Shawn Otto – The Assault on Science

October 10, 2011

In recent months, political attacks on science have been back in the news.

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman even famously tweeted, “To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

So it’s very timely that Shawn Lawrence Otto, co-founder of a nonpartisan organization called Science Debate, has got a new book out about this very problem.

It’s called Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, and it covers the grand role of science in our country’s history, as well as the leading battles of the present. It also tells the story of Science Debate, and how it is trying to inject some reality into the 2012 election.

In addition to being an author and a co-founder of Science Debate, Otto is also a screenwriter, who wrote and co-produced The House of Sand and Fog.

Links Mentioned in this Episode

This is point of inquiry for Monday, October 10th, 2011. 

Welcome to Point of Inquiry. I’m Chris Mooney. Point of inquiry is the radio show and the podcast of the Center for Inquiry, a think tank advancing reason, science and secular values in public affairs and at the grassroots. In recent months, a subject I’ve said much about in the past, political attacks on science has been back in the news. Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman even famously tweeted, To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy. So it’s very timely that Shawn Lawrence Otto, co-founder of a nonpartisan organization called Science Debate, has got a new book out about this very problem. It’s called Fool Me Twice Fighting the Assault on Science in America. And it covers the grand role of science in our country’s history, as well as the leading battles of the present. So I wanted to have Sean on to discuss his book and how science debate is going to try to inject some reality into the 2012 election. In addition to being an author and a co-founder with yours truly of science debate, Otto is also a screenwriter who wrote and co-produced the House of Sand and Fog. 

Shawn Otto, welcome to Point of Inquiry. 

Thank you. Glad to be here. 

It’s a great pleasure to have you on. We go back to the year 2007. I think that was the year in which the science debate then it was called Science Debate 2008. 

Organization was formed, you, me and some others. And maybe at the outset of the interview, I’d love to ask you to sketch some of the history of that organization and what happens. You tell it in the book, since that clearly fed into the book a great deal. You show in particular how outrageous it is that the candidates just ignored the idea that they should talk about science on the campaign trail. 

Yeah, and that’s what struck so many scientists, I think, and and really inspired tens of thousands of them to sign on to science debate, because as we ask these campaigns to participate, even to the point of setting up a science debate in Philadelphia before the Pennsylvania primary and Brione. Now, Enova from PBS to moderate David Brancaccio is going to be the moderator. They still turned us down and instead did a faith forum at another college in Pennsylvania. So that that made a lot of news. And it struck people as stunning that the leading candidates for president are the most powerful country in the world, most of whose power these days has been developed by science and technology. 

For some reason, felt like they couldn’t talk about science on the campaign trail except in the context of religion and religion, of course. 

I mean, the reason the some reason is that religion is politically incredibly powerful and science is politically incredibly weak. And this is not an accident because there has been dramatic organizing by religion to influence politics for decades and scientists have basically not done much. 

Absolutely. Yeah, and that’s part of the problem. A lot of scientists, when I talk to them and I’m sure you run into the same thing, they don’t think of science as political. And one of the contentions I make in the book is that science is never partizan. That supersedes partizanship. But it is always political because science. Expand knowledge, and anytime we expand knowledge, as Bacon said, knowledge is power. And any time we expand knowledge, we expand power. We challenge vested power structures. And it also requires us to recalibrate or refine our morals and ethics. For instance, you know, the issues about when life begins are a good example of that question. So science is always political. 

And scientists, I think, for a variety of reasons that we can talk about, have come from that position over the last two generations. While religion has been organizing. 

You know, it’s both on their part. It is both an intellectually wrong position because, as you say, science and knowledge always. Well, not all knowledge, you know, but but a lot of knowledge clearly has political implications that you can’t avoid. But on the other hand, I’m not sure I would say that their position is tactically wrong in the sense that if a scientist goes or if scientific organizations go around saying, you know what, we produce all this political now, then they’re just going to really get themselves into trouble when they’re on on Capitol Hill and things like that. 

Right. Yeah, they are, and and that’s that’s kind of the conundrum that organizations like the Triple S find themselves in, especially today. 

