At the 2009 International Day of Peace held on September 21 in New York City, former Vice President Al Gore addressed a crowd of scientists and urged them to become involved in politics, but added with a smile, “Keep your day job.”
Citing how other scientists have joined the Administration, Gore said, “Scientists can no longer in good conscience accept this division between the work you do and the civilization in which you live…We do have the capacity to make this generation one of those generations that changes the course of humankind. The stakes have never been higher.”
US Secretary of Energy Doctor Steven Chu was amongst the first scientists tapped by President Obama to serve in the administration. However, Chu’s political engagement had begun before the 2008 Presidential Election cycle, when an organization called Science Debate 2008 entreated Democratic and Republican candidates to engage in a national debate on science issues.
As a sign of the times, faith trumped science in the public arena. Science Debate 2008 chased the candidates throughout the campaign season. During the run-up to the Pennsylvania primary, Obama and Clinton put their campaign markers down on a faith-based conversation instead, which McCain (not renowned for his position on faith) declined. In a last ditch effort to establish a conversation, Science Debate 2008 acquiesced to receive written responses from the final candidates, Obama and McCain, to questions that only glazed the topic on which environmentalists and scientists craved to vet candidates. Ironically, the Green Party, largely seen as the environmentalist party, was shut out despite efforts to get one of its Presidential candidates, Kent Mesplay, Ph.D., an environmental scientist in on the debate.