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Obama and Romney answer America’s science questions

Obama and Romney answer America’s science questions

Sciencedebate.org, a non-profit organization, gathered fourteen questions that Americans allegedly want answers and debate by Obama and Romney during this presidential election.  These questions include science education, innovation and economics, climate change, research and the future, energy, food, fresh water, oceans, internet, policy, natural resources, and vaccines.

CEO of Sciencedebate.org, Shawn Otto, feels that Romney’s opening statement of “I’m not a scientist" was disingenuous, because the politicians are not ministers, economists, military strategists, but yet they still debate economics, taxes, foreign policy, military, and faith.

“Romney begins his answer about climate change by stating "I am not a scientist myself," but Otto sees that as disingenuous. "Candidates readily debate jobs and the economy even though they are not economists," Otto says. "They debate foreign policy and military intervention even though they are not diplomats or generals; they debate faith and values even though they are not priests or pastors. They should also be comfortable debating the top American science questions that affect all voters' lives."

He also complains, as well as some commenters on Romney and Obama’s answers, that Romney does not actually answers questions, but attacks Obama on what he disagrees with concerning science policy.

“Romney says he supports "robust government funding for research" and "a new wave of investment in nuclear power," but mainly focuses on criticizing Obama's efforts to reduce carbon emissions.”

He also points out that while Obama notes that the U. S. is "showing international leadership on climate change," he only gives generic answers to the questions, including on Climate Change, adding that we still need to do work on these issues.  The leads Otto to “bemoan” both delegates concerning their stance on science and their refusal to debate science on live television.

"While the candidates' answers provide important insights on a variety of key topics, they also illustrate just why a debate on these critical policy issues is so important," Otto says in a press release. "Some of the questions aren't fully answered when they become politically difficult and others could really benefit from followup discussion, for example to hear what ideas the candidates have for solving problems, like climate change, that cross national boundaries."

Otto stated that both candidates are stuck in 20th century thinking, adding, "It's taking them time to realize we're in a new century — the century of science — and that 85 percent of likely voters want them to be debating these topics.  Every cycle we're making progress."

Otto did note a “noble highlight” of Romney’s responses, in which he said, “My view is we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet…”, but his ideas concerning what to do about the problem is not clear.

"However Romney's ideas about what to do about the problem are not clear.   They contrast with Obama's, who says he has specifics plans and is taking specific steps such as doubling fuel economy standards, but who was unable to get a cap-and-trade bill through congress."

Sciencedebate.org, which includes more than 40,000 scientists and engineers, concerned citizens, about 200 leading universities and 15 science organizations, dozens of Nobel laureates, and notable writers and editors as supporters, also asked about three dozen congress members a subset of eight questions.  According to Sciencedebate.org, none of the congress members has answered any of the questions at this time.

"The fact that these diverse science organizations came to a universal consensus shows just how important they feel it is that Americans — and the candidates for president — pay attention to these critical problems," he says.

In 2008, the group asked similar questions of Obama and McCain, but even then, the two would not debate the science issues live, as they did faith, taxes, jobs, and the economy, despite that 85 percent of likely voters allegedly want them to debate the topic.

After a month, Obama and Romney finally answered the fourteen questions and according to Mother Nature Network, “the answers are predictable.”

“The promotion of innovation will begin on Day One, with efforts to simplify the corporate tax code, reform job retraining programs, reduce regulatory burdens, and protect American intellectual property around the world.”

Romney’s idea of “innovation and the economy” is a “plan for a stronger middle class will rebuild the American economy on the principles of free enterprise, hard work, and innovation.”

Romney then continues to write about his growth agenda, which includes “human capital”, taxes, regulation, and trade, with no mention of his environmental record by himself or Obama, but the foundation of his agenda is education and basic research.  He complained that the cost of U. S. education “is spiralling out of control” and yet the U. S. “lags behind other developed nations”.  He wants to put the interests of parents and students ahead of special interests groups and teachers’ unions.  He wants to rid the system of teachers unions.

Obama is committed to a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and economy.  He believes this will make the U. S. globally competitive in the 21st century.

Concerning Climate Change, this is where Romney writes, “I am not a scientist”, while Obama stated, “This is one of the biggest issues of this generation, and we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.”  Then Obama writes what he did in his first four years in office to help reduce the human contribution to the greenhouse effect.

Skipping down to question number five, which deals with education, Obama again writes about STEM education, adding that education is an important for a solid middle class.

“Last year, I announced an ambitious goal of preparing 100,000 additional STEM teachers over the next decade, with growing philanthropic and private sector support. My “Educate to Innovate” campaign is bringing together leading businesses, foundations, non-profits, and professional societies to improve STEM teaching and learning.”

