It was the largest grassroots initiative in US history: The “Science Debate” in reaction to the presidential campaign in 2008 (see Wikipedia entry). Among the scientific organizations supporting the campaign were the Carnegie Institution, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the US National Academy of Sciences, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Biophysical Society as well as all the main universities, many Nobel laureate, companies and science media. Some of you might have followed the presentations I gave on this issue (in Stanford, Tallin, Madrid (interactive prezi), Vienna (in German!) etc. — or see my blog posting about our own research activities in this area), because I am truly convinced that such an initiative also needs to be facilitated in Europe (which is what we tried with a few colleagues in Germany 2009 at TELI).


The let’s say “father” of the US Science Debate, Shawn Otto, whom I was priviledged to have some excellent discussions with about the prospect of scientific citizenship, has now written a book about his experiences:
Fool Me Twice:
Fighting the Assault on Science in America
(you can order it here)
For those in the US: There will be a publishing party in MN, next week.

Further info:
Podcast — an interview for the book:
ReviewsStarred Kirkus Review, Starred Publishers Weekly

Praise “This book illuminates the alarming hostility to science in contemporary America by exploring the history of that often-tortured relationship. It’s essential background to understanding why such a smart country is, in this regard, so dumb.” (Steven Pinker, Harvard Professor and author of How the Mind Works and The Better Angels of Our Nature)
“We’re seeing right now a titanic battle between the power of science and the power of money–and money is winning. This book explains why, and offers some pointers that might get us back on the right track.”
(Bill McKibben, founder, and author of Eaarth and The End of Nature)
“Otto makes a case that can’t be refuted. Science is important to all of us, especially the US government. He backs it up with peer-reviewed studies, with carefully researched numbers, and with his own extensive experience. He uses the process of science to prove that we need to invest in science. Here’s hoping some voters and Congress members take him seriously– soon.”
(Bill Nye, the Science Guy®, Executive Director, the Planetary Society)

“Before you vote in the next election, read Shawn Lawrence Otto’s FOOL ME TWICE.”
(Ben Bova, Six-time HUGO Award winner, writer & AAAS Fellow)

“Shawn Otto cofounded an effort that is springing up in several countries across the globe – the idea of having candidates for elected office debate the science challenges the current policy makers seem unable or unwilling to discuss let alone resolve. America and the world owes so much to science, to the discoveries that great innovators translated into benefactions for all mankind. Yet today we have policy makers proud to ignore the consequences of ignorance, oblivious to the connection between knowledge and freedom.”
(Sir Harold Evans, author of They Made America: From the Steam Engine to the Search Engine, Two Hundred Years of Innovators and of The American Century; BBC, Columnist, editor at large, The Week Magazine)

Follow Shawn at:

Kommentare (17)

  1. #1 Sascha Vongehr
    13. Oktober 2011

    As long as science itself suppresses criticism with the arrogance of a tyrant while it is itself responsible for so many problems, people will go on to ever more distrust science, whether you like that or not. Cheer lead all you want, but the Science Debate/Science Wars are far from over. They have not even started yet.

  2. #2 Alexander Gerber
    13. Oktober 2011

    Right so, Sascha, this is also why I advocate for an OPEN debate, both in terms of the participants (laypeople on an eye level with scientists and policy makers, leading us to the ideal of a “scientific citizenship”) and in terms of not anticipating or prescribing any specific direction or result of the debate form the start (which is what mostly happens so far). Only such an open (“ergebnisoffene”) debate has the potential to develop the necessary transparency out of which the TRUST you are speaking of may develop. The media should by no means be the “cheerleader” in this debate but rather the mediator and “watchdog”.

    As far as I can see this is also what Shawn Otto and the “Science Debate” attempted — to assure that not a single person or party, any closed circles or politic elites decide (e.g. through funding) about the direction into which science is supposed to investigate. You might recall the original reason-why of the 2008 US debate where among 3000 questions posed to the presidential candidates in more than 170 TV interviews no more than SIX questions dealt with the issue of “climate change” in one way or another (compared to three questions dealing with UFOs). An increase of the perceived relevance of science in the published and public political discourse was the reason to start the science debate in the first place.

    This is also what I see as the major challenge of what we call the 5th development stage in science communication — to make the wider public an integral part of at least the fundamental decisions — and not just a receiver of a PUSH-ed PR ‘enlightenment’. Which is why we need to talk more about Open Science and Citizen Science, thereby steering the classical Public Understanding of Science into a Public Engagement for Science and — right so — just as much the Scientist’s Understanding of the Public. ;-)

    Best wishes to California!

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