Home | Neorenaissance - A blog from the intersection of science, politics and the creative culture

Is the new Tesla Model S right for you?

The man revolutionized the way we generate and use elecrticity. The car is revolutionizing the way we make, buy and drive cars.

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Sep 28, 2013

This week, I bought the world's game-changing automobile. Here's my review.

Not Your Granddaddy's Garbage Burners: Why Burning Waste for Energy Fights Climate Change

The technology is cleaner and safer than generally believed

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 06, 2013

VIDEO: A Presidential Debate on Climate

Climate change, science and the next four years.

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Nov 01, 2012

Thursday morning I moderated my first live presidential debate, on Capitol Hill.

Antiscience Beliefs Jeopardize U.S. Democracy

Shawn Lawrence Otto | Scientific American

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Nov 01, 2012

The United States faced down authoritarian governments on the left and right. Now it may be facing an even greater challenge from within

Who would be the best moderator for a presidential science debate?

Who has the media presence, debate chops, policy understanding and science literacy to lift America to a new standard?

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Apr 06, 2012

Both Obama and McCain attended the Saddleback faith forum because, some say, it was an honor to be associated with Pastor Rick Warren among the mainstream grassroots faith communities. Who could moderate a presidential science debate?

New Poll: Even religious voters overwhelmingly want candidates to debate science

Consensus among Protestants, Catholics for science debates, science-based policies; Twice as many think the US not spending enough on alternative energy as do defense

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Apr 03, 2012

It turns out that the presidential campaign staffers have it completely, one hundred and eighty degrees wrong when it comes to science. Overwhelming majorities of American voters want the candidates to debate the big science issues facing the country.

A Message from a Republican Meteorologist on Climate Change