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Why an Actual Science Debate is Probably a Bad Idea

Over at my friends Chris and Sheril’s Intersection blog, I posted a summary of some reservations I have always had about the staging of an actual presidential science debate. Bottom line: research suggests that when it comes to audience effects, a presidential debate is a really bad idea. Despite our best wishes, intentions, and hopes for deliberative democracy, the reality is that a debate would be sending the strongest of invitations to the American public to think about science in partisan terms. Go here for my comments.

If the goal is to turn science into a wedge issue, as the Dems tried to do on stem cell research in 2004, then a debate suits that goal. But that clearly is not the goal of most people organizing Science Debate 2008. Instead the intention is wider public engagement and even education. It’s a noble goal and one that I obviously support, it’s just that a political debate is the wrong tool for achieving that.

I will probably be writing something up about this in article form at some point. What do readers think?


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