To Americans generally, the utility of science is measured in profits enabled by technical innovations, and in cures and life extension enabled by new drugs and medical techniques. One aspect of science’s impact on profitability is its role in expanding military and government power.
These motivations determine the magnitudes of the investments made in the many areas of publicly funded scientific research. How this spectrum of investment should be tailored, or skewed, depends on the political agenda of the administration controlling the national government. We can be certain that US science policy will change with a new administration because the stupidities of the Bush Administration are unsustainable, and because none of the six leading presidential campaigns shares a unanimity of opinion on science matters with it.
The six campaigns we focus on are: Chuck Baldwin, Constitution Party; Bob Barr, Libertarian Party; John McCain, Republican Party; Cynthia McKinney, Green Party; Ralph Nader, Independent, and; Barack Obama, Democratic Party.
We could expect the least amount of change in science matters with a McCain Administration, but real changes would certainly occur because McCain does have differences with Bush. We might expect more change with an Obama Administration, but we must realize that the Republican and Democratic party platforms have many areas of agreement with each other, and with previous bipartisan practice.
More dramatic changes would ensue if one of the minor (non-duoploy) parties or campaigns were to sweep into power. The parties of the right, the Constitution and Libertarian parties, would withdraw federal funding from almost everything not slavishly devoted to protecting “property,” which is the psycho-gravitational center of these parties. Narrowly-focused corporate or “private enterprise” science, and some technical developments for military and law enforcement purposes would proceed. A great deal of science-as-welfare would disappear, and what basic research did continue would be freed of government interference — both of which would be very good things.
However, much good science does require some significant expense, and so many worthy lines of research, and support to fill the bellies sustaining many creative minds would vanish — not a good thing at all. Investments in basic science are intangible, you really can’t be sure you will “get” anything for them. Perhaps, minimally, interesting occupations for some smart and generally useless people; and on the other hand, perhaps the jackpot of a new generation of effective and inspiring teachers and innovators, new forms of knowledge, and new socially beneficial technical capabilities. It’s a gamble, or just a sacrifice to the gods in the hopes they grace us with new visions.
Were the parties of the left to sweep into power, we would probably see the most dramatic changes in science policy, as a major reallocation of resources. The ideal left science policy would include some of the cuts recommended by the Libertarians and Constitutionalists, since there is pork barrel parasitism everywhere in the Federal budget, but the focus of the policy would be to aim public investment in science to areas promising the greatest benefit to both intellectual growth and social well being — these idea-realms are not always in the direction of the obviously practical or significant. The actual purpose of science is to understand nature, and the best use of that knowledge is to bring individuals and societies into a greater experience of peace.
What follows is a listing of science policy positions for the six campaigns. These items were culled from five sources, listed here:
Nature Magazine: US Election 2008, (Obama vs. McCain)
Democratic and Republican Party presidential nominees.
Chuck Baldwin, Constitution Party
Bob Barr, Libertarian Party
Cynthia McKinney, Green Party
Ralph Nader, Independent
Nature Magazine devised a questionnaire on science policy matters, which it presented to Barack Obama, who answered it, and John McCain, who did not. In its articles on this subject, Nature quotes Obama, and supplies information of McCain’s likely positions as found in other publications and news reports. The party and candidate platforms publicized by Baldwin, Barr, McKinney and Nader supply information about their positions. I have shamelessly quoted at length from these five sources, in my compendium below.
It is unlikely that anybody would base their vote solely on science-related position statements, but as science matters merge into social and political concerns, candidate position statements can offer an insight into how their administration would apply power, if it could; and you can then muse on what that might do to society. On to the issues.
* * *
ACCEPTING THE REALITY OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Nature Magazine says of both Obama and McCain: “No matter who wins, the current administration’s eight-year-long pattern of denial and foot-dragging will end. Both McCain and Obama have pledged to regulate the country’s greenhouse gases via mandatory emissions limits and a cap-and-trade system.”
