billion in profit, when you can have the feds kick in the billion and get ten billion in profit.

            American companies are always going to ask for federal funding, whether they "need it", or "not". It's just more profit, if they get it.

        • by dachshund (300733) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @02:47PM (#24821499)

          And conversely, on the left, there's a minority of the Democrats that would ban all industrial activity whatsover, because it is bad for mother earth. The point really is that we need to stop framing debates based upon what the radicals of either side of the aisle are telling us to frame them as and to start and think for ourselves. You know, there's enough to go around in both "party planks" to make one want to wretch.

          And yet, the Republican party has a history of acting on the whims of its lunatic fringe --- instituting bans on Federally funded stem cell research that have had a massive impact on the research community. Whereas I'm not aware of any Democratic plan to end all industrial activity.

          Overall, I'm exhausted by these moronic "slap both parties down" posts. There are huge, meaningful difference between what both parties will accomplish if elected. To analogize, it's as though you have a choice between a full-on uppercut to the chin, or just a gentle tap on the shoulder. I guess both involve blows to your body, so why should you care which one you get?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by ricegf (1059658)

            ...instituting bans on Federally funded stem cell research that have had a massive impact on the research community...

            It would be easier to take your posts seriously if your assertions resembled reality [wikipedia.org]. "U.S. President George W. Bush signs an executive order which restricts federally-funded stem cell research on embryonic stem cells to the already derived cell lines. He supports federal funding for embryonic stem cell research on the already existing lines of approximately $100 million and $250 million fo

            • by dachshund (300733) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @05:58PM (#24823219)

              When you accuse the parent poster of partisanship, it's helpful to make sure your post doesn't smack of the same thing!

              As to the Dickey amendment--- that was written by a Republican Congressman and attached to a major appropriations bill (that's what "rider" means). Clinton signed it because there's no line-item veto, and thus a President sometimes has to accept undesirable riders when the alternative is killing an important bill. It is in no way representative of his or the Democratic party's agenda.

              Someone reading your post might come away with the mistaken impression that Clinton did not care to fund this research, and therefore Bush should be commended for his flexibility! Surprisingly, that reader would be greatly mistaken. Due to lobbying by scientists, the Clinton/Gore administration actually implemented a plan to fund of this type of research in spite of the amendment. The plan involved a grant deadline of March 2001 and had no restrictions on embryonic research. This is when incoming President (a man named George W. Bush) went ahead and stopped the grant review process and imposed his (and in the opinion of researchers --- quite harmful) Executive Order preventing funding of research on new embryonic lines. http://www.nrlc.org/news/2001/NRL02/doerside.html [nrlc.org]

              Now, the interesting thing about your post is that it's technically correct on nearly every point, and yet the overall thrust is entirely misleading. Some might even consider that this was deliberate! Now, you have to remember that people read these comments and judge you on the way you make your argument, not just the factoids that you throw out. So if you're going to offer your opinion, I believe that it's important to your cause that the facts fully support your argument. By offering arguments that are technically correct, but lead the reader to a surprisingly false conclusion, you actually do serious harm to your credibility and damage the cause you support.

              (If you'll forgive an old man his rambling, I'm inclined to believe that reliance on this sort of "truthiness" is one of the reasons that the conservative brand is experiencing such a terrible backlash right now. You can fool people once, but they get really pissed off when you do it. Or something.)

              • by steelfood (895457) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @09:13PM (#24824999)

                As our current president so eloquently put it

                ...fool me once, shame on--shame on you. It fool me, you can't get fooled again.

    • Considering how hard McCain has been working to pander to the evangelical right, I would have a hard time expecting him to keep religion out of politics. And of course religion wants to regulate science, so feel free to connect the dots.

      Add to that his new hard-core anti-abortion VP candidate, and it shouldn't be hard to predict his stance on stem cell research.
      • by flyingsquid (813711) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @02:54PM (#24821567)
        Considering how hard McCain has been working to pander to the evangelical right, I would have a hard time expecting him to keep religion out of politics. And of course religion wants to regulate science, so feel free to connect the dots. Add to that his new hard-core anti-abortion VP candidate, and it shouldn't be hard to predict his stance on stem cell research.

