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23 MIN READ TIME

Do We Really Want Science-Informed Candidates?

KENDRICK FRAZIER

The 2016 American presidential campaign has been in full swing for what seems like a year already, with most of another year still to go. Politicians, pundits, and the public have had ample opportunity to vent all their frustrations at their opponents’ political views and the political system itself. But many science-minded people at this point in the campaign share a different sort of frustration: Why don’t the candidates talk about any science-related issues? Why don’t their media questioners even ask them about such things?

About half of all public policy issues have some science or technology content, but political candidates seldom have much familiarity with science. This brings to my mind Carl Sagan’s famous lament: "We live in a society absolutely dependent on science and technology and yet have cleverly arranged things so that almost no one understands science and technology. That’s a clear prescription for disaster." (Another version of this famous quote appeared in Sagan’s Skeptical Inquirer article "Why We Need to Understand Science," Spring 1990: "We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.")

Why don’t the candidates talk about any science-related issues? Why don’t their media questioners even ask them about such things?

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