And it’s and it’s a real problem because as for instance, members of the Republican Party have embraced increasingly anti science positions, scientists and science organizations have to ask themselves, how do we maintain our nonpartisan status in a world where science itself is coming to be viewed as a partizan thing? 

And what I maintain in the book is that that’s really important perspective, but that’s wrong thinking that partizanship is a matter of opinion that is left to the realm of opinion. It’s your opinion about what we should do about something or your interpretation of something. But as even Jefferson talked about, he didn’t care about your opinions. 

What he cared about was a well informed opinion, that opinion based on data or knowledge. And anytime you base something on knowledge and on science that supersedes opinions, it supersedes partizanship. 

Scientists definitely have it rough because I want to talk more about more about Republicans in science. Actually gonna talk a lot a lot about Republicans and science, that it is a it is such a catch 22. 

On the one hand, see that the GOP watch every, you know, presidential debate, you know, that they’re having now. And you see some kind of, you know, anti science position being espouse. 

And yet if the scientific organizations become the organizations that attack, Republicans and Republicans will attack the scientific organizations, even Warren, it’ll just be it’ll be a downward spiral that I somehow find unavoidable. And yet really see see, it is awful. 

It is awful. I you know, I think of it it’s not to draw a line, a draw comparison, but please don’t think that I make any equivalence by denying that comparison. And that’s to the debate about engagement or appeasement with the Nazis before World War Two. And the very same dynamics were in play in a much different way. But it was a question about do we go along with the assertions of authority and and the morally questionable triumph of ideology, even though it doesn’t agree with reality. And and if we find it morally reprehensible or in the interests of of being evenhanded, do we stay out of that? And I think ultimately, history is always on the side of those who side with reality. And in that case, appeasement wasn’t the right approach. 

What’s going to happen in 2012 with signs today? You’ve you’re obviously setting the gears, saying things in motion. Tell us a little bit about that. 

Yeah. Well, we’re just starting our internal conversations among our core team about different strategic decisions. And since one thing that I have in the book is an interesting debate that we’re having internally right now is something called the American Science Pledge. And it’s my position that freedom is based on a knowledge. And to the extent that we extend our knowledge, we extend our ability to choose and end our freedom. And there’s nothing wrong with asking policy makers and candidates for office to pledge, even though that’s become somewhat of a controversial subject to pledge to make decisions based on data instead of making them first based on opinion or ideology or faith, because that’s really in a democracy that’s as diverse as ours. That’s really the only fair way to do it. And obviously it’s the most effective way to do it. I see this as a pledge that expands debate rather than limits it. But there’s some internal debate whether analysis is appropriate place for a science debate to be going to providing that as a tool for people. So that’s one of the things that we’re discussing. And then we’re discussing, obviously, what organizations we want to partner with and what the best strategy moving forward is, particularly with this seemingly anti science crop of Republican candidates. 

Is the pledges in your book? Is it also online? 

So, yes, that is going to go up online on the 11th. So they after this show airs. 

So, yeah, you know, I think the pledge is it’s interesting, right? Because, you know, pledges are a little notorious in politics right now because we have a pledge that Republicans take to not ever raise taxes. And I mean, this is not the same kind of pledge, you know. The other other hand, you know, pledges clearly have this leave this bad taste in a lot of people’s mouth for that reason. 

Yep, that’s it. 

Well, I want to remind our listeners that Shawn Ottos book Fool Me Twice Fighting the assault on Science in America can be acquired through our website point of inquiry dot org. 

If there are two political science issues today that dramatically outdistance all the others in terms of the sheer amount of lunacy that people say about these things and the sheer extent to which good objective scientific information is denied, it is evolution and it is climate change. 

You appropriately devote a chapter to each in the book. And we could go on a lot of directions talking about them. But I think one thing. Well, let me just let me just tell you my reaction to your treatment. We talk about these topics on the show plenty. What you said that, you know, you say evolutions of values, battle, climate is a money battle. I actually don’t know that. I agree with that. I think actually they’re both values battles. And I can sort of explain more why that is. But tell me you’re thinking first. 

