McCain Answers ScienceDebate 2008


As promised, I’m going to consider John McCain’s answers to ScienceDebate on the “14 Questions” that have to count for science’s pound of flesh considering there will clearly never actually be a debate. I’ve mentioned before that I think that the burden of proving a pro-Science stance is on John McCain. If nothing else, the damage the previous Republican administration has done to the American scientific establishment. McCain has historically been fairly science positive, but the introduction of Sarah Palin to the ticket and rhetoric of his campaign has pulled things in a creationist, anti-stem cell research, global warming “skeptic” direction. So we’ll see.

I’ve decided I didn’t particular care for the format of my examination of Obama’s answers, as I think it breaches the “Too Long, Didn’t Read” threshold. So instead, I’m going to give you my digested, biased reading of his answers.


The Good: First, John McCain has always been pretty strong on greenhouse gas emissions and the cap-and-trade system. Good for him. Even Palin’s dispute that there is a man-made component to global warming failed to suggest it didn’t exist. He’s also got a decent track record on alternative energy (I like nuclear power – and so does McCain) and a system beyond the current corn-subsidy system that I very much doubt will work. He seems to like NASA – I’ve often argued that space science is “sexy science” that gets taxpayers and young kids interested in science, and feeds them into a huge range of fields.


The Bad: McCain’s answers on stem cell research and genetic engineering are non-answers. Nice, political speak about how its important, but we can’t compromise ethics – combined with a rhetorical push toward adult stem cell research. The Bush administration’s stem cell half-policy, hamstringing but not banning the studies, took neither a strong ethical stand nor supported science. We’ve been hobbling along long enough. McCain continues the utter lack actual answers when talking about funding. He doesn’t talk about increases, and he continues to publicly bash the “bear genetics study” as an example of pork, when its actually a very good, possibly money saving study. 


The Middling: Academics, myself included, tend to lean left. As a result, McCain’s science advisory staff is largely made up of industry and defense figures. Its not surprising that, compared to Obama’s very academia heavy advisory group, it emphasizes industrial and technological innovation, and policies that would benefit the business of science. Whether that’s good or not is up for the reader to decide.


Overall, I’m not terribly impressed. Obama’s speeches in the debates and convention repeatedly mention science and innovation, and he’s scooped up some of Hillary Clinton’s better science advisors (Clinton had a very well developed science platform). McCain seems to be relying on vague non-answers, and given the state of the scientific establishment today, some firm statements at least in the direction of policies if not their magnitude, are needed from John McCain to make me believe he can reverse his party’s disastrous policies. And I didn’t get them.

One Response to “McCain Answers ScienceDebate 2008”

  1. Thanks for posting the article, was certainly a great read!

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