On Darwin Day, a Darwin Descendant On Science and the Election

US Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton  and Bernie Sanders participate in the PBS NewsHour Presidential Primar
US Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders participate in the PBS NewsHour Presidential Primary Debatein Milwaukee, Wisconsin on February 11, 2016. / AFP / Tasos Katopodis (Photo credit should read TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/Getty Images)

My great-great-grandfather, Charles Darwin, was born on this day 207 years ago. The Origin of Species was published over 150 years ago. Although he had the central ideas in mind long before, Darwin spent 20 years accumulating and marshaling his evidence before publication. Yesterday, it was announced that an idea Einstein proposed 100 years ago, the last prediction of his general theory of relativity, had been confirmed. Most people, myself included, will have some trouble understanding this. Many Americans, as with Darwin's theory, will refuse to understand it.

That's okay -- science is patient.

The American public, however, should NOT be patient about another extraordinary thing that happened yesterday: at the Democratic Primary debate in Wisconsin, there was not one single science question. Although there were a few vague references to the environment, neither of the candidates revealed any aspect of their science policy agendas. Think about that. Were it not for medical science, at least half of the four people on stage would be dead -- they'd either not have survived birth or died several years ago. Were it not for science, our economy would collapse. Were it not for science we would have little understanding of what we are doing to our planet that may make it impossible to live on.

You could take these three areas of science -- medicine, science and the economy, and the environment -- and give each a debate, and you'd still only scratch the surface. But no debates on literally the most important issues on earth? Not even a single question last night? That's verging on insane.

The only organization that's been persistently asking for such a debate is ScienceDebate.org. It wants a couple of science and environment primary debates and another general election debate. The organization has the support of almost the entire science community; many people involve in politics; tech star Elon Musk, and others stars like Mark Ruffalo and Johnny Depp who share his concern about the environment.

And the general public? Well, the organization's achievements speak for themselves. In the last election, both Obama and Romney answered Science Debate's 14 Most Important Science Questions in writing, explaining their science policies in detail far, far earlier than ever before. More than 800 million people read the answers and American voters went to the polls informed on these vital matters -- if they wanted to be. And it seems they do.

ScienceDebate.org and Research!America recently commissioned a poll that showed an overwhelming majority (86 percent) of likely voters, both Democrat and Republican, think the presidential candidates should participate in a debate to discuss key science-based challenges facing the U.S., including climate change and energy.

Science is an integral part of modern life. Debates are an integral part of democracy. As a proud descendant of a great scientist and a proud American citizen, I would urge you to sign this petition calling for these essential debates, and pressure your party and your candidates to make science debates an integral part of our election system.