Obama (on climate science):
“I will fully support scientific efforts to understand climate change and the likely effects it will have on our society and the world’s ecosystems. I will depoliticize climate science in the federal government and ensure that our policy-makers rely on the best scientifically based evidence available. I will also expand on existing federal efforts to examine climate science, ensure that there is greater cooperation across the relevant federal agencies that already analyse aspects of climate science, and seek to bolster US engagement in international climate science initiatives.”
On climate science, Nature Magazine finds that McCain “has said he would continue to support the US Global Change Research Program, which coordinates the nation’s climate-change research programmes.”
“McCain sees climate change as a national security issue, and maintains that it is a major priority for him. He emphasizes developing new emissions-reducing technologies with minimum costs in order to soften any blow to the national economy. McCain’s intermediate goal for emission reductions is…1990 levels by 2020.”
One assumes McCain sets science policy for the Republicans, and his running mate, Sarah Palin, falls in line. However, in the event of her early succession, will her past views become the new Republican policy? Among the six president-vice president duos, the greatest divergence of views on science occur between McCain and Palin. Nature Magazine notes that “Palin engaged in a back-and-forth with ABC’s television news anchor Charlie Gibson over whether she had ever challenged humanity’s role in climate change. This summer, the conservative news outlet Newsmax reported her as saying she did not think global warming was ‘man-made’. In her ABC interview, though, Palin said: ‘Regardless, though, of the reason for climate change, whether it’s entirely or wholly caused by man’s activities or is part of the cyclical nature of our planet — the warming and the cooling trends — regardless of that, John McCain and I agree that we gotta do something about it.'”
“The Nader campaign believes it is time to break our addiction to fossil fuels. The evidence of global warming is mounting. We threaten the global environment with our continued use of fossil fuels. Not only is this an ecological threat, it is a tremendous economic threat, facing all of humanity.”
* * *
RESPONDING TO CLIMATE CHANGE BY MANAGING CARBON USE
“Most strikingly, McCain is a long-time supporter of a cap-and-trade approach to regulating greenhouse-gas emissions, in which the government sets an overall cap on pollution and then issues permits to each polluter; those that reduce their emissions cheaply can sell the extra permits to anybody who needs them. Whereas McCain’s plan for such a system would distribute the allowances and allow businesses to sell any unused emissions for cash, Obama’s version of the scheme would auction off the allowances from the start. Obama has also pledged $150 billion over the next ten years towards energy technologies.”
“I will implement a market-based cap-and-trade system to reduce carbon emissions by the amount scientists say is necessary: 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Unlike the European system, my plan would aim to cover virtually all greenhouse-gas emissions, would auction off all of the permits instead of giving them away, and would make sure there was stability in the market for permits and their price. My plan would use the proceeds of the auction for investments in a clean-energy future, habitat protection and rebates and other transition relief for families.”
“…has described his own vision of a cap-and-trade system, but with a different target; the McCain plan calls for reductions of emissions by 60% below 1990 levels by 2050. McCain would initially give away emissions permits instead of auctioning them. McCain would also allow emissions allowances to be ‘banked’ or ‘borrowed’ for different time periods, as well as establish a national ‘strategic carbon reserve’ that could release permits during difficult economic times. He would also allow unlimited offsets, from both domestic and international sources, to ease into a newly set up cap-and-trade system.”
“Nader/Gonzalez proposes a straightforward carbon tax—set to annual benchmarks to bring, with the expansion of solar energy, US emissions to at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
“A phased in initial price of $50 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions would harness $300 billion annually—money that would be put back in the pockets of American taxpayers, and money that would finance a green industrial revolution, providing a boon of 10 million new green collar jobs (in efficiency retrofits, cogeneration, geothermal, solar energy generation, and green grid enhancements) in the first five years.
“The carbon tax will be most efficiently levied at carbon bottlenecks, the key points where flows of carbon are the most concentrated—trunk pipelines for gas, refineries for oil, railroad heads for coal, LNG terminals, cement, steel, aluminum, and GHG-intensive chemical plants.
“Because carbon is such a pervasive substance, any one country that tries to put a serious price on carbon alone would face the risk of driving its carbon intensive companies and jobs overseas to other jurisdictions that opt to give their companies a free ride on carbon costs.