Well, my thinking in calling evolution a values battle and climate change a money battle really lies in who’s driving both of those battles. And in the case of evolution, that battle is being driven by fundamentalist evangelicals who in many cases are literalist biblical world viewers. And they see evolution, you know, and have for the last 90 or 100 years as as the root of all evil in the world. And therefore, they oppose it on moral grounds. And they see it as an opportunity also to stir up their adherents and to draw more people to their cause, which is about really, as all evangelical wisdom ultimately is about converting all nations. So this is primary talking point for them. And it’s and that’s what drives a lot of that money side. Obviously, you know, corporations, particularly the energy industry over the last 10 years, has put in about two billion dollars fighting climate change through combination of lobbying, disinformation organizations, Astroturf groups of television ads, phony science. You know, he’s gone through and written about a lot of these bad actors. And that’s you know, I think that’s a fundamental thing that they’re trying to do, is just hold off the inevitable by throwing out enough of the smokescreen that they can continue with a business model until they find an alternative. 

Mm hmm. 

So, you know, I’ve written about this. You write about this, but I actually think I was wrong. I mean, you know, I going back to 2004, 2005, you know, follow the money, find the think tanks that have received funding from Exon Mobil that go on to attack climate science. And yet, if you look at the issue today, here’s my counter argument. I want to try it out on you. 

If you look at the issue today, first you look at the cap and trade battle that occurred in Congress and you found that industry was pretty split and there were plenty of companies that wanted cap and trade to go forward. Plenty of fossil fuel companies that wanted it to go forward because they thought that they would finally have a stable business environment which to operate. And they figured regulation of their greenhouse gas emissions was inevitable eventually anyway. And then you have this other thing, which is called the Tea Party, which is just as anti evolution as it is anti global warming. And the, you know, are anti climate science. And the attack on climate science from this sort of libertarian leaning philosophy is one that’s characterized by a worldview that’s called individualism, which basically means that, you know, you go out and you work hard and you get ahead or you don’t. And if you don’t, it’s something wrong with you and you deserve how you ended up. So you never regulate the economy. Governments don’t intervene in the marketplace and certainly not global governments, you know, imposing rules through treaties to control greenhouse gas emissions. So it all kind of flows from there. And that’s that’s my view of it now. 

I think it does. I think that both are correct. I think it’s kind of like the particle wave duality here. 

Well, I you know, I think that it is initiated with with money and a lot of it is being fed by money. 

You know, I just did a blog post for the Huffington Post showing one Tea Party activist who’s funded by American majority to go around to talk to Tea Partiers to give them tools for Internet propaganda battles, for instance, downgrading liberal books and movies so they don’t come up in search results as often and things like that, that wouldn’t be happening without the financial support of some vested interests. But I do agree that it’s a values battle as. 

Kind of as a secondary reaction to that. I mean, the Koch brothers have spent a lot of money to promote libertarian ideology. The Coke family has really for the last 80 years. 

And we’re seeing the results of that paying off. 

Any time you put a lot of money and advertising behind an idea, you can associate it with fundamental human values and the American ideal of individualism that ties into the hall just. 

Well, belief theory and psychology, I think, is a really, really big factor in that. But then you get to the question of how what is really freedom? There’s regulation, which is what at the root of all of this? I think those regulations reduce freedom or increase freedom. And I think that you can clearly make the argument that if it is evenhanded, regulation levels the playing field, that it increases freedom regulations that came out of science, that, you know, you can’t dump feces on the street or in the public waterways because they spread that spreads cholera. I think that, though, that has greatly increased our freedom regulations to say that you can’t just dump your chemical sewage into a river, that we drop drinking water, I think has greatly increased freedom. So there’s a it’s a really interesting question. And the other side of the debate is not being adequately represented. 

Yeah, no, I agree with you. I just I just think we have this crazy force in our politics of science right now where the, you know, the social conservatism and the economic conservatism are actually really tightly intertwined in the attack simultaneously on evolution and climate. So it doesn’t seem like these are two separate from. It seems like it’s all bundled up together and it’s almost sort of the same force. 

