Saturday, November 1, 2008
Will Barack Obama be good for science?
Many of my friends whose blogs are on the side panel have been much exercised about the Obama-McCain US presidential campaign. Many have been surprised that I have said nothing about this till now. My main reason is that so much has been written about this campaign by every shade of public opinion, that very little is left to be said, irrespective of one's political leanings. I therefore would like to discuss one issue which has not been discussed as much -- will an Obama presidency be better than the Bush presidency as regards funding for science (and I mean science, not ID) goes. Some skeptics like Bob Park who writes the weekly 'What's New' column have not been too sure of the answer, mainly on account of the fact that science hardly figures in either candidates' stump speeches or their manifestos (given the free-falling economy that is not a surprise but it didn't figure even earlier). However, even a die-hard skeptic like him has now endorsed Senator Obama, given the horror on the other side. Moreover, for the first time the journal Nature has endorsed Obama. Finally, Murray Gell-Mann, the Nobel Laureate who first postulated quarks as fundamental constituents of matter, along with 76 other Nobel Laureates, has endorsed Barack Obama and you can see him live, reading from the endorsement letter at the Cosmic Variance blog or on YouTube. In the face of such heavy duty endorsements, who am I to throw a stone? But I wonder, has Obama every made a clear statement regarding evolution vs. intelligent design, or about stem-cell research or about climate change? To give him the benefit of doubt, Obama, as a consummate politician is not going to burn any bridges to win this election, which could be one reason for not stating his position clearly on such issues, thereby perhaps antagonising whole swathes of the population in the mid-West. It's also difficult to imagine science faring worse under him than under George W. Bush, though here is John Marburger pointing out why indeed the Bush presidency has been good for science funding.