Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election 2016: Science and the Office of President

Environmental & Science Education
by Edward Hessler

The 21 October 2016 issue of Science, the most widely circulated science journal in the world, had an article "Science lessons for the next president." I just found it but that doesn't mean it is too late.

This election campaign was less than light on science but issues associated with and informed by science are very much a part of governing. They are bound to come up.

Sea level predictions [Source]
The list in Science did not aim at comprehensiveness but covered a range of important issues and suggests how pervasive science is in modern life. The issues discussed with great clarity are:

  • Evolution. The race between pathogens and defenses against them and our overuse of drugs.
  • Genome Editing (CRISPR).  This is not the drawer in refrigerators but an astonishing tool that allows genes to be edited therefore raising deep ethical issues as well as opening immense health-related possibilities.
  • Sea Rise. This is already happening even here on our shores and that rise is noticeable and increasingly alarming.
  • Brain Health. Alzheimer's is one of several brain-related diseases.  As our population ages they become more prevalent which is part of growing old.  They incur immense costs, social and financial.
  • Artificial Intelligence. This is a transforming technology and one with implications for the workplace and for work in general.
  • Risk.  If there is one thing we are not very good at it is judging risks of public policy proposals as well as assessing risks, e.g., those associated with new medicines.

Each is discussed in terms of what the science says, why it is important and pending policy issues.

These lessons are not just for the president. They are lessons for all. There is the body of government known as the United States Congress that will have a say on any for which policy is considered.  And then there is us -- citizens. We need to be informed enough to let legislators know our thoughts and the reasons (evidence) for them rather than just our opinions or beliefs.

This listing indicates one of the reasons that learning science, learning about it, and understanding how it works is essential to citizenship and to stewarding resources. Learning science provides us with skills and knowledge that can be used to help is be better consumers of information.

The essay may be read here.

No comments:

Post a Comment