        Sarah Palin has said that she's in favor of teaching creationism in schools alongside evolution, and that she's not convinced that global warming is caused by human activity. So we've now got a VP candidate who wants to teach religion in science class, and who rejects scientific consensus where it is inconvenient or inconsistent with her ideology. McCain, of course, may have his own views, but his VP choice shows that he's more interested in appeasing the religious right and radical conservatives than insisting that his administration's policies are based on the best scientific evidence available.

    • I think the left wing is being tricked by pharma into paying for something that the private sector can easily afford. If religion were not in the equation, then, easily, the left would come against this as the handout to pharma that it is.

      Is it that these cash strapped pharma companies might be able to pony up a few shillings toward that research. I mean, why do we have to have the Federal Government subsidize Merck? Doesn't Merck have enough money to collect and dissect human stem cells? For christ sakes, it's not like it costs a billion dollars to knock a chick up, and, you could always find women and men willing to part with their respective reproductive cells for a few bucks, for sure.

      I mean, if embryonic stem cells could really cure cancer, paralysis, palsy and alzheimers, and can do so much, don't you think big Phara would and should pay for their research when they stand to make not billions, but trillions off of all of these miracle cures?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by penrodyn (927177)
        We're talking more about basic research not applications. Real applications of stem cell may be 10/20 years away and speculative, not something, as a shareholder, I would want a company to do. You might say well neither should our government support this kind of speculative long term research. The trouble is, the US is not an isolated country, other countries will pick up the tab (eg China!) instead and their home companies will get the patents and profits and we as tax payers and business owners will ultim
        • My point is that big pharma can afford to pony up for basic research. Part of being a big business is to have the wealth to assess risks in the future and yes, they should pay for their own products. I mean, we give these pharma companies patent and copyright protections to incentivize them to do this research. In turn, they get to use this exclusivity to rape us on pricing, saying, "oh, but we're spending it all on research", then, they should spend it on the research. If you've got a drug patent, you

          • by Hatta (162192) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @02:56PM (#24821575) Journal

            My point is that big pharma can afford to pony up for basic research.

            They can, but they won't. They'll spend the money on marketing, and making derivitives of existing drugs before they spend much on basic research. Basic research really does need to be publicly funded.

            Think about the discovery of GFP, a fluorescent protein that is crucial to a number of revolutionary tools [lanl.gov]. Do you think any Pharma company would ask their research staff to identify that glowing stuff in jellyfish? Of course not.

            Long term, investing in basic research is the best investment a society can make. Unfortunately, companies aren't in it for the long term, or for discoveries they can't control. Public funding is crucial for basic research and the healthy progress of science itself.

    • Embryonic stem cell research is being blocked. It makes sense for religious groups to be opposed to this on a fundamental level. When you have industries becoming dependent on materials from abortions for research, you create a financial incentive to support abortion. Now, most "pro-choice" people that I've met say that they fully support measures which create an environment that makes abortion less frequent. I can't imagine, then, a good reason to support allowing scientists to become dependent on tissues

      • I have a musical reply to your post. Very well made post.

        Enjoy the track I produced:
        Copyright: Cody Kime
        MCs: Zach Lehner and Steamer Nelson

        http://www.liquidmathematics.com/audio/SOUL-Vocal.mp3 [liquidmathematics.com]

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 31, 2008 @02:04PM (#24821107)

        The stem cells don't come from abortions, they come from the embryos grown in test tubes in fertility clinics. They usually grow upwards of 10 "just in case", and freeze the rest. The majority of these "expire" in the freezer, at least they expire for the purpose for which they are intended. They would otherwise be trashed, and you have fallen for the pro-life propaganda if you think they are from abortions.

      • by rgmoore (133276) <glandauer@charter.net> on Sunday August 31, 2008 @02:39PM (#24821423) Homepage

        When you have industries becoming dependent on materials from abortions for research, you create a financial incentive to support abortion.

