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Obama and McCain on science: Where do they stand?

Newly minted Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin has made clear she's open to teaching creationism in public school science classes and to oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). While her running mate, John McCain, has spoken up on some science issues (pro-off shore drilling, anti-opening ANWR to oil exploration), less is known about his positions than those of his Democratic opponent Barack Obama, who recently answered a series of questions on everything from climate change and energy to stem-cell research.

Some highlights: Obama says he would lift a ban on federal funding of research on embryonic stem-cell lines created after Aug. 9, 2001 -- a measure signed into law by President Bush, who vetoed legislation designed to lift the limit. Obama also supports genetic engineering of plants and "water smart" landscaping over irrigated lawns to conserve H20, according to his responses to questions from Science Debate 2008, a consortium of Nobel laureates and business leaders.

"The responses are more detailed and substantive than anything we've seen from an endorsed presidential candidate before the election," says Shawn Otto, the group's CEO. "That’s important because science and technology issues really are the political issues of the 21st century."

He says that McCain has agreed to answer the questions, which were posed to both candidates in June; his campaign did not immediately respond to an email and call from ScientificAmerican.com asking when. (Scientific American editor in chief John Rennie is on SD08's steering committee.)

Scientific American asks its own questions of the candidates in next month's issue of the magazine, some of the answers to which weren't clear from Obama's SD08 responses, or from McCain's stated platforms. (McCain explains his climate strategy here and space policy here. He caused a flap when he seemed to be softening his opposition to ANWR fuel exploration and flipped to support offshore drilling. Obama's VP, Sen. Joe Biden, said he "does not believe the uncertain oil recovery justifies the risk of potentially great harm to this rich environment" of the ANWR, according to Popular Mechanics. On the controversial issue of abortion, Obama and Biden favor abortion rights, McCain and Palin do not.)

Among the remaining questions: Why support cap-and-trade programs to cut carbon emissions when those plans have been problematic in Europe? And why stick with corn ethanol when it's the least green biofuel?

What do you think about Obama's and McCain's science platforms? What unanswered science questions do you have of the candidates?

(Image courtesy of iStockphoto, Copyright: Matthew Pullicino)

 

 

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