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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Should the Next President Be Scientifically Literate?

Comments (10)

Amy forwarded another 3QuarksDaily article titled Science Debate 2008, and Krauss on Science and the Presidential Campaign.

Did you know that according to a 2006 National Science Foundation Study, 25% of Americans did not know that the earth goes around the sun?  I had to stop and read that twice.

I’m not talking about the age old "evolution vs. creationism" discussion that eventually devolves into a polarizing (and in my mind irrational) religious debate.  I’m not talking about global climate change.  I’m talking about basic science.  How do plants grow?  How do planes fly?  What’s the difference between ice, water, and steam?  What is the relationship between the earth and the sun?

While it’s entertaining to me to consider the notion of having a qualifying science test (say – ninth grade science level) for all voters to be able to vote, I know this isn’t the right path to go down for a variety of reasons.  However, maybe we should give this test to all the presidential candidates.  Anyone up for a "Leave No President Behind" rule?

  • http://westcoastgrid.blogspot.com Dan Ciruli

    Again, without degenerating into an irrational debate: how about just a basic understanding of “What is the scientific method?”

  • http://sophisticatedfinance.typepad.com Robert Hacker

    Excellent idea but the only former Presidents who I feel confident would pass are Eisenhower and Carter. I would like to also add a geography test (50% of Americans think Tokyo is in China) to qualify candidates. On that test the number who pass increases to four-Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter and Father Bush

  • Jim Pollock

    Let's start small then pick the fight. How about all presidential candidates should have a 3-digit IQ. That would be a nice start. I personally and lobbying for Martin Sheen to legally change his name to Jed Bartlett. I'd vote for Dr. Bartlett in a heartbeat. A PhD Economist isn't a bad start.

    Jim

  • Ross

    I think I'd take your test another angle, how about “why did you vote for this candidate” – and you can't say “he's not the other guy” or “he wears boxers” but rather a real reason why you think this candidate is the right person to lead our country. I don't have to agree with someones opinion but knowing they can form a real opinion based on their beliefs is enough for me.

  • A. Rational Human

    We the People pick people who are the most like We the People. They pick the familiar, the comfortable, and the emotionally warm and fuzzy. If by accident, the picks are also competent in th subject matter most needed at the time, we luck out. More often, they are disasters or at best near disasters.

    The remarkable thing is that we have survived over 200 years of this “selection” process. With luck, we can survive a while longer..

    My guess is that we will soon be SOL big time. I hope I am wrong but I see nothing that makes me believe that we have more of a chance than that famous snowball.
    .

  • http://sco.tt Scott Yates

    Understanding science is important, but the job of president is to set priorities. One issue I've seen very little coverage of is how willing each candidate is to fund NASA. The only one I've seen who has said anything is Barack Obama, and he gave the wrong answer.

  • scodottt

    Sorry, link should be:


    “>http://www.sco.tt/scott_yates/2007/12/bridge-to-t…

    (Trying OpenID, too, and finding it a hassle!)

  • http://www.derekscruggs.com Derek Scruggs

    @Robert – Clinton would pass those tests too, especially the second. Hillary was immensely popular in Japan back in the day.

    @Dan – more precisely, can they define “theory?”

  • Stormy

    And only 42% of Americans believe in Darwin! http://uk.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUKN
    I think in today's technology led world, the president has to be familiar with latest technology and science. They should have their own email address, know what a blog is, and be familiar with all the latest science and technology updates.

  • http://stormyscorner.com Stormy

    And only 42% of Americans believe in Darwin! http://uk.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUKN
    I think in today's technology led world, the president has to be familiar with latest technology and science. They should have their own email address, know what a blog is, and be familiar with all the latest science and technology updates.

  • Dan Ciruli

    Again, without degenerating into an irrational debate: how about just a basic understanding of "What is the scientific method?"

  • Derek Scruggs

    @Robert – Clinton would pass those tests too, especially the second. Hillary was immensely popular in Japan back in the day.

    @Dan – more precisely, can they define "theory?"

  • scodottt
  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jim_pollock555 jim_pollock555

    Let's start small then pick the fight. How about all presidential candidates should have a 3-digit IQ. That would be a nice start. I personally and lobbying for Martin Sheen to legally change his name to Jed Bartlett. I'd vote for Dr. Bartlett in a heartbeat. A PhD Economist isn't a bad start.

    Jim

  • Robert Hacker

    Excellent idea but the only former Presidents who I feel confident would pass are Eisenhower and Carter. I would like to also add a geography test (50% of Americans think Tokyo is in China) to qualify candidates. On that test the number who pass increases to four-Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter and Father Bush

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ross2308 ross2308

    I think I'd take your test another angle, how about "why did you vote for this candidate" – and you can't say "he's not the other guy" or "he wears boxers" but rather a real reason why you think this candidate is the right person to lead our country. I don't have to agree with someones opinion but knowing they can form a real opinion based on their beliefs is enough for me.

  • A. Rational Human

    We the People pick people who are the most like We the People. They pick the familiar, the comfortable, and the emotionally warm and fuzzy. If by accident, the picks are also competent in th subject matter most needed at the time, we luck out. More often, they are disasters or at best near disasters.

    The remarkable thing is that we have survived over 200 years of this "selection" process. With luck, we can survive a while longer..

    My guess is that we will soon be SOL big time. I hope I am wrong but I see nothing that makes me believe that we have more of a chance than that famous snowball.
    .

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/stormy3695 stormy3695

    And only 42% of Americans believe in Darwin! http://uk.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUKN
    I think in today's technology led world, the president has to be familiar with latest technology and science. They should have their own email address, know what a blog is, and be familiar with all the latest science and technology updates.

  • Stormy

    And only 42% of Americans believe in Darwin! http://uk.reuters.com/article/lifestyleMolt/idUKN
    I think in today's technology led world, the president has to be familiar with latest technology and science. They should have their own email address, know what a blog is, and be familiar with all the latest science and technology updates.

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