Tonight President Obama and Mitt Romney will NOT be having "The Most Important Debate" of this election. The most important debate hasn't been scheduled yet.
Tonight's debate will focus on domestic issues. The next one on both domestic and foreign policy. And the third will focus entirely on foreign affairs.
Pretty big topics, right? Yes, but there's another topic that is bigger. Indeed it is so big that many people believe it now deserves a debate all of its own. In a recent poll almost 85% of likely voters said they wanted the candidates to hold a debate on Science. Why? Because, more than anything else, our kids' future health and happiness depend on it. And yet, in spite of the many critical issues involved, I'm willing to bet that almost none of the following questions get asked in any of the debates:
What does science know about climate change, and as president what will you do about it? What about the disastrous state of our oceans where entire species are at risk of extinction? What can we do about the oncoming crisis of fresh water scarcity? What will you do -- if anything -- to encourage the development of alternative energy sources less damaging to the environment? How much are you willing to spend on the space program which informs us not just about the scope and beauty of the universe but about the health of the earth? What about vaccinations and public health, the safety of our food, or lack of it, and the dangers of global pandemics and deliberate biological attacks?
Too grim? Too apocalyptic? Too "global"? Then how about some down-to-earth questions about science and the American economy? Science and technology have been responsible for over half the growth of the U.S. economy since WWII. Much of this economically bountiful innovation came as a result of government investment in scientific research. At what level should this continue? Or should big government get out of the way entirely? And where are the American innovators of the future going to come from when a recent comparison of 15-year-olds in 65 countries found the average science scores among U.S. students ranked 23rd, while average U.S. math scores ranked 31st?
Oops, never mind the end of the world, this could be the end of America!
Both Romney and Obama have answered "14 Questions On Science" sent to them by ScienceDebate.org and their answers have been published online here so that the public can vote with this vital information in mind. But there's nothing like debate to clarify and contrast different positions. If there isn't going to be a dedicated science debate, let's hope the moderators of all of the debates will examine the candidates' responses to ScienceDebate.org's questions so they can probe a little deeper.