        But embryonic stem cell research does not depend on material from abortions. By the time that an embryo has developed to the point that a woman even knows that she's pregnant, the embryo is no longer useful for stem cell research. "Embryonic" stem cell research uses blastocysts [wikipedia.org] that were generated for in-vitro fertilization but never implanted. These are quite literally cells that can't develop into babies without considerable further medical intervention.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dachshund (300733)
        Embryonic stem cell research is conducted with fertilized embryos from fertility clinics. The first concern here is whether disposing of these is "abortion". The second is --- why prevent research but allow excess embryos to be created by fertility clinics? The third is --- how can we allow them to be disposed of in an incinerator if we won't permit research?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dubl-u (51156) *

        When you have industries becoming dependent on materials from abortions for research, you create a financial incentive to support abortion.

        Aside from the absurdity of the notion that there are a lot of women who will suddenly decide to abort a baby based on a 10%-off coupon from Merck, I think you've got your facts wrong, too. The stem cell research I've read about harvests from IVF embryos. You have some evidence otherwise?

        Religious views may be absurd to you, and the morality based on "just a book," but so is secular morality.

        You're running behind on the science here. Humans have an innate moral sense, and at least some of our behaviors and judgments about "good" and "bad" are inborn. (See deWaal's "Good Natured" and Wrangham's "Demonic Males" f

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by sycodon (149926)

      It's not blocked. The feds (meaning the tax payers) won't pay for it. Plenty of private research is going on.

    • by causality (777677)

      So both candidates say they will keep politics out of science, but what about religion?

      Then both are liars. As long as so much of scientific research depends on grants from "public" (government*) money, somebody will have to make decisions as to who receives money and who doesn't. This is politics. Now perhaps Obama/McCain themselves won't personally make these decisions, which is about as true as what you said could be, but someone whom they can fire or at least influence will be doing so. Therefore,

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Miseph (979059)

        "The idea here is that there should not be anything resembling a profit motive behind your choice of candidate"

        So defense and civil contractors must also be barred, as well as anybody in a regulated industry and certainly in an industry with subsidy programs in place. Also all government employees at any level which receives federal aid. pretty much, if you have a job, and the government has anything to do with that job, you mustn't vote for fear there will be a financial motive for you to do so. This block

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AdamHaun (43173)

        Basing the right to vote solely on monetary output makes no sense. Retired people are also affected by criminal laws, trade regulations, foreign policy, and other non-welfare aspects of government. Disenfranchising people who disagree with you is convenient, but not very democratic (or libertarian, since that's what you seem to be).

    • So both candidates say they will keep politics out of science, but what about religion?

      Stem cell research for example is one of those field of research which is being blocked because of politics.. "well, because of religious groups, which uses politics as a tool to achieve their goals of blocking the research".

      I wonder if each candidate is willing to tell the religious groups to grow up and let science be?, especially McCain's party

      You're never going to get "religion" out of science, because science must always be governed by ethical concerns, and ethics in the west, especially the United States, is inherently tied to our religious values because our religion has influenced our ideas of ethics for thousands of years.

      I realize Slashdot has a heavy Libertarian bent, with a large sympathetic atheist wing, but Slashdot is not representative of the public as a whole. Quite the opposite. So if you're hoping to let "science" work with no eth

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by houbou (1097327)
        The challenge indeed is to dissociate religion from law. In theory this is HOW it is supposed to be, but the practice is far from it.

        Only when religion is out of the equation will there be true progress both morally and scientifically. Ironic.. :)
  • Politics/Science (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Naughty Bob (1004174) * on Sunday August 31, 2008 @01:08PM (#24820591)

    According to a recent NPR story, both candidates intend to keep politics out of science....

    But only one side intend to keep science out of science... [wired.com]

    (Credit to Soulskill for the alley-oop)

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)
      We need to keep science out of the classroom. Oh, won't somebody think of letting teh children decide?
    • by thermian (1267986) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @01:49PM (#24820987)

      You know what? Some countries would be wringing their hands with glee if an American Vice President actually managed to get that one through.

