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Where John McCain stands on science

Presidential contender John McCain has weighed in on the ‘14 questions’ on science and technology posed to both candidates by a coalition of science interest groups. You can read his answers side by side with Barack Obama’s at the Science Debate 2008 website here. US_elections_logo2.JPG

Researchers wondering what a President McCain would do for them will note that he ticks off many of the major usual check boxes of concern: that he supports increased research funding, with shout-outs for the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health; that he explicitly mentions (when prompted) restoring scientific integrity to federal research; that he notes humanity’s role in global warming and then lays out details of his cap-and-trade system that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions 60 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

Much of the rest is standard boilerplate campaign material, but when someone is just weeks away from possibly being elected president, that boilerplate assumes greater importance.

For instance his answer on stem cells is essentially identical to the one he gave Research!America last year. It notes that he supports federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research — suggesting he would overturn President Bush’s ban on funding for such work on cell lines derived after August 2001. But then McCain goes on to say: “I believe clear lines should be drawn that reflect a refusal to sacrifice moral values and ethical principles for the sake of scientific progress. Moreover, I believe that recent scientific breakthroughs raise the hope that one day this debate will be rendered academic.” By selecting pro-lifer Sarah Palin as his running mate, McCain has upped the speculation on what he really might do regarding stem-cell research if elected.

A few of McCain’s new answers are a bit unexpected — for instance, noting that the top priority in case of an H5N1 or other pandemic would be to contain it within national borders, and then control it regionally. And the use of the phrase “mission-rut” to describe NASA’s current operations was a new one to me – though it turns out McCain used it when releasing his space platform last month.

Scientists and Engineers for America has been collecting responses from all Congressional candidates on science and technology issues; check out its SHARP network here.


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    Clark said:

    What worries me about McCain is his environmental policy. Given the state we’re in, I think it is very important for us, as consumers, to support ‘green business.’ For example, I came across an interesting website that stops your postal junk mail and benefits the environment. I hope the next President will support the effort.

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    Uncle Al said:

    “Orthodoxy means not thinking – not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” George Orwell, “1984”

    In the whole of human history across the entire planet not one deity has volunteered Novocain. It is a telling omission. Religious government is always a test of faith.

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    Marilyn Walker said:

    Thanks for including reference to our Your Candidates-Your Health survey. Sen. Barack Obama has also responded to our questions, and we’ve invited all candidates for Congress to answer similar questions about science, health and research. Find your candidates at

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    Richard said:

    On the basis of their answers – Obama is my hands down winner. Stem Cells, Energy, Environment, Innovation – all 7 questions – he has far more clarity and right on the button. I hope he wins

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