“In order to be fair and effective, the only way that a meaningful price on carbon works is if there is one single globally accepted price. In other, words, if we don’t have the same price on carbon everywhere, it won’t work very well anywhere.
“After a long period of obstructing global progress to protect our climate, it is time for the U.S. government to assume the mantle of global leadership to broker a global climate treaty covering all major emitters.
“Winning the confidence of the developing nations will require deft diplomacy.
“Planting a Global Climate Compact in the foundation of a universal polluter pays principle will minimize the chance for countries to become carbon-pollution havens, while providing developing countries with time and money to tackle GHG reductions in a way that they can accept.”
* * *
INTERNATIONAL EMISSION AGREEMENTS (BEYOND THE KYOTO PROTOCOL)
“By adopting an aggressive cap on domestic emissions, the US can recapture the moral authority to lead the world toward an effective and equitable solution on global climate change. I will seek to engage China and India in global climate-change reduction efforts, and I will create a ‘global energy forum’ — a body that will include the world’s highest emitters from the developed and developing world to apply pressure to developed and developing nations alike to meaningfully reduce their carbon emissions. I will also re-engage the United States with the post-Kyoto international climate negotiations to restore US leadership and pressure on the rest of the world to take similar steps to combat this truly global problem.”
“…has said he would actively lead United Nations efforts to develop international emissions targets. His platform calls for developing ‘incentives for rapid participation by China and India’, without specifics on what those might be. In a speech in May, he said that the United States had an ‘obligation to act’ even if China and India do not sign up to such an agreement.”
[For Nader, see his comments in the previous section.]
* * *
ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
“McCain has proposed scrapping subsidies and tariffs for biofuels, an approach favoured by Obama that plays well with voters in America’s corn-growing heartland, but that a growing consensus among energy and environmental experts rejects.”
Obama (offshore drilling):
“With 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves, the United States cannot drill its way to energy security. But US oil and gas production plays an important role in our domestic economy and remains critical to prevent global energy prices from climbing even higher.”
McCain (offshore drilling):
“McCain currently favours a more aggressive offshore-drilling policy than Obama” (a stance long favoured by Palin and most Alaskans); “both candidates, like the Democratic-led Congress, have changed their earlier stances opposing such drilling in the face of rising oil prices and public pressure to do something about it.”
“As president, I will significantly increase the resources devoted to the commercialization and deployment of low-carbon coal technologies and use a broad range of mechanisms to commercialize clean-coal technology. I will direct my Secretary of Energy to enter into public–private partnerships to develop five ‘first-of-a-kind’ commercial-scale coal-fired plants with carbon capture and sequestration.”
“McCain has said he would commit $2 billion per year to research on clean-coal technologies. His goal is to commercialize these technologies and then export them to other countries, such as China.”
“The free market, driven by consumer choice and reflecting the real cost of resources, should be the foundation of America’s energy policy. The federal government should eliminate restrictions that inhibit energy production, as well as all special privileges for the production of politically-favored fuels, such as ethanol [and, I would hope, nuclear. MG, Jr.]. In particular, Congress should allow the exploration and production of America’s abundant domestic resources, including oil in the Outer Continental Shelf and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and alternative sources such as shale oil. We should develop our nation’s natural assets, which would lower costs to the consumer and assure more adequate and consistent supplies. “
“We urge a new clean energy policy that no longer subsidizes entrenched oil, nuclear, electric, coal mining, and biofuel interests. — an energy policy that is efficient, sustainable and environmentally friendly. We need to invest in a diversified energy policy including renewable energy like wind and other forms of solar power, more efficient automobiles, homes and businesses — a policy that breaks our addiction to oil, coal and atomic power. Nader/Gonzalez would: 1, End subsidies of entrenched oil, nuclear, & coal interests; 2, Curtail price gouging with strict law enforcement; 3, Invest heavily in renewable energies, including solar and wind technologies; 4, Invest in more efficient homes, automobiles, businesses and government facilities, and; 5, Put renewable energy before the wasteful corn ethanol.”