Yeah. Yeah. I like I’ll go along with that. 

Well, you know, the key issue here. Right. And it’s it’s hard to avoid. 

It is. 

The Republican Party. I mean, you know, and this is where I’m gonna just give you a little bit of a challenge. You know, on some things you say in the book, you know, I mean, I agree with pretty much everything you say in the book, but I’m going to quote you something where I could I could fight a little bit. So you say that Democrats as a party had not taken any political stances against science or even though Democrats as a party not taken a political Sansing in science, the political left was suffering from a cultural retreat from it, just the same, ranging from much of the alternative medicine, anti vaccine movements to new age beliefs to postmodernism and academia. OK. I don’t think that these are the same thing as what we get on the right. I don’t think postmodernists wherever, very influential and certainly their influence has long since peaked and gone into serious decline in academia. Anti vaccine. You know, find me a Democratic politician who is saying the Vakhtang vaccines cause autism at this point and actually find me a liberal journalist who doesn’t think that the people who say that need to be hideously kriti criticized. 

You know, OK, there’s alternative medicine on the you know, the left coast and the, you know, California and New York more than there is maybe in the heartland. I don’t know. It’s not the same as a as a as a party sort of taking on denial of reality on climate change. 

No, I don’t think it’s the same. But I think that it had an effect and that effect has as had pretty far reaching consequences. You know, the idea that that sure. Postmodernism is is then become somewhat passé at this point in time. But in the 1970s and 1980s, most of academia and much of our secondary education was heavily influenced by postmodernism, which is the idea essentially that, ah, thought process and our individual worldview really is, but determines our experience of truth, that there is no objective truth. And that is, I don’t know if you remember back then, but that’s really what got Rush Limbaugh going, was his railed against political correctness, which came out of kind of the marriage of postmodernism and the civil rights movement, which led to a lot of often justifiable outrage at some of the absurdities that that created. And that, in turn, laid an intellectual groundwork for the broader spread of right wing intolerance and extremism and kind of the resurgence of the outraged right. And at the same time, it eroded the capacity of journalists to properly report on science. I know that you’ve done a lot of writing and on it. It’s not as simple as that. There’s a lot going on right now in journalism from the Internet to, you know, that FCC lifting of the abolishment of the Fairness Doctrine. But part of it is the idea in journalism that you were caught on both sides of the story and then your job is done. And that false balance comes right out of that idea that you can’t take a side when reporting a story. And I don’t think that that’s right. I think that you can take a side and the side that you take is the same process that science tries to do, try to take the side of what really happened. 

A, I don’t disagree with you at all, a phony balance. Coverage of science, Tavis’s just really appalling. It’s nevertheless remains a default. But, you know, it’s even even bigger problem is that even if you had, say, you had media outlets who were, you know, saying no more phony balance. And so from now on, we’re going to call it as it is on evolution and we’re gonna say this is accepted knowledge. And when someone when someone claims otherwise, either we don’t quote them or we quote them in order to just show how wrong they are. And then we quickly correct them and say objectively, they’re wrong. If you had a news organizations doing that, you would then just have a Fox News doing exactly the opposite. And it almost wouldn’t matter in a sense. So. So I agree that it’s that we have this phony balance. But if we didn’t, then we would just have ideological media. And to some extent we do. They just have their own version of reality. And that’s why the postmodernists were half right. Because people do make up things in their heads. But there is they’re wrong in that there is an objective way to find out who’s right and wrong. 

Right. And that’s what we’ve lost in large part in our national dialog. And I think a lot of that came out of that training of journalists. You know, a generation ago when a White House correspondent, David Gregory, was asked, why didn’t you go after it? And not only him, but but a lot of White House correspondents, national press corps were kind of many of them were taken to task about why didn’t you ask more probing questions about the lack of any supporting evidence to back the idea that Saddam Hussein actually had weapons of mass destruction? We needed to go into Iraq. The answer was that that’s not our job. And I think that’s fundamentally wrong. Their job is to get to the bottom of the story and report what’s really going on. And the fact that we’ve lost that, I think we’ve lost something precious to the United States. And that has enabled this erosion of the idea of truth to the point that now we just have, you know, constant battles of warring opinions without any arbiter of or way to figure out what is real and what is true. 

