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head in sand
Official U.S. policy on global warming

My 12-year-old son Connor asked a heartbreaking question last week: “Is our next president going to be a good one?”

His tone was pleading, and I knew what he meant. From the time he was five, Connor has known only one president. Please don’t make me type the name. During that time, Connor has developed a love of science, a deep concern for others and a passion for preserving the Earth. Connor is an optimist and works hard to be part of the solution. He has donated money to save several acres of rainforest and used a Barnes & Noble giftcard received at Krismas to buy An Inconvenient Truth. His long-term goal is to start an engineering company that creates a device that eats greenhouse gases. He recently resumed a long-delayed project to design a website to encourage donations to charity. In the meantime, he spends untold hours on the website Free Rice earning rice for the hungry, twenty grains at a time.

I love and admire him for all of this. He’s my hero and my conscience in many, many ways.

Because people like me did too little to prevent it, Connor has grown up under a presidency of surpassing, mind-numbing ignorance and deeply screwed-up values. Assuming two terms for the next president, next November’s election may well decide who sits in the White House throughout his high school and college years, making policies that affect global warming, stem cell research, educational policies, and countless other things that he cares about very deeply. There are so many things I hope for in our next executive. But at minimum, I would like my boy to experience life under a president who is scientifically literate.


Science is at or near the heart of nearly every major issue facing the world community. We cannot afford to have another U.S. president as thunderously and willfully ignorant of science as the current one. The planet can’t afford it. Nor can my son’s fragile optimism.


Scientific literacy should be a central issue in the upcoming election. We need to know whether these candidates have a working knowledge of the basics. To that end, a group of concerned scientists and activists has begun a call for the inclusion in the current election cycle of a debate on science and technology:

A Call for a Presidential Debate on Science and Technology

Given the many urgent scientific and technological challenges facing America and the rest of the world, the increasing need for accurate scientific information in political decision making, and the vital role scientific innovation plays in spurring economic growth and competitiveness, we call for a public debate in which the U.S. presidential candidates share their views on the issues of The Environment, Health and Medicine, and Science and Technology Policy.

Add your name to the petition here.

Read the article “Let’s Have a Presidential Debate on Science” at

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.