4 MIT professors give science advice to the president.

No Sense of Place directed me to 4 MIT Professors give science advice to the president. The actual number is 85 and counting, from science personalities nationwide, including such personalities as Craig Venter (who has a great rant), Ray Kurzweil (who goes offtopic, but makes some excellent points), Eric Drexler, and this from Stephen Schneider.

The role of science in the public debate is clear: assess what can happen and what are the odds of it happening. The role of policy�driven by the beliefs of the public�is to make value judgments on how to react to the odds of various possibilities. It will take some major realignment of institutions like the media and congressional hearings apparatus to back away from the model of polarized advocates toward a doctrine of “perspective”:reporting and debating based on the assessment of the likelihood of various events, not giving advocates of extreme opposite views equal time or space.

Anyone who has the media report on their particular topic of expertise, especially if it’s a scientific topic, knows how totally clueless the newspaper or television treatment can be. However, more subtle distortion also exists. Instead of reporting on the different positions of many scientists regarding a certain issue and maybe the relative validity of each postion judged by the number and repute of the scientists holding each position, the stories that get reported force a debate among the two most diametrically opposed views, even when neither is very likely. Ever read anything about Nature vs. Nurture?

My eyes opened wide when I realized how clearly he understands the problems of science debate among the public and the nation. Unfortunately, and perhaps this is the problem, every statement I read declined the hypothetical offer to be science advisor to the president.