Yeah, it just it just scares me because, I mean, you know, the human brain evolved. I forget now, but many, you know, hundreds of thousands, millions of years ago didn’t evolve at one time, obviously. But it’s never been put in a context with today’s media. And I think it might be it might be structurally impossible to avoid everybody having their own reality when you put the human brain in that context. 

Yeah, it’s pretty tough. I mean, I think that if you look at the power of money in mass media together or are pretty dangerous, they’re pretty hard to handle. 

People don’t really realize it. That means going back to nineteen thirty eight and the war of the world. If you don’t believe that Keith Hall’s reality is influenced by what they hear in the media, just look at that. You know, people thought that we were actually being invaded by inversions, which is outrageous and ridiculous when you look at the left right. 

But people as reasonable people actually believe that a confidential panic. So people do listen to authority and they view whoever is speaking out in the media as authority figures. And that’s just that, I think, with Wired. So if it becomes a problem for us when we are given a public airwaves up to people who don’t face what they say on data but forcefully articulated opinions, it does skew our sense of reality and what it’s really going into. And I think that that is a big thing that is separating the United States and other advanced nations. For instance, they shouldn’t have been talking to a reporter in the U.K. the other day, said, well, we’ve got a lot of the same factors. You know, we’ve got all centers and we’ve got a lot of money going into climate change denial, but they don’t have the same kind of traction here. Why do you suppose that is? I think that idea is part of it. 

Yeah, well, I know I think that some if we had something like a BBC, our closest thing is NPR, but it doesn’t have the same kind of established nature as being so dominant. But, you know, they’re not going to BBC or an NPR is not going to treat this sort of, you know, really, really dubious claims not supported by mainstream science and give them a serious C at the table in the way that you get in too much U.S. media. So I guess I buy that. I guess I do buy that. 

Yeah. And you see what happens as a result. I mean, they are subject to fairly regular attacks or attempts to defund them. 

Exactly. So that’s. And that, again, is like this is how do we fix this? Everyone’s so politicized. The assertion of reality is such a political act that the more you do it, the more you just get attacked. 

I’m feeling I’m feeling frustrated. Anyway, let me remind listeners again, Sean Ottos new book, Fool Me Twice Fighting the Assault on Science in America is available through our Web site. Point of inquiry, dawg. All right, Sean, tell us your approach to solutions, which turns, it seems, pretty centrally on this science debate concept and just bringing science greater attention and also the pledge. How are you gonna try to start to fix this? 

Well, science debates are for sure important because what they do is they bring science together with policymakers and the public in the realm in which the general public is familiar with taking in information, which is in the context or national policy debate. So I think that that is a critical, critical part of the solution. But in a broader sense, we need to reverse the two generation trend among scientists of segregating themselves from our civic dialog and that, you know, that that went back to the establishment of the National Science Foundation. 

You know, Vannevar Bush made that great pitch to Harry Truman about why we needed to continue to fund science after World War Two, how it would lead to advantages and economic growth. And he was right. But there’s a chance that he made the pitch too. Well, because at that point, scientists no longer really needed to do a lot of public outreach in order to fund their work and tenure system. Grew up in universities that didn’t reward public outreach and in fact, in many ways discouraged it. So we’ve had two generations of scientists who have taken research grants but not felt the need and in fact have had several strong disincentives to participate civically. And that doesn’t mean that they have to run for office, although would be great if more would, because less than two percent of members of Congress have any background professionally in science. 

