Political Science Update: New Hampshire Primaries

January 9, 2008 at 3:30 pm | | news, political science, science and the public

It’s Clinton for the Dems, and McCain for the GOP.

Like I did with Huckabee, I dug around to see where McCain stood on science. I was glad to find that he opposes the politicization of science. Source. That is, he accepts that humans are contributing to global warming, and that that’s a problem. He accepts evolution. Source. He introduced the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2006, which aimed to improve communication among scientists. His voting record is pro-stem cell research. I can’t figure out whether he wants to grow a budget for scientific endeavors, and his website is still nothing like Hillary Clinton’s website, but I think I’m safe in saying McCain is at least not an enemy to science.

However, he’s been pandering to the Evangelical constituency, and it’s not clear what this might lead to. On the one hand, he’s pushing for energy independence and cleaner energy—although some might buck at this because he supports funding nuclear energy—on the other, he’s hanging out with the Bob Jones crowd who accept 6-day Creationism and believe the Founding Fathers were all devout Christians. Only time will tell.

In the meantime, he would pose a formidable foe to Hillary Clinton, as evinced in the most recent polls taken in December asking who people would vote for between McCain and Clinton:

Fox News: 47% McCain / 42% Clinton
Zogby: 49% McCain / 42% Clinton
CNN: 50% McCain / 48% Clinton


With McCain mildly pro-science and Clinton avidly pro-science, I’d say this poses some risks toward science’s future, but it’d still be better than what’s come before.

Political Science Update: Iowa Caucus

January 3, 2008 at 9:16 pm | | news, political science, science and the public, science community

The Iowa Caucuses have concluded with Obama winning the Dems’ caucus, and Huckabee winning the GOP’s. What do the Iowa Caucuses mean for science? First, the caucuses are not good predictors of who will win their respective party’s nomination. Iowa gets it wrong about as often as it gets it right:

George McGovern finished second in 1972—the year the modern caucus process started—and still won the Democratic nod. When Jimmy Carter won the presidency in 1976, he finished second in the Iowa caucus to “uncommitted.” George H.W. Bush defeated Ronald Reagan in the 1980 caucus. George H.W. Bush finished third in Iowa in 1988 and won the presidency that year. Michael Dukakis finished third in the 1988 caucus and won the Democratic nomination. Bill Clinton took third place in Iowa in 1992, with 3 percent; Harkin won 76 percent. Source.

Nevertheless, Iowa is supposedly important in shaping the candidates’ platforms. It serves as America’s veritable test kitchen for candidates’ White House recipes. (Too much metaphor?) Candidates can try out what works and what doesn’t. Obama tried out the ol’ “time for a change” theme, and it seems to have worked better than Clinton’s “I’ve got the experience,” and Edwards’ “I’ve got the compassion” narratives. Huckabee won by offering up the image of a regular Conservative Christian good ol’ boy, over Romney’s “I’m Mormon, but I like to kill terrorists like the rest of you!” approach, Giuliani’s “I am 9/11” slogan, and John McCain’s “I was tortured once, but I believe in a strong….”

Specifically, as to science, as you’ll recall, Sam kindly pointed out that Obama pitched a pro-science platform, but painted that platform in broad and Monet-esque strokes. And Huckabee avoided science, more or less, aside from saying that he opposed stem cell research. To be fair, I dug around a bit more to see what Huckabee’s views were on science. I didn’t find much more. He appears to reject or withhold judgment as to evolution, claiming the question of evolution is irrelevant to the presidency. (I would disagree with Huckabee here. Acceptance of evolution might indicate an amicable view toward science, particularly in light of all the recent hostility surrounding evolution curricula in schools. And rejection of or indecisiveness toward evolution might even more strongly indicate an ignorance, apprehension, suspicion, or hostility toward science. I would say evolution is a “barometric” topic of sorts.) Also, Popular Mechanics quotes Huckabee as follows with regard to energy and climate change:

a.) “Achieve energy independence by the end of my second term.”
b.) “We have to explore, we have to conserve, and we have to pursue all avenues of alternative energy: nuclear, wind, solar, hydrogen, clean coal, biodiesel, and biomass.”
c.) “We will remove red tape that slows innovation. We will set aside a federal research and development budget that will be matched by the private sector to seek the best new products in alternative fuels. Our free market will sort out what makes the most sense economically and will reward consumer preferences.”
d.) “If we are energy independent, we will be able not just to take care of our own needs and protect our economy, we will also create jobs and grow our economy by developing technologies that we can sell to the rest of the world to meet their needs.” Source.

I’m guessing this was just a response to Evangelicals warming up to the problems surrounding global warming. It doesn’t seem terribly pro-science. That said, to the extent the caucuses have taught the candidates something about science (and it probably hasn’t), my guess is that it told the Dems that a vague science agenda is preferable; and the GOP, that de-emphasizing science in favor of faith is the smart card. For both parties, generalities are better. Some past elections would suggest as much. For instance, Gore had a very specific and detailed agenda, much like (Hillary) Clinton does now, and he lost out to (G.W.) Bush who called Gore’s approach “fuzzy math.” Similarly, Perot didn’t gain cool points against (Bill) Clinton and (not the banana) Dole when he pulled out his chart with a detailed explanation of his plan. (Nevermind whether it was a good plan).