* * *
“It is unlikely that we can meet our aggressive climate goals if we eliminate nuclear power as an option. However, before an expansion of nuclear power is considered, key issues must be addressed, including security of nuclear fuel and waste, waste storage and proliferation. The nuclear waste disposal efforts at Yucca Mountain [in Nevada] have been an expensive failure and should be abandoned. I will work with the industry and governors to develop a way to store nuclear waste safely while we pursue long-term solutions.”
“…has proposed building 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030, with an eventual goal of a total of 100. McCain has not addressed where the nuclear waste from these and current reactors would go, and he has supported the Yucca Mountain storage project in the past.”
“The Green Party recognizes that there is no such thing as nuclear waste ‘disposal.’ All six of the ‘low-level’ nuclear waste dumps in the United States have leaked. There are no technological quick fixes that can effectively isolate nuclear waste from the biosphere for the duration of its hazardous life. Therefore, it is essential that generation of additional nuclear wastes be stopped. The Green Party calls for the early retirement of nuclear power reactors as soon as possible (in no more than five years), and for a phase-out of other technologies that use or produce nuclear waste. These technologies include non-commercial nuclear reactors, reprocessing facilities, nuclear waste incinerators, food irradiators, and all commercial and military uses of depleted uranium.” [Of necessity, this physically eliminates the possibility of producing new nuclear weapons, and clearly implies the dismantlement of the existing stockpile. MG, Jr.]
* * *
“As president, I will set a new direction in nuclear-weapons policy and show the world that America believes in its existing commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to work to ultimately eliminate all nuclear weapons. I fully support reaffirming this goal, as called for by George Schultz, Henry Kissinger, William Perry and Sam Nunn, as well as the specific steps they propose to move us in that direction. I’ve made it clear that America will not disarm unilaterally. Indeed, as long as states retain nuclear weapons, the United States will maintain a nuclear deterrent that is strong, safe, secure and reliable. But I will not authorize the development of new nuclear weapons. And I will make the goal of eliminating nuclear weapons worldwide a central element of US nuclear policy. [Unlikely to occur unless you reduce — and eliminate — the US stockpile first. MG, Jr.]
“The DOE’s weapons laboratories have played a key role in national security and many other areas and will continue to do so. I will build on my record in the US Senate to strengthen international agreements that will make it possible to greatly reduce nuclear weapons. This does not mean that we should in any way reduce our efforts to ensure the safety and reliability of our existing nuclear stockpile. The national laboratories are essential for this mission and for many other critical missions in national security, homeland security, nonproliferation, nuclear power, computational sciences, life sciences, environmental technologies and other fields. The national laboratories are a critical national science and technology resource, and I will ensure that these resources are supported and focused on the science and technology missions most critical to our country in the twenty-first century.” [This paragraph was supplied by the PR departments of Livermore Lab and Los Alamos Lab; what a sop, 100 percent pork barrel. MG, Jr.]
“McCain’s top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, said this summer that the senator would consider new nuclear weapons only if they met key criteria including deterrence, arsenal reduction and improved global nuclear security. In July, on a visit to New Mexico, McCain told reporters he would set the local Los Alamos National Laboratory on a ‘national mission’ to study ways to achieve energy independence.” [“National mission” equals the promise of uninterrupted pork barrel deliveries. MG, Jr.]
Baldwin (on strategic defense):
“I further support the deployment of a fully-operational strategic defense system as soon as possible. We will not allow a unilateral disarmament and dismemberment of America’s defense infrastructure.”
McKinney (on nuclear and conventional weapons):
“The reduction of our nuclear arsenal and the abolition of nuclear weapons must be the irreversible policy of the United States. The following steps necessary to fulfill that goal are:
“1. Declare a no-first-strike policy.
“2. Declare a no-pre-emptive strike policy.
“3. Separate all nuclear warheads from delivery systems.
“4. Declare that the U.S. will never threaten or use a nuclear weapon, regardless of size, on a non-nuclear nation.
“5. Ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Our pledge not to test will raise the international level of trust and re-enforce our commitment to reduce our nuclear arsenal rather than strengthen it. We will gain security in proportion to gaining trust. Security for one nation depends on security for all nations.