He hopes to expand his program to more STEM teachers in the next four years.

However, Romney sees this nation “at risk” and high school graduates must go through remedial programs in order to attend college, stating that our “dysfunctional political system scored worse”.  He also writes how U. S. students lag behind their international peers, but does not directly include any religious views or attributes it to any particular science or pseudo-science teaching.  He does remark again that the U. S. spends too much on education.

“Politicians have attempted to solve these problems with more spending. But while America’s spending per student is among the highest in the world, our results lag far behind. We spend nearly two-and-a-half times as much per pupil today, in real terms, as in 1970, but high school achievement and graduation rates have stagnated. Higher spending rarely correlates with better results. Even the liberal Center for American Progress acknowledged in a recent study that “the literature strongly calls into question the notion that simply investing more money in schools will result in better outcomes,” and reported from its own research that most states showed “no clear relationship between spending and achievement” even after adjusting for other factors like the cost of living.”

He then blames teachers unions for this issue, complaining that the unions spend millions of dollars “to influence debate in favor of the entrenched interests of adults, not the students our system should serve.”  He then accuses teachers unions of having “a very different agenda: opposing innovation that might disrupt the status quo while insulating even the least effective teachers from accountability.”

“Sadly, these priorities do not correlate with better outcomes for our children. To the contrary, teachers unions are consistently on the front lines fighting against initiatives to attract and retain the best teachers, measure performance, provide accountability, or offer choices to parents.

Real change will come only when the special interests take a back seat to the interests of students.”

He then stated that schools, such as the KIPP Academies produce remarkable results.  KIPP Academies five pillars of education include High Expectations, Choice & Commitment, More Time, Power to Lead, and Focus on Results.  Their program also includes “seven highly effective and predictive strengths”, which are zest, grit, self-control, optimism, gratitude, social intelligence, and curiosity.

Two other schools he mentions are Aspire and Uncommon schools.  All three cater to low-income and disadvantage children.  KIPP Academies website claims, “More than 87 percent of our students are from low-income families and eligible for the federal free or reduced-price meals program, and 95 percent are African American or Latino.”

Romney also stated that, as part of his educational reform, he wants to give parents a choice of where their child attends schools.  He then refers readers to his website for more on his educational reform platform and the full “white paper” concerning his agenda, which has a forward by Jeb Bush.

In his “white paper”, Romney wants to reform George Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program so that it has more transparency and responsibility to school, making them give a detail report evaluating the school’s participation in educating the child on each student’s report card (p 3).  Romney credits Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” with higher educational achievements that have risen steadily since the program was implemented (p 26), but titles his program “A Chance for Every Child”.

However, in the next paragraph, on page 26, he admits the failures of “No Child Left Behind”, which he attributed to the law’s insufficient accountability of schools responsibilities.  He then accuses Obama of failing to work with congress to improve this issue with “No Child Left Behind”.

Many of the answers he gave to sciencedebate.org is found in the “white paper”, including charter schools, but the paper also includes “reforming higher education” (p 10) and “President Obama’s failures” (p 13).  He also plans to overhaul Title I and IDEA programs, so that low-income and special needs children’s parents can choose their schools (p 23).  To do this, parents “bring funding with them”, which could come in the form of a voucher, but this is not explicitly stated in the “White Paper”.

Obama’s educational policy for early childhood through twelfth grade and higher education, as well as reform, are on the White House website.  There, the White House website does discuss reforming “No Child Left Behind”.  Because congress did not reauthorize Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Obama Administration granted waivers to 33 states.  Obama allegedly gave congress a blue-print to reform education, which included accountability, educational standards, and choices in public schools, as well as STEM and fostering educational excellence, in an effort to reform Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program.

“Under the Administration's blueprint for ESEA reauthorization, state accountability systems will set a high bar of all students graduating from high school ready to succeed in college and careers. The accountability system also will recognize and reward high-poverty schools and districts that are showing improvement in getting their students on the path to success, using measures of progress and growth. States and districts will continue to focus on the achievement gap by identifying and intervening in schools that are persistently failing to close those gaps. For other schools, states and districts would have flexibility to determine appropriate improvement and support options.

The blueprint asks states and districts to develop meaningful ways of measuring teacher and principal effectiveness in order to provide better support for educators, enhance the profession through recognizing and rewarding excellence, and ensure that every classroom has a great teacher and every school has a great principal.”

