political science: McCain vs. Obama

August 13, 2008 at 5:47 pm | | political science, science and the public, science community

NPR had a good piece yesterday about how the two candidates plan to heal the wounds science has suffered after 8 years of the Bush Administration. The good news: they’re both more pro-science than Bush. The main difference between candidates is that Obama backs up his support with promises of more money for science.

Here’s an excerpt:

Obama: He would reverse policy adopted by President George W. Bush that placed restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. Obama has also said that he would double the amount of federal money available for scientific research, in hopes of giving American high-tech companies a leg up. Obama has not said over what time period he would double funding, nor where the money would come from.

McCain: He has said that he would support legislation that would expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and place fewer restrictions on it. But in a nod to the anti-abortion community, his adviser also has said that he hopes to not have to rely on embryonic stem cells in the future. In terms of scientific funding, McCain is sympathetic for the need to fund basic research, but is not sure where the government would find that money.

I understand what McCain is saying: doubling the budget for science means less money for something else. However, I think that we do need to better fund science—in order to promote technological progress and American prosperity. Maybe Obama won’t be able to convince Congress to fully double science funding, but I’d prefer Obama’s breakable promise to McCain’s no-offer-at-all.

[Update: Nanoscale Views beat me to the punch!]


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  1. For a cool news source on the candidates’ relationship with science issues, check out http://blogs.physicstoday.org/politics08/.

    Comment by jordan — August 15, 2008 #

  2. […] his campaign claims he supports science, McCain is going around mocking ecology research, getting conservatives riled up about federal […]

    Pingback by Everyday Scientist » political science: McCain wants to cut science funding — August 26, 2008 #

  3. Obama answered 14 questions on science and tech and the answers are pretty specific. McCain will probably answer soon. You can see it at SEA’s website:


    Comment by C. Williams — August 31, 2008 #

  4. here’s a working link:

    Comment by sam — August 31, 2008 #

  5. In the Bill Oreilly interview of Barack Obama, regarding the discussion
    about Obama’s energy plan, in response to Bill asking
    Barack, what if the development of alternate energy
    sources don’t deliver. Obama compared his approach
    to John Kennedy’s space program, and how if you go
    for it , the answers will come. But, the distinction between
    our space program and our energy challenge is … If it had taken
    us longer than we thought to get to the moon … or, if we hadn’t
    gotten to the moon … no big deal. But, if we put all our hopes
    into alternative energy, and it doesn’t happen in time … or, if
    it doesn’t work, our entire economy, as well as our national
    security could end up in ruins. Our country’s entire energy
    infrastructure revolves around petroleum. 167,000 gas stations,
    the 250 million vehicles. Democrats keep citing how long it will take
    to get more oil out of the ground. But, even if an alternative
    fuel is found tomorrow, how long will it take America to
    transition from our existing infrastructure to a completely
    new one? In the meantime, people have to get to work, and
    goods have to get to market. This is an important reason to
    secure our energy needs with oil drilling and mining oil shale,
    while we try to develop alternate energy. Obama and
    Pelosi also want to dip into the strategic oil reserve, as a way
    of pandering to voters, but what if we have a true emergency,
    like Hurricane Ike, or Hugo Chavez cuts us off, or Amadinajad
    cripples the straits of Hormuz? Obama seems to be
    playing fast and loose with our country’s future … gambling
    with our future, all based on hope and faith … with consequences
    which could be dire. Obama’s plans, or lack thereof, are
    extremely irresponsible. Not suprising from a candidate who
    does not have the experience, qualifications, or judgement to lead, as
    President of the United States.

    Comment by Howard — September 13, 2008 #

  6. drilling is not a solution. it is the problem. we need some encouragement to change our infrastructure and habits, as you point out. cheaper oil and no alternatives will just get us deeper in the rut.

    if we had tackled the energy problem years ago, we’d be in a much better place. now we’ll be forced to change or face major economic, climate, and political problems. humans are ingenious and powerful: we can fix our energy problem just like we fixed our problems in the past!

    Comment by sam — September 13, 2008 #

  7. I wish I could be optimistic about the prospects for an enlightened attitude to the importance of science backed by increased funding for science education and basic research, but I fear that neither Sen. McCain nor Sen. Obama is wise enough to see beyond the immediate problems — wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, financial woes, underfunding of Medicare and Social Security, illegal immigration, etc., — to realize that to neglect science and science education is to doom the country to being an also-ran.

    Since science is far from topping the list of concerns of John Q. Public, we can hardly expect either candidate to speak out about its importance to the nation, except if a case can be made for its protecting us from terrorist attacks.

    I also do not believe that either candidate is persuasive enough(whether by logic, twisting of arms, or calling in political favors)to get congress to fund the sort of science programs the country needs (no matter who articulates those needs or what they claim the needs to be).

    Perhaps if science had an eloquent spokesperson, the president and congress could be convinced of the importance of scientific research and science education to the welfare of the people and the country.

    Given the mindset of a large minority in the country and the other problems we face, I believe scientific research and science education are in for a period of benign neglect.

    Furthermore, check these clash videos I found yesterday about the US Presidential candidates have talked taxes. Well, it’s entitled Obama v. McCain on Taxes. Watch these statements – then vote in http://clashorama.com/index.php?id=194

    Comment by Yasmien Mercado — September 19, 2008 #

  8. I think john mccain needs to stop campaigning allready,he lost the election and he is displaying his old world old style politics and the majority of people hate it…we want to see him support the president and stop his old man complaining. You know use his influence for good instead of EVIL

    Comment by michael hale — June 23, 2009 #

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