We need a lot more. Rush Holt up there and more. Vern ALA’s up there and more Bill Fosters up there. But it does mean that they need to. Be talking to their friends and neighbors are serving on their local school board. That’s not a partizan role, usually just about the role of data and decision making and the role of critical thinking in passing information and making policy decisions about how we conduct our lives. Those things should be based on our best knowledge. And time and time again, we have shown that it’s very easy for us to deceive ourselves with what they can call Baldor induction, which is inductions or ideas or knowledge base in the way that we wish things were instead of where they really are. At the best, public policy is going to engage with reality. So that’s why I think scientists need to get more involved. The other thing is that the progressive and moderate religious community have really seeded the entire national religious discussion to a very small voice in that community. And they need to stop sitting on their hands and start looking at why these questions are important, moral and ethical questions for them to be discussing as well and to give voice to a less extreme position. 

Well, I you know, I did all that. I will say this, you know, 2009 I did with Cheryl Kirshen bomb this book, Unscientific America. And we definitely called for scientists to engage. And we got a little actually, we got a lot of blowback, buddy. 

One one of the kinds of lobach we got was, you know, the standard. That’s not our job. You know, we you’re asking us to teach. You’re asking us to write grants. And now you’re asking us to, you know, be communicator’s to, you know, where’s the time going to come from? From my schedule. 

But increasingly, you know, two years later, I feel like there’s been a gigantic sea change already. 

There’s no time. I encountered no resistance to this idea. Everywhere I go, you know, someone’s coming up with a new science communication training. You know, scientists dig it. So I think that I think that that battle might already be won. I think that it’s going to be hard to know exactly what the fruits of that are going to end up being. I think we’re going to have to sort of like watch it seep into the culture. 

We are. There’s no way to control it. 

But there’s you know, there’s nothing bad on the whole that can come from more of a database perspective are in our dialog. 

And, you know, I got to give you and you and Cheryl both credit for you for the Republican War on science and both of you for unscientific America. You’ve taken a lot of flak for calling a spade a spade. I don’t know if you saw the movie Moneyball, but it’s got one of one of the great all time lines in movies. And that and that’s the first guy through the wall always gets bloody. 

And I want to thank you for, you know, being the first guy through the wall because, wow, you know, some of the positions you’ve taken, you’ve taken a lot of heat for. 

He called a spade a spade, and you were right. 

Thank you. Thanks, John. I appreciate that. A great deal. And that’s a great quote that I did not know that I did not know. But it does certainly describe how these things work when you when you put yourself out there. Let me ask you another question. I mean, you know, you talk in the book about this body of research that I find not just very important. I find fundamental psychology, research, political psychology, research on motivated reasoning, which basically explains why people think that they’re right when they’re not about anything, about anything could be your love life or it could be you deny global warming, anything, anything that you’re emotionally attached to. And so this is the thing that where there’s a disconnect is on the one hand, we get a broader national conversation about science through science debate. We get scientists going out there and communicating a more evidence based view of policy. But you know what? That’s going to go through very imperfect human brains where people are going to not think that they’re anti science. If they resist scientists, they’re going to think that science is on their side on the issue that they’re actually denying science on. And they’re going to be sure of themselves and they’re going to come up with all these brilliant counter arguments. And that’s going to be tied to an emotionally laden circuit in the brain. 

Yeah. But I sure you run into the same thing I do. You know, if I post a blog post, there are lots of princess climate changes these days is the hot button. There’s lots of climate change deniers that will get on there and make a whole series. There’s probably about 10 or 12 different arguments that they will cycle through. And if you engage with them and you discredit them, you can bet. Down like they’re pitching you balls and they’ll just pitch a new one after that. So just continue to move on. And they’re not really the interesting thing is, is that a lot of people on the left think that the right is just stupid about this. And they’re not the most of the people that I’ve encountered that are at least these trolls on these in Houston that did this denialism. They’re far more educated about climate change than most of the people on the left, but they’re educated because, like you said, they’re motivated to prove a point to them. It’s just a rhetorical argument. And they’re trying to win the argument instead of trying to arrive at the truth that, you know, we’ve got this process in the United States that is kind of based on rhetorical argument. So I think it is problematic and I’m not sure of the solution except to get more science into that argument. 