The White House website gives information on the progress of education reform in higher education and early childhood, and K-12, as well as future plans.  However, Fact Check stated that in 2009, the statistics given by Obama were misleading.

“Our colleagues at PolitiFact.com caught President Obama misleadingly claiming last week that "In eighth grade math, we’ve fallen to ninth place." U.S. eighth graders are in ninth place, behind several Asian countries, plus Hungary, England and the Russian federation. That’s according to the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) from the U. S. Department of Education. But eighth graders have actually performed better in math over the years — they haven’t "fallen," as Obama said. PolitiFact points out that in 1995, the U.S. middle-schoolers came in 28th and by 2003, they had moved up to a 15th place finish.”

Romney made similar claims concerning educational statistics in his "white paper", but the claims in his "white paper" were not found on Fact Check to verify their factualness at this time.

Back to sciencedebate.org’s questions, Romney accuses Obama of manipulating “Science and public policy” in his answer to question eleven.  He then continues, “Unfortunately, President Obama has repeatedly manipulated technical data to support a regulatory agenda guided by politics rather than science.”

However, Obama stated that as soon as he took office, he “directed the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to ensure that our policies reflect what science tells us without distortion or manipulation.”

“During my presidency, I have been working to improve transparency and public participation – for instance, by expanding public disclosure of pollution, compliance, and other regulatory information to more efficiently provide the public with information necessary to participate in key environmental decisions. Over the next four years, I will continue seeking new ways to make scientific information more transparent and readily available to the public.

Only by ensuring that scientific data is never distorted or concealed to serve a political agenda, making scientific decisions based on facts, not ideology, and including the public in our decision making process will we harness the power of science to achieve our goals – to preserve our environment and protect our national security; to create the jobs of the future, and live longer, healthier lives.”

The White House website also discusses science and technology under the Obama Administration.

The Obama Administration and the Office of Science and Technology Policy are committed to restoring science to its rightful place in America as a tool for crafting smart policies that will strengthen the nation. That means getting the best available evidence to decision-makers; hiring highly qualified public servants to interpret that evidence; and strengthening and making full use of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).

President Obama’s vision for science in America includes dramatic increases in funding for biomedical research and the physical sciences and engineering; increased support for high-risk/high-payoff research that has the most potential to produce real breakthroughs; and making the R&D tax credit permanent—while eliminating all capital gains taxes on start-up and small businesses—to assure the steady flow of investment that is so crucial to producing good jobs and truly pioneering advancements.

Romney also accuses Obama of blocking energy and technological development in the Science Debate questions and in his "white papers", but on August 28, 2012, the website reported that Obama finalized fuel efficiency standards to 54.5 mpg by 2025.

When combined with previous standards set by this Administration, this move will nearly double the fuel efficiency of those vehicles compared to new vehicles currently on our roads. In total, the Administration’s national program to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions will save consumers more than $1.7 trillion at the gas pump and reduce U. S. oil consumption by 12 billion barrels.

“These fuel standards represent the single most important step we’ve ever taken to reduce our dependence on foreign oil,” said President Obama. “This historic agreement builds on the progress we’ve already made to save families money at the pump and cut our oil consumption.  By the middle of the next decade our cars will get nearly 55 miles per gallon, almost double what they get today.  It’ll strengthen our nation's energy security, it's good for middle class families and it will help create an economy built to last.”

The rest of the answers to the other questions, as well as the full answers to the questions above are found on Science Debate’s website.

About Mriana

Mriana is a humanist and the author of "A Source of Misery", who grew up in the Church of God, Anderson Indiana. After she became an adult, she joined the Episcopal Church, but later left the Church and became a humanist. She has two grown sons and raises cats. Mriana raised her sons in the Episcopal Church, but in their teen years, they left the Church and she soon followed. One of her sons became a "Tao Buddhist" and the other a None, creating his own world view. She enjoys writing, reading, science, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects. Mriana is also an animal lover, who cares for their welfare as living beings, who are part of the earth. She is a huge Star Trek fan in a little body.
  • http://www.facebook.com/Niven42 Tim Luptak

    Education spending in the millions, when contrasted with our astronomical military spending, doesn't seem all that substantial. Even then, talk about cutting spending in one area or another is grasping at straws – the money isn't being burnt up in a huge furnace. In education, for example, it goes towards paying teachers' and administrators' salaries and into improving schools. We need to move away from the idea that money is being "spent", and towards an understanding that it is being allocated for one project or another, and that it will eventually create a return on the investment.

