The Case For A Presidential Science Debate

Transcript from NPR:

Romney_obama1-460x307IRA FLATOW, HOST:

This is SCIENCE FRIDAY. I'm Ira Flatow. Every member of the House of Representatives and a few from the Senate, about a third of the Senate, I believe, is up for re-election this year. There will be hundreds of debates, local and national. Candidates will be asked questions about unemployment, the deficit, gay marriage, budget cutting. But will any of them be asked about their opinions or their knowledge of science and technology?

We have politicians who claim global warming is a hoax, others who don't believe in evolution. Shouldn't we want to know what the candidates know about the basic things in science? Will any moderators of the inevitable presidential debates even ask one question about science?

These are some of the reasons that a grassroots coalition of scientists, engineers and science advocates is calling for a televised presidential science debate. Their goal: for candidates to give us more than canned responses and for voters to make an informed decision in November, informed meaning knowing something about the candidates' views about science.

Joining me now to delve into some of these questions: Shawn Otto is the CEO and co-Founder of, the group trying to organize a presidential science debate. He's also author of “Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America.” He joins us from Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul. Welcome back to the program, Shawn.

SHAWN OTTO: Thanks, Ira.

FLATOW: Dr. John Allen Paulos is a professor of mathematics at Temple University and author of several books, including “Innumeracy” and “A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper.” He joins us from Philadelphia. Welcome back to SCIENCE FRIDAY, Dr. Paulos.


FLATOW: And former Congressman Vern Ehlers is a Republican, former Republican congressman from Michigan. He's also a physicist. He joins us from Grand Rapids. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.

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