A few more scientific questions for our politicians

For some reason American politicians are being asked to weigh in on matters scientific, notably global warming and evolution.   I’d love to know what Angela Merkel thinks of the models supporting climate change (she has a PhD in physics after all).  Why a governor’s or representative’s opinion on something far beyond their area of expertise should be of interest is beyond me.

To join in the fun, here are a few more questions for politicians, that I doubt you’ll find anyone in the press asking.

#1.  This year a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (volume 108 pp. 11790 – 117930) contained the following “Data for global surface temperature indicate little warming between 1998 and 2008.  Furthermore, global surface temperature declined .2 degrees Centigrade between 2005 and 2008”.  Data are data, and the paper went on to try and explain why.  Do you find these explanations convincing?

#2.  Do you think race is a scientific concept?  Now that we can sequence the genomes of many people so easily, people are writing papers like the following [ Science vol. 328 p. 1342 ’10 ] showing a common genetic ancestry for Jews.  Another study [ Science vol. 324 p. 575 ’09 ] studied 98 American Blacks, 3194 blacks from 113 African populations and 952 people from all over, showing that only 71% of the American Black genome is from western Africa, and 13% is from Europeans.  It appears to validate the concept of race.  Do you think this sort of research should be stopped?  promoted?  Hitler would have had a field day with it.  If elected would you support or oppose such research?

#3. Do you think intelligence is hereditary? Assuming IQ testing actually measures intelligence, most studies support some degree of heritability.  Do you think group differences in IQ results mean anything?   Should IQ testing be stopped?  Assuming race exists (see #2) how do you explain differences in IQ between races?  What would you do about it if elected?

#4.  We are embarking on a huge social experiment.  Existing children are being adopted by same sex couples, and produced by artificial insemination and surrogate motherhood.  Are you aware of any studies concerning the rate of mental illness, drug use, criminality in such offspring.  Should such a study be done?  Would you fund it if elected?

Don’t hold your breath until such questions are asked of people running for office.

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  • The Wavefunction  On August 30, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Excellent questions. Concerning same-sex marriage, it’s too early to tell but you might be interested in the following articles:

    1. “The Effects of Marriage, Civil Union, and Domestic Partnership Laws on the Health and Well-being of Children” (Pediatrics, 2006, 118, 249)

    2. A review by the Australian Psychology Society (PDF): http://www.psychology.org.au/Assets/Files/LGBT-Families-Lit-Review.pdf

    As to the relevance of the question to the candidate’s competence, it depends on the issue. Denying evolution is not the same as denying global warming.

  • luysii  On August 30, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    “Denying evolution is not the same as denying global warming.” Quite true, but skeptics about the latter are often conflated by advocates with something far worse, simply by calling them “Climate Change Deniers”. The choice of the term is quite intentional and lumps skeptics of the latest and greatest climate model with Holocaust Deniers. Most words in the language carry extra semantic baggage, which is probably why language is so powerful, communicating multiple associations with the same phrase.

    I’m interested to know if you found the explanations for the ABSENCE of global warming (in fact some degree of cooling) in the PNAS article convincing.

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