Sen. Obama’s pledged stance on science resonates with us. He has vowed to restore integrity to the role of science advisor by reestablishing the senior status of the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and more broadly, by surrounding himself with individuals with exemplary scientific credentials; his selection of Dr. Harold Varmus as the campaign’s science advisor was a very promising and laudable step in that direction. Sen. Obama understands that basic research is fundamental to how scientific advances are made. He sees the importance of expanding funding for “high-risk, high-return” work, strengthening tax policy to spur R&D, and encouraging the careers of young scientists who pursue innovative lines of thinking. He has offered a comprehensive plan to reinvigorate math and science education, and he recognizes the vital importance of re-architecting nationwide science literacy for these times. His positions on topics ranging from agriculture, alternative energy, and medical research to internet policy, patent law, and space are more robust and ultimately more in line with scientific consensus than those of Sen. McCain. These are important policy positions, and they reflect Sen. Obama’s appreciation of the need to invest in science and science education as a precondition for growth and prosperity in the 21st century. We recognize, however, that these are not the issues that most voters will be thinking about when they cast their ballot.
Far more important is this: Science is a way of governing, not just something to be governed. Science offers a methodology and philosophy rooted in evidence, kept in check by persistent inquiry, and bounded by the constraints of a self-critical and rigorous method. Science is a lens through which we can and should visualize and solve complex problems, organize government and multilateral bodies, establish international alliances, inspire national pride, restore positive feelings about America around the globe, embolden democracy, and ultimately, lead the world. More than anything, what this lens offers the next administration is a limitless capacity to handle all that comes its way, no matter how complex or unanticipated.
Sen. Obama’s embrace of transparency and evidence-based decision-making, his intelligence and curiosity echo this new way of looking at the world.