      After all, it would stunt the scientific growth of America so much that almost any country with a strong education system and a lot of ambition to overtake them in technology stakes within a few decades.

      It would take a few decades to kick in because the generation first subjected to it wouldn't get into the system properly until they hit their mid twenties most likely.

      So far the decision to make it more difficult for Chinese students to come and study in America has been a boon for Europe, bringing millions into university coffers, and the insane data snooping rights the US government have adopted have made foreign companies route round the US for their server needs.

      What's next? book burning as a means to remove the risk of paper cuts?

    • by Brad1138 (590148) *
      It really is amazing how people can be so oblivious to what the definition of "science" is.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770)

      You know every day scientists document one little corner of the wonder and splendor of Creation, all the plants, birds, fish, animals, minerals, liquids, gases, physics, chemistry, biology and so on. Enough to fill entire stadiums with books and we still know that's only a small part of it. Yet the fundies claim all of it was accurately described in the first two pages of the Bible. There is plenty evidence it's real, macroevolution, microevolution, earth's age, the earth not being center of the Universe an

    • Re:Politics/Science (Score:5, Informative)

      by SpinyNorman (33776) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @03:06PM (#24821673)

      Unfortunately McCain/Palin don't intend to keep THEIR religion out of YOUR life...

      Evangelical Christians could turn out in droves for Palin, a member of Feminists for Life who opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest, if she maintains her promise.

      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/us_elections/article4641030.ece#cid=OTC-RSS&attr=797093 [timesonline.co.uk]

  • So, Sen Obama's entire science policy can be summed up by "Error establishing a database connection"?

    Interesting.

    • Re:Google cache link (Score:4, Informative)

      by AdamHaun (43173) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @01:16PM (#24820665) Journal

      That's an older version of the page that doesn't have the questionnaire answers.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      http://www.sciencedebate2008.com/www/index.php?id=40

      Obama's answers on the Science Debate site.

      http://www.sciencedebate2008.com.nyud.net/www/index.php?id=40

      Or the Cache, if that goes down.

      Why Slashdot didn't link to ScienceDebate's website is beyond me.

  • by freshfromthevat (135461) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @01:17PM (#24820669) Homepage

    Does the community here accept that blocking funding to something is the same thing as blocking something? Or does blocking something require creating laws making some such or another illegal at the federal level (this probably being unconstitutional on the face of it).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lubricated (49106)

      much in the same way that holding back highway funding has raised the drinking age.

    • by Compholio (770966) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @01:34PM (#24820835)

      Does the community here accept that blocking funding to something is the same thing as blocking something? Or does blocking something require creating laws making some such or another illegal at the federal level (this probably being unconstitutional on the face of it).

      The fed's number one strategy for controlling research is by holding the purse strings. Most fundamental research in the country is supported by the federal government (as a result of development timelines being longer than the 7-year investment cycle), so you don't have to pass a law against doing a certain kind of research in order to kill it. So, personally, I'd say "yes" - but don't confuse the response of one individual as the voice of the entire community.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Does the community here accept that blocking funding to something is the same thing as blocking something? Or does blocking something require creating laws making some such or another illegal at the federal level (this probably being unconstitutional on the face of it).

      I'm under the impression that banning the use of federal funds to study project X is as strong an objection as congress is allowed without being challenged; yes.

      It is a far more politic to say "Oh, please, research whatever you like! We just can't spend the people's money on it, surely you understand." than it would be to say "Such knowledge is forbidden!" with some Lovecraftian justification regarding the capacity of mere men to know dark truths beyond the shadows of our perception.

  • Yesm but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sycodon (149926) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @01:25PM (#24820741)

    ...will Science stay out of Politics?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eddy the lip (20794)
      "...but will science stay out of politics?" I certainly hope not. Politics is about how we as a society decide to govern ourselves, and the process we have to come to consensus. A democratic system functions best when the electorate is well informed and educated enough to weigh the options. Science is about understanding the world around us, about gathering and attempting to interpret as much information as possible. In a very real sense, science can be seen as the basis of a healthy democracy. There is a
  • ... until I see an ad on slashdot that tells me his position. Considering I'm looking at a McCain ad on this very page right now that is attacking Obama's foreign policy proposal, it shouldn't be long until the McCain camp launches online ads to tell us his plans for science as well.

