Science Debate 2008 has asked Senators Barack Obama and John McCain to answer 14 top science questions facing America today. The theory is that we are living in a science dominated world and we should know where the candidates stand on science issues – a topic not usually covered by the press. Obama sent in his answers a couple of weeks ago and McCain’s appeared today. A side-by-side comparison of the candidate’s replies can be found here.
However, perhaps a set of prepared responses to a set of prepared questions is not the most telling way to judge a candidate’s stance on science issues – or any other issue for that matter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the folks at Science Debate 2008 have set up the questionnaire and am pleased that both candidates took it seriously enough to provide answers. But, perhaps the most telling glimpse into a candidate’s views on a subject can be obtained when that subject comes up during a live interview. Here’s what John McCain had to say today when speaking to the Associated Press and Florida newspapers:
“That’s nearly a million every day, every working day he’s been in Congress,” McCain said. “And when you look at some of the planetariums and other foolishness that he asked for, he shouldn’t be saying anything about Governor Palin.”
This was a comment about Obama’s earmark requests in response to queries about the earmarks Governor Palin has requested for Alaska. Quite frankly, I am left speechless at the phrase: “planetariums and other foolishness.” Perhaps I’m biased, but I never thought of planetariums as being foolish.
So, I did some checking on the internet. This is one of the great things about this election – the actual facts can be checked by anyone on the web. Here is the text from Obama’s FY08 funding request:
Adler Planetarium, to support replacement of its projector and related equipment, $3,000,000 :
One of its most popular attractions and teaching tools at the Adler Planetarium is the Sky Theater. The projection equipment in this theater is 40 years old, and is no longer supported with parts or service by the manufacturer. It has begun to fail, leaving the theater dark and groups of school students and other interested museum-goers without this very valuable and exciting learning experience.
Sorry, but replacing 40 year old equipment at one of the leading science education facilities in this country (the Adler Planetarium is located in downtown Chicago and is the oldest planetarium in the Western Hemisphere in existence today) is one of the best investments in the future that I can think of. I’ve always equated planetariums with science education – an area where the US seems to be lacking. In fact, the state-funded university where I was an undergraduate had one and its projection equipment was less than 40 years old. In fact, when I was in the 4th grade, my class took a field trip to the McDonnell Planetarium in Forest Park. It was one of the coolest things I did in grade school (well, that and the trip to see the Egyptian mummies) and I remember it to this day.
I wonder what Senator McCain would say if Senator Obama had supported funding for a hockey arena instead.