Mm hmm. Well, let me just ask you one one closing question, if I can, you know, and then we’ll go wrap this up. So, you know, I’m I’m with you. I’m with you 100 percent of the way at whole this. And yet, you know, we go out there and we push a science debate. I mean, how we’re going to make it work this time when we didn’t before we could not get the candidates signed up and in 2008. Why is 2012 going to be different and why are Republicans going to not say that? Or if they even say anything about it, why are they not? I say this is just a tool to trap us. You know, this is a tool to get us up there and try and, you know, denying evolution in climate change. How on earth are we going to get them onboard? How on earth are we going to get candidates to an event? 

Well, those are a couple of different questions, so let me break it down first, are we trying to trap them? 

No, I’m not. You know, in India, I don’t think so. What we’re trying to do is in any way partizan. We’re not trying to work on behalf of Democrats and against Republicans. I would not you know, my family founded the Minnesota Republican Party. And, you know, people like Newt Gingrich, who’s just recently gone pretty prominently anti science, was one of our supporters for Science Debate 2008. So I don’t really think that this has to be an intrinsically partizan issue. I would love to see the Republican Party abandon its anti science plank. I think that that would be a terrific victory if we push this forward and they refuse. At least we are still getting the discussion out there and giving some back pressure against the forces of anti science, ideology and authoritarianism and authoritarian fundamentalism that are very dangerous right now in the United States. And if not us, who? I think this a the discussion, the battle, if you will, for reason, has merit. No matter what the outcome is. And sometimes you hit a home run, but sometimes you’ve got to get take a home one base at a time and it takes a sin. Sometimes it takes a whole team of different people and a lot of at bats to make social change happen. But we didn’t get here overnight and we’re not going to get out of it overnight. But it’s an important step along the way. No matter what happens and as far as tactically how we can make something like this work, I think that that’s going to in some ways be tied to what the Obama campaign and Barack Obama decide to do. If he embraces this idea, as he said he was embracing science in his inaugural address when he adopted part of our mission statement to restore science to its rightful place in America’s public dialog. If he follows through on that, he’s going to have a. National Forum that is going to attract moderates and reasoned minded people, and I think that that is going to provide some counterpressure to Republicans and to the forces within the Republican Party. 

That’s going to give some room for moderates in the party to reassert some political power within the Republican Party because they realize that they are ceding, as Jon Huntsman said, a really important part of the electorate in the swing vote. 

If they stay anti science and Obama embracing this idea would highlight that and carve that out. If he doesn’t embrace it, then I don’t think that we have any traction at all. So we’ll see what happens. 

Well, thank you for a comprehensive and actually very motivating answer. And I guess I will. I thought those last question. But isn’t the last question is is more simple. Tell our listeners what they can do to try themselves to engage in making this happen. 

I think one of the most important things that they can do is they can sign on, they can go to science debate dot org, and they can sign the call and then they can send it to every single person they know and ask them to sign the call. 

And the more people that we grow through that organization, the more grassroots power that we have. And then through that, they can contact the Obama campaign and urge them to commit to a presidential science debate. 

OK, just give us the Web site. 

It is w w w dot science debate dot org. 

Great. And John, I want to thank you for everything you’re doing to contribute to a more rational marketplace of ideas in America. And I wish you the best of luck with the book. 

Thanks, Chris. Best of luck to you, too. And thanks again for everything that you do. I think it’s really a critical work. Thank you. 

I want to thank you for listening to this episode of Point of Inquiry and again, to support science debate. You can visit their Web site at Science Debate dot org to get involved in a discussion about this show. Please visit our online forums by going to center for inquiry, dot net slash forums and then clicking on point of inquiry. The views expressed on point of inquiry aren’t necessarily the views of the Center for Inquiry, nor of its affiliated organizations. Questions and comments on this show can be sent to feedback at point of inquiry dot org. 

One of inquiries boost by atomizing and amrs New York, and our music is composed by Emmy Award winning Michael Waylan. This show also featured contributions from Debbie Goddard. I’m your host, Chris Mooney. 

Chris Mooney