Science Debate 2008 - it's not too late

The Union of Concerned Scientists has organized a call for a U.S. â''science debate.â''

UCS is working with all three National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and scores of universities nationwide to hold Science Debate 2008â''an initiative to hold a presidential science policy debate in April in Philadelphia before the Pennsylvania primary.

There couldnâ''t be a better place. Philadelphia was the home of one of the first electrical engineersâ''Ben Franklin. It was the birthplace of many of the oldest computers ever built.

And there couldnâ''t be a better time. Some of the biggest political questions facing the United States either are scientific issues themselves, or cannot be settled without good science.

Global warming, stem-cell and other medical research, space exploration, wireless communications, food and water safety, the digital divideâ''thereâ''s no shortage of things to ask the candidates about.

Legislation introduced last year would shield the U.S. Surgeon General from political interference. Where do the candidates stand?

Which candidates would restore the Office of Technology Assessment?

Should the head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy report directly to the president?

Would the candidates increase or decrease funding at the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health? And what would their priorities be? What about science education in public schools?

The UCS has a petition calling for the science debate here.

Sadly, a moderator would have to ask about some of the most basic matters of science factâ''for example, â''Do you believe in evolution?â''

When that question was asked in an early Republican presidential debateâ''one of the few times a scientific issue has been raised so farâ''three of the ten candidates then running said they did not. Thankfully, the moment has (of course) been preserved on YouTube.

One of those candidates, Mike Huckabee, is still in the race, so if the Science Debate should come off, I know what Iâ''d like the first question to be.

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