The idea that a presidential debate focused on science will advance the cause of science "is more magical thinking than scientific,"
according to a new essay by David Goldston in the journal Nature. Momentum around such a debate has been growing since December, when a grassroots, nonpartisan group called Science Debate 2008
started a petition that called for a "public debate in which the U.S. presidential candidates share their views on the issues of The Environment, Medicine and Health, and Science and Technology Policy." The petition now has many thousand signatories [full disclosure: they include both myself and the editor-in-chief of Popular Science
, a.k.a. my boss].