5. National Security
McCain gives a pretty standard answer, with not much in detail about the science aspect. "We need to ensure that America retains the edge in the most strategic areas and I will continue to encourage this with advanced R&D research funding."
Obama also wants to encourage funding, but provides better specifics: countering cyber and bio threats, an emphasis on basic research for true breakthroughs.
Verdict: Obama clearly has the better answer.
6. Pandemics and Biosecurity.
Obama offers up international cooperation and intelligence work to counter bioterrorism. Then pushes his electronic medical recordkeeping. Emphasis on education, and research into vaccines and drugs.
McCain offers similar ideas. He adds that "We need to continue to develop and facilitate the development of next generation automated detectors that can analyze as well as sample biological agents and feed information real-time to public heath [sic] and emergency management officials." This is indeed a glaring hole in our biodefences.
Verdict: McCain comes out slightly ahead with a more focused picture of the current situation and current needs. Neither really discusses concrete spending goals or anything of that nature.
7. Genetics Research
Deciphering the culture war codewords, McCain is worried about the 'ethical issues' and 'abuse' of genetic technology, but does not mention 'danger'. McCain is rightly worried about privacy and genetic discrimination. Strong support for genetic research for agriculture.
Obama is also concerned about "ethical, legal, and social issues," including discrimination. "I believe that we can continue to modify plants safely with new genetic methods, abetted by stringent tests for environmental and health effects and by stronger regulatory oversight guided by the best available scientific advice." This correctly (I hope) balances the promise and potential dangers of GM crops.
Verdict: Obama wins by at least acknowledging the potential for danger.
8. Stem Cells
Obama: "I strongly support expanding research on stem cells. I believe that the restrictions that President Bush has placed on funding of human embryonic stem cell research have handcuffed our scientists and hindered our ability to compete with other nations. As president, I will lift the current administration’s ban on federal funding of research on embryonic stem cell lines created after August 9, 2001 through executive order, and I will ensure that all research on stem cells is conducted ethically and with rigorous oversight.
I recognize that some people object to government support of research that requires cells to be harvested from human embryos. However, hundreds of thousands of embryos stored in the U.S. in in-vitro fertilization clinics will not be used for reproductive purposes, and will eventually be destroyed. I believe that it is ethical to use these extra embryos for research that could save lives when they are freely donated for that express purpose." Full marks, Senator Obama.
McCain: "I believe clear lines should be drawn that reflect a refusal to sacrifice moral values and ethical principles for the sake of scientific progress." Various scientific ethics bodies have already decided that embryonic and stem-cell research are perfectly ethical under certain circumstances (e.g. as long as the 'parents' of the embryo offer it willingly for research). These not-so-clear lines have already been drawn by these bodies of experts, which often include ministers and philosophers in addition to the mad scientists. McCain appears to be sticking with Bush in ignoring scientific expertise for political reasons.
Verdict: Obama gives the full and correct answer. McCain waffles. Obama wins, but will it play well in Dubuque?
9. Ocean Health
McCain acknowledges that there are no easy answers, and solutions are "complicated to implement effectively." "we also need a better scientific understanding of the oceans." Summary: This requires further study.
Obama: "Stronger collaboration across U.S. scientific agencies and internationally is needed in basic research and for designing mitigation strategies to reverse or offset the damage being done to oceans and coastal areas." "The National Marine Sanctuaries and the Oceans and Human Health Acts provide essential protection for ocean resources and support the research needed to implement a comprehensive ocean policy. These programs will be strengthened and reauthorized." Summary: This requires further study, and we'll step up some of the things we're already doing.
Verdict: Obama has a narrow margin, by offering to actually spend some extra money on these programs. However, Obama did not discuss his personal "attraction to and appreciation for our oceans." So it's a tie.
Obama emphasizes conservation and research into "new technologies that can reduce water use," but nothing very specific.
McCain gives a pretty similar answer.
Verdict: McCain edges ahead because he's a westerner, and used the phrase "water compacts".