    • http://www.facebook.com/Niven42 Tim Luptak

      I'd also like to point out, in regards to MPG standards, that we had cars that were much more fuel efficient (Saturn SL1, GM's EV1) during the late 1990's, but American auto manufacturers insisted (with the help of some underhanded astroturfing campaigns) that the public was not interested in these vehicles. It will take a concerted effort, by both government and the population, to get to the level of fuel conservation outlined in the administration's standards, but the technology is already available. I would maintain that Big Oil and Big Auto, backed-up by their Republican allies, have tricked the public into believing that these vehicles are not feasible, when in fact, they were already on the road some 15-20 years previous.

      • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

        Of course Big Oil and Big Auto had a lot to do with it. My grandfather use to work for Shell and he was really BIG on Shell gas, Shell oil… that's all we were suppose to buy. If a place didn't say Shell, somewhere, we weren't suppose to buy there. My uncle was a foreman on the Alaskan pipeline. Now their dead and my mother keeps asking, "What do you have against Shell? What do you have against drilling for oil? What did they do? Why do sign these petitions? We need oil." I try to explain it to her, but much like trying to tell her the problems with religion, faith, Creationism, and the literal belief in the Bile, she doesn't get it. I truly think a whole generation has been brainwashed so thoroughly that they can't see the trees for the forest, the animals within, or anything else. To her, Shell, drilling for oil, etc means jobs, but she can't see the damage that sort of thinking does to the planet we live on and the problems it causes us. God gave us this planet to use and rape it until we are extinct, but yet we won't be, because he has a glorious home for us, but yet I love animals and it wouldn't be heaven without our animals, so they go too. (mocking sarcasm, mostly of my mother) The rose-coloured glasses are glued on with Super Glue.

    • http://www.houseofbetazed.com Mriana

      I agree and quite frankly, if they want to cut something it should be military spending, not education. IMHO, most Romney's criticisms are just mudslinging, 1/2 truths, down right lies, and misinformation. What bothers me most is his "Parents take funding with them when they choose the school for their child." Thus my little journey to those schools' websites that he mentioned and reading his "white paper". My questions still weren't answered completely.

  • http://www.silverlinetoolsdirect.com/ David Jones

    And what about http://www.silverlinetoolsdirect.com they can fix anything with there tools.

  • Dennis Taylor

    Evangelicals and Republicans….wake up!!!! Both of you make Christianity look downright stupid. First of all…evangelicals…you are guilty of selling your souls to a political party that simply wants to pimp or prostitute you out for the benefit of nothing more than political partisan gain. Secondly…..Republicans….You have evolved into a cult that is composed of nothing more than twisted skewed right wing religio-political ideologies, all of which never cross paths with reality. Thirdly….Evangelicals and Republicans have both sold their souls to the devil in their attempts to back a mormon cultist. Hey Mitt….you are not a Christian and and members of the mormon cult are not Christians. The mormon cult made up its own god and its own jesus and its own satan completely outside the scope of any religion and then it came along and tried to pose as Christian when it clearly never was. Ya see folks, the mormon cult made up its own god. Their god is not the god of Christianity or Islam or Judaism. The god of the mormon cult was originally a physical man who somehow attained godhood status. In the mormon cult this is known as the Adam-God doctrine. Also, their jesus was the result of a physical sexual relationship with their man god and Mary. And Satan…..well he was not an angel who went bad like in Christianity. The mormon version of satan is simply a half brother to their mormon jesus. But that is not what the bishops and leaders of the mormon cult want the world to think. But….this is all true. If you study mormon cult beginnings, history and doctrine, you learn pretty quick that the god and jesus of mormonism is not the god of Christianity. Even the book of mormon is a hoax as it was originally nothing more than a fictional allegory that the con-man joseph smith stole and then put into production through his personal publishing company. Of course, Joesph Smith was no prophet. He was simply a con man of the day who could not get a real job in life and wanted sex with lots of women. That is mormonism's roots in a nutshell. The mormon cult created and teaches a completely different god than that of Christianity, Judaism or Islam. For that matter, the mormon cult is polytheistic as it teaches that all its members can attain godhood status over their own private little planet with their eternally pregnant wife. When mormon cultists like Mitt Romney pander to evangelicals and Christians who do not bother to do their homework, these people need the get their heads out and stop allowing themselves to be prostituted out by the likes of people like Pat Robertson and / or the GOP. And Christian's do not need a mormon cultist to tell them about God. Mormonism is the great deceiver of our generation and biblical scripture has addressed such deceivers as far back as the New Testament Church. Wake up Christians and quit being deceived and led around by the nose by right wing politicians and self serving religious and ideological cultists who use the God card to manipulate your personal voting habits.
    -But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

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