“6. Our withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty opened the door for the US to pursue missile defense research and to negotiate the installation of missile launch pads on foreign territory, despite their unproven operational status. Missile defense research profits military contractors, not the American national interest. [So, negotiate a new ABM Treaty? MG, Jr.]
“7. End the research, testing and stockpiling of all nuclear weapons of any size. Permanently cut funding of the RRW – Reliable Replacement Warhead – a contrivance for building new nuclear weapons under pretense that they upgrade and replace old nuclear weapons. RRW violates the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“8. Sign the Toronto treaty banning the production, stockpiling, use and sale of land mines, and assist other nations in unearthing and disabling land mines buried in their lands.
“9. Sign a pledge not to produce, stockpile, use or sell cluster bombs or depleted uranium in any form.
“10. End all stockpiling of chemical and biological weapons and all research, use, and sale of such weapons; and sign the convention that establishes UN inspection and reduction of all nations’ stockpiles of such weapons.
“11. Allow UN teams to visit US nuclear research sites for verification purposes, on undisclosed dates, on an annual basis.”
* * *
“I will re-establish the National Aeronautics and Space Council, which will coordinate civilian, military, commercial and national security space activities and report to the president. This council will oversee a comprehensive and integrated strategy and policy dealing with all aspects of the government’s space-related programmes, including those being managed by NASA, the Department of Defense, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Transportation and other federal agencies. It will solicit public participation, engage the international community and work toward a twenty-first-century vision of space that constantly pushes the envelope on new technologies as it pursues a balanced national portfolio that expands our reach into the heavens and improves life here on Earth. Human spaceflight is important to America’s political, economic, technological and scientific leadership. I will support renewed human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. I endorse the goal of sending human missions to the Moon by 2020, as a precursor in an orderly progression to missions to more distant destinations, including Mars.”
“…has released an extensive space platform, including calling space exploration a ‘top priority’ for the country and manned space flight ‘a reflection of national power and pride’. Unlike Obama, McCain has explicitly committed to funding the Constellation programme to replace the space-shuttle fleet (although without details on how he would accomplish that). He also says he would maintain the nation’s space infrastructure, including the related workforce, and focus on maximizing the research possibilities of the International Space Station. He would maintain investments in aeronautics research as well as the infrastructure for Earth-monitoring satellites.
“The Green Party opposes all forms of militarization of space. We oppose researching, testing and deploying anti-satellite weapons (ASAT) from the land or the air. We oppose the development and basing of interceptor missiles in the US or other countries; we oppose debris-creating weapons. In effect, we demand that the US return to the conference table and create an international treaty that totally reverses the militarization of space.”
* * *
CENSORSHIP OF SCIENCE
“I believe such information must be expert and uncoloured by ideology. I will restore the basic principle that government decisions should be based on the best-available, scientifically valid evidence and not on the ideological predispositions of agency officials or political appointees.”
“‘McCain will seek to restore the credibility of scientific research’ in the federal government, says campaign adviser Floyd DesChamps. McCain has argued that taxpayers’ investment in scientific research should be repaid with the untarnished results of that work.”
* * *
INNOVATION AND THE FUNDING OF BASIC RESEARCH
Nature Magazine states “Americans increasingly sense that their country is losing its competitive edge. Both McCain and Obama regularly talk about how re-investing in fundamental research can stimulate homegrown breakthroughs and bolster the flagging economy. And both candidates seem to be at least moderately sincere in their pledges to improve funding for the nation’s basic-science agencies — although how those promises will translate to reality remains to be seen, especially as McCain has talked about a year-long freeze on all domestic discretionary spending, which would include science.”
“This situation is unacceptable. As president, I will increase funding for basic research in physical and life sciences, mathematics and engineering at a rate that would double basic research budgets over the next decade to support our scientists and restore US scientific leadership.”
* * *
“Obama released details on how he would expand broadband access as a way to shrink the ‘digital divide’ between rich and poor, and described plans to appoint the first-ever national ‘chief technology officer’ to improve infrastructure.”
* * *
HIGH-TECH IMMIGRANTS (BRAIN DRAINING)
“As president, I will improve our legal permanent resident visa programmes and temporary programmes to attract some of the world’s most talented people to America.”
