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Madame Secretary

I was listening yesterday to an interview with Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state, on KGNU, an online radio station based in Colorado.

While plugging her new book, she said that the job of secretary of state is more complex than when she had it. The reason? The position now requires more science savvy: the next secretary of state, she said is going to have to know about climate change, energy and public health.

So it’s not just a bunch of geeks thinking all this science stuff is getting more important. So-and yes I keep bringing this up-Madame Secretary, are you prepared to add your name to a call for a Science Debate?


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    Andrew Marvell said:

    I can see why you’re so keen on the Science Debate, but do you, in your heart of hearts, really think that it will be a productive use of time to have the candidates discuss their views on science?

    Don’t you think that it will all an exercise on demagogy in which the candidates will just pay lip service to the importance of science?

    Don’t you think that any committment that one can get from the candidates will simply be an electoral tool like any of the hundreds of stratagems that they have under their sleeves?

    Think about Obama and his promise to withdraw from Irak. The plausibility of something as fundamental for his campaign as this has recently been challenged, following some comments from a former aide. If this committment is now doubtful, what can be expected of something as secondary for politicians as science.

    Sure, it will be good to have them on the record saying one thing and then doing another. At least for you Editors, a Science Debate will give you a lot of fodder for your Editorials. But in practical terms, there’s no question in my mind that a Science Debate will not have any transcendence.

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    Charlotte Schubert said:

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    In my heart of hearts (and it can be an emotional matter) I’m not sure science is important enough for its own debate. It was interesting to hear the former secretary of state give it such high priority, but there are a lot of other major issues our country is dealing with. I’m also pretty sure our candidates are not going to be willing to block themselves into talking about such a narrow arena, in which they probably don’t feel comfortable. It’s easier to spew platitudes when your questions are not very specific, in a more general debate. Nonetheless, it was heartening to see representatives from both the Clinton and Obama campaigns turn out for the AAAS meeting—and both candidates seem to have strong science platforms. I’m less sure about McCain’s support for science (he didn’t send anyone to the AAAS meeting), but I haven’t done my homework there.