Support the Candidates that Support Science

I hope you have been enjoying my messages about science books. As you may have noticed, I try to balance my role as opinionated critic with my passion for connecting the right books with the right readers.

One thing I avoid in my reviews is becoming partisan, even when I personally support one political party over the other on scientific issues. You may have discovered that approach in my review of “The Republican War on Science” by Chris Mooney.

But when it comes to voting, I am passionate about electing leaders who understand science, who support science, and who avoid the temptation to misconstrue science for their political advantage. That is why I joined and support the non-partisan (but strongly pro-science) group “Scientists and Engineers for America.” I recommend that you check out their website before you go to the polls.

Some candidates have stated their positions about one or more of the three most prominent science-related issues in today’s political discourse. Be sure you know where your candidates stand on global warming, teaching of intelligent design as equivalent to evolution in science courses, and embryonic stem cell research.

The first two of those have, quite simply, been abused by many politicians who deny the existence of or the human contribution to global warming and the overwhelming body of scientific observations supporting evolution. It’s easy to vote on the side of science without violating ethical or religious principles (unless you are a biblical literalist who chooses to ignore conflicting knowledge).

Embryonic stem cell research, however, is not just ascientific issue. The scientific argument over whether adult stem cells can be used as successfully in therapeutic applications is largely settled. Embryonic cells seem to offer much greater potential. Having said that, the ethical issues regarding their use remain unsettled. Sincere people believe it is immoral to use human embryos in research, and they are willing to forego the potential medical benefits for that reason.

The problem arises when a candidate abuses science to support a particular moral stance. In my home state of Pennsylvania, both major party candidates for the U.S. Senate are opposed to allowing embryonic stem cell research on ethical grounds. Though I disagree, I respect their sincerity in that belief. The
problem is that both of them, including the candidate I favor on the basis of a multitude of other political positions, abuse science by claiming that scientific evidence supports their hopes that adult stem cell research is as promising as embryonic stem cell research.

My candidate’s abuse of science on that issue diminishes his sincerity, and I plan to write to him about it when he is (if polls are correct) elected by a
substantial margin.

I hope you will vote the straight science ticket for America’s and the world’s future prosperity and well-being.

Scientifically yours,
Fred Bortz