“As a senator from Arizona, McCain has long been involved in immigration issues, mainly through strengthening federal security at land border crossings. He supports immigration reforms to allow more highly skilled workers to stay and work in the United States after graduation.”
* * *
“I believe that we must increase funding for the NIH to reverse the funding trends that have left our nation’s scientists with fewer resources as research costs escalate. We must also do a better job of providing resources to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other federal agencies that help ensure that when these medical advances are turned into exciting new treatments, we are able to ensure that they are swiftly and safely considered for widespread usage.”
“McCain has said he would strongly support funding for the NIH. The health-care platforms of both candidates tend to focus on how to make health insurance more affordable and accessible to Americans, and McCain has talked about technologies that could benefit public health — such as telemedicine — to bring the latest medical knowledge to many more patients.”
“Increase medical research and alternative therapies actively to combat diseases and eliminate their causes, especially cancer and HIV/AIDS and other bloodborn diseases such as Hepatitis C.”
“It is our moral obligation to treat wild and domestic animals that we hunt, use for research, use for testing, or grow to eat with care and non-cruel operations. Exploitation and affliction of animals defies our stewardship obligation to care for nature’s resources – animal and vegetable. The National Institutes of Health that does research on preventive medicine and biomedical research should use its funds on clinical, epidemiological and cell culture research, not on live animals. Phase out use of animals for consumer product testing; psychological testing, dissections, weapons development and any military programs. The Endangered Species act should be expanded to protect wild species such as wild horses, and to prevent cock fights and puppy mills, and to strengthen the prohibition on import of exotic animals. States and cities should subsidize spay and neuter clinics.”
* * *
“It’s time for a comprehensive effort to tackle bioterror. Overseas, I will launch a Shared Security Partnership that invests $5 billion over 3 years to forge an international intelligence and law-enforcement infrastructure to take down terrorist networks. I will also strengthen US intelligence collection overseas to identify and interdict would-be bioterrorists before they strike and expand the US government’s bioforensics programme for tracking the source of any biological weapon [sic]. I will work with the international community to make any use of disease as a weapon declared a crime against humanity. I will invest in new vaccines and technologies to detect attacks and to trace them to their origin, so that we can react in a timely fashion. I have pledged to invest $10 billion per year over the next 5 years in electronic health information systems to not only improve routine health care, but also ensure that these systems will give health officials the crucial information they need to deploy resources and save lives in an emergency.”
“…in response to a ScienceDebate2008 question about a potential H5N1 avian influenza epidemic, outlined a four-part strategy to deal with pandemics or deliberate biological attacks; key aspects are preparedness, communication, surveillance/detection and response/containment. In terms of specifics, he called for more research into next-generation automated sensors to detect biological agents and real-time information sharing with first responders.”
[US stores of biological pathogens and weapons may be our biggest bio-terror liability. MG, Jr.]
* * *
EVOLUTION IS STILL BEING ASSAULTED BY CREATIONISM (ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM)
“I believe in evolution, and I support the strong consensus of the scientific community that evolution is scientifically validated. I do not believe it is helpful to our students to cloud discussions of science with non-scientific theories like intelligent design that are not subject to experimental scrutiny.”
Obama’s running mate Joe Biden, in an appearance on Bill Maher’s liberal television talk show, spoke out against teaching intelligent design in science class, saying “I refuse to believe the majority of people believe this malarkey.”
“Last year, in a Republican primary debate, McCain stated: ‘I believe in evolution. But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also.’ In 2005, he told the Arizona Daily Star that he thought ‘all points of view’ should be available to students studying the origins of humanity. But the next year a Colorado paper reported him saying that such viewpoints should not be taught in science class.”