    Yes, I know its past time for me to install adblock. I do find it interesting how far the number of McCain ads exceed the Obama ads here, though. I'd say at least a 3-to-1 margin on slashdot.
    • It would be kind of silly for Obama to do much advertising on Slashdot. "Preaching to the choir", I believe it's called.

      • It would be kind of silly for Obama to do much advertising on Slashdot. "Preaching to the choir", I believe it's called.

        I'm not sure how accurate that is. There is no shortage of so-called "libertarians" here on slashdot, arguing for the virtues of "the invisible hand of the market". Just look at all the chatter that comes up anytime Ron Paul is mentioned in a story here...

        And besides, if the bulk of the slashdot reader population was liberal, why would it be even worthwhile for McCain to run Obama attack ads here? I don't know of many liberals who want to ignore foreign diplomacy opportunities or chastise Obama as "the world's biggest celebrity".

        And then if you check the slashdot list of stories tagged "slashkos" [slashdot.org] you'll see how many stories have been assaulted by readers for being too liberal. So clearly there are plenty of conservative / libertarian readers here who feel that slashdot is too liberal. Yet I don't see a "drudgedot" or anything of that nature used to tag stories that are too conservative (as well there ought to be)...

  • by DrLudicrous (607375) on Sunday August 31, 2008 @04:48PM (#24822585) Homepage

    His responses can be found here [sciencedebate2008.com], but in case of another slashdotting, here is the list. Please excuse the formatting, I am not an html expert.

    Barack Obama's answers to the top 14 science questions facing America

    1. Innovation. Science and technology have been responsible for half of the growth of the American economy since WWII. But several recent reports question America's continued leadership in these vital areas. What policies will you support to ensure that America remains the world leader in innovation?

    Ensuring that the U.S. continues to lead the world in science and technology will be a central priority for my administration. Our talent for innovation is still the envy of the world, but we face unprecedented challenges that demand new approaches. For example, the U.S. annually imports $53 billion more in advanced technology products than we export. China is now the world's number one high technology exporter. This competitive situation may only worsen over time because the number of U.S. students pursuing technical careers is declining. The U.S. ranks 17th among developed nations in the proportion of college students receiving degrees in science or engineering; we were in third place thirty years ago.

    My administration will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics, and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade. We will increase research grants for early-career researchers to keep young scientists entering these fields. We will increase support for high-risk, high-payoff research portfolios at our science agencies. And we will invest in the breakthrough research we need to meet our energy challenges and to transform our defense programs.

    A vigorous research and development program depends on encouraging talented people to enter science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and giving them the support they need to reach their potential. My administration will work to guarantee to students access to strong science curriculum at all grade levels so they graduate knowing how science works - using hands-on, IT-enhanced education. As president, I will launch a Service Scholarship program that pays undergraduate or graduate teaching education costs for those who commit to teaching in a high-need school, and I will prioritize math and science teachers. Additionally, my proposal to create Teacher Residency Academies will also add 30,000 new teachers to high-need schools - training thousands of science and math teachers. I will also expand access to higher education, work to draw more of these students into science and engineering, and increase National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate fellowships. My proposals for providing broadband Internet connections for all Americans across the country will help ensure that more students are able to bolster their STEM achievement.

    Progress in science and technology must be backed with programs ensuring that U.S. businesses have strong incentives to convert advances quickly into new business opportunities and jobs. To do this, my administration will make the R&D tax credit permanent.

    2. Climate Change. The Earth's climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on the following measures that have been proposed to address global climate change-a cap-and-trade system, a carbon tax, increased fuel-economy standards, or research? Are there other policies you would support?

    There can no longer be any doubt that human activities are influencing the global climate and we must react quickly and effectively. First, the U.S. must get off the sidelines and take long-overdue action here at home to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions. We must also take a leadership role in designing technologies that allow us to enjoy a gr

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