All that aside, what if Iowa has it right this time? What if the general election is a showdown between Obama and Huckabee? So far, it looks like Obama has the lead, at least according to mid-December polls. Here’s the rundown:

Fox News’ poll (biased?): Obama 35% / Huckabee 21%

NBC survey: Obama 48% / Huckabee 36%.Gallup: Obama 53% / Huckabee 42%.

Zogby (who?): Obama 47% / Huckabee 42%.

CNN: Obama 55% / Huckabee 40%.

So if Iowa is any indication—and it isn’t—then science is on the up and up!

Cue your junior high-level humor

April 8, 2006 at 6:08 am | | nerd, news

I keep having to check the dates on the recent science-oriented articles I find, just to make sure they’re not from April 1. The latest article was titled “Blue Ring Discovered Around Uranus.” What? Blue? Geez, what’s been going on there!? The astronomers seemed to expect the rings to be red, which is a rather common color for rings. But Blue? Uranus never surprised so many. Or smelled so much like Koolaid. (Bwa?) Source

Okay. And how about this one from a little while back: “Brain scan finds the penis at last.” Read more of this post…


April 3, 2006 at 6:11 pm | | news

Lucky pig sperm is going to be super happy launched into lucky amazing China spaceship to see whether terrific space alters special wonderful pig genes. Source

What’ll kick start the Irish space program?

April 3, 2006 at 6:08 pm | | news

Answer: an alcohol cloud was recently found in space. Sorry about the Irish bit. I couldn’t think of another group worthy of the claim. Source

Prayer don’t work too good

April 1, 2006 at 7:30 am | | news

Can prayer heal illness? No, but it might be able to make illness worse. Folks who were prayed for had more post-op complications than those who weren’t prayed for. Scientists think the reason for this might be because having a prayer team can really freak a patient out. Maybe it’s because the devil is intercepting the prayers. Maybe when prayer teams assemble in groups of 4 or 5, that’s like tuning to the devil’s radio station, and he’s like, “Whoa! Hell no, you’re not gonna save this patient. This one’s mine, bwahaha!” Well, at least this devil’s radio station explanation would’ve been the better excuse from religionists. But no, the religionists think the study is bunk because scientists failed to account for how much prayer was given. Um. Can’t that easily be accounted for? Just ask the prayer folks to start the clock when they start praying, then stop the clock when the prayers stop. If intensity is an issue, then members of the prayer team can self-record the level of intensity of prayer for each session. Maybe even record the number of genuflects they take?

All that aside, the good news is that praying for yourself seems to work pretty well. Maybe this is sort of like that weird phenomenon where 1 violin sounds louder than 3 violins playing in unison (or so I’m told). I mean, maybe one guy’s prayer is louder (i.e., easier for God to hear) than several guys’ prayers occurring simultaneously. The prayer doesn’t get all muddled up. Of course, if this were the case, then we’d want one person whose not the patient to pray for the patient. Then try again with another person not the patient. Then again and again. See if that works. Oh, but what about all those people secretly praying for the same patient? Damn. This is why all people should pray out loud and in close proximity to those for whom they are praying. There should be a law. (So no more prayers for our troops in Iraq, kay?) But oh well. How bout this. Maybe prayers for oneself are effective because they strengthen one’s resolve, eh? I wonder if self “prayer” is really any better than a secularist’s “hope” or “positive outlook.” God forbid we study that! Source | Source

Moderation – psha!

April 1, 2006 at 7:00 am | | news

Recently, there was an overview of a bunch of studies regarding the health effects of alcohol. There’s a big methodology error in these studies, namely that the non-drinkers involved in the studies are really more like ex-drinkers, than lifetime teetotalers. Is it really any surprise that the moderate drinkers would fare better than the ex-drinker counterparts? WTF? But I don’t see why this can’t be remedied by checking out non-drinking cultures, like Jehova’s Witnesses, Mormons, Buddhists, and Muslims. Of course, there’re lifestyle variables with these folks, too, which might screw up a study’s results. But there’re so many of these folks that you’d think scientists would be able to isolate some of these variables. In any case, I thought the overview of health effects of alcohol had one other surprise. Moderation, apparently, means 2-4 drinks per day. 4 drinks per day is moderate! Geez! That’s like half the days liquid intake. Quite the moderation. Source

Fetus, Eat Your Soy!

March 30, 2006 at 4:29 pm | | news

A recent study from Duke University Medical Center suggests that a pregnant woman’s consumption of soy “reduces an embyro’s risk of becoming obese later in life.” Scientists fed genistein, an active ingredient in soy, to some mice. Their babies were slimmer than the babies of the mice who didn’t get the soy. Soy might also help make sense of the lower rates of cancer among Asian populations. But I’d like to know how Americanized Asians fare against their Asian counterparts. You know, to see if they are superhuman or something. Source

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