The editors of Nature write: “The most worrying thing about a McCain presidency is not so much a President McCain as a Vice-President Palin. When running for governor of Alaska in 2006, Sarah Palin said that creationism should be taught in school on the basis that ‘healthy debate is so important’. Palin opposes all research into human embryonic stem cells. She is a creationist. And until lately, at least, she has been a sceptic of human-created climate change — a disquieting thought, as Palin recently said that energy will be ‘her baby’ in the White House, thanks to her previous service as chair of the Alaska state oil and gas commission. What is still unclear is how Palin’s views will reconcile with McCain’s. McCain has courageously bucked his party’s more parochial viewpoints in the past, as when he fought for a cap-and-trade system long before it was politically popular. But his selection of Palin as a running mate suggests a new-found willingness to pander to his party’s far-right wing.” [Slightly edited by MG, Jr.]
* * *
“I believe that the restrictions that President Bush has placed on the funding of human embryonic stem-cell research have handcuffed our scientists and hindered our ability to compete with other nations. As president, I will lift the current administration’s ban on federal funding of research on embryonic stem-cell lines created after 9 August 2001 through executive order, and I will ensure that all research on stem cells is conducted ethically and with rigorous oversight.”
McCain “voted to end such restrictions when the issue arose in the Senate, but in the heat of the campaign, he now refuses to say whether he would lift the ban as president. Instead, he emphasizes research on adult or induced pluripotent stem cells in place of human embryonic ones. This could spell dire news for the country’s stem-cell biologists, many of whom have been driven overseas or into privately or state-funded parallel enterprises to continue their work.”
McCain has stated that “While I support federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, I believe clear lines should be drawn that reflect a refusal to sacrifice moral values and ethical principles for the sake of scientific progress. Moreover, I believe that recent scientific breakthroughs raise the hope that one day this debate will be rendered academic. I also support funding for other research programmes, including amniotic fluid and adult stem-cell research which hold much scientific promise and do not involve the use of embryos. I oppose the intentional creation of human embryos for research purposes and I voted to ban the practice of ‘fetal farming’, making it a federal crime for researchers to use cells or fetal tissue from an embryo created for research purposes.”
“Palin is truly representative of the evangelical Christian right. Also convinced in the embryo’s full personhood, she opposes human embryonic stem-cell research, as well as abortion for any reason other than saving the mother’s life.”
* * *
[What set of concepts is to guide and/or limit the practice of medicine? And why?]
“I affirm the God-given legal person hood of all unborn human beings, without exception. In addition to guaranteeing the legal person hood of the unborn, Ron Paul’s Sanctity of Life Act, which I wholeheartedly support, would strip the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in all cases of abortion in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 2. This would mean that Roe v. Wade would immediately pass away as any legal authority on this issue. We can, therefore, end legal abortion immediately upon enactment of the Sanctity of Life Act. Under my administration, we could end legal abortion in a matter of days, not decades. And if Congress refuses to pass Dr. Paul’s bill, I will use the constitutional power of the Presidency to deny funds to protect abortion clinics. Either way, legalized abortion ends when I take office.”
“Women’s right to control their bodies is non-negotiable. The option of a safe, legal abortion must remain available to all without hindrance. The “morning- after” pill must be affordable and easily accessible without a prescription. A government-sponsored public relations campaign to educate women about this form of contraception must be initiated. Clinics must be accessible and must offer advice on contraception and the means for contraception; consultation about abortion and the performance of abortions, and; abortion regardless of age or marital status. Health insurance policies must include contraception and abortion. For women below the poverty level government must offer these services free. The US government must not deny support to NGOs that include family planning and abortion in their service to foreign countries that request such service. “
* * *
Each candidate frames and highlights issues to illustrate his or her overall political objectives and philosophy. So, not all campaigns have published statements, (or I didn’t find them) in the sources used here, that directly address each issue as listed above. However, if you explore any platform, you can get a sense of its perspectives on a broader basis. Remember, I used filters of “science” and “science policy” on these campaign platforms and declarations, but real life and real politics is not so compartmentalized, and the varieties of vagaries and verbiage of these platforms reflects their authors’ efforts to accommodate that reality. For example, it is difficult to imagine the Nader/Gonzalez emphasis on national healthcare as being consistent with government interference in the reproductive rights of women. We should take what has been listed above as an interesting cross-sectional view, which does not give a complete understanding of the extended political beast we have sliced through.
MANUEL GARCIA, Jr. is a retired physicist. E-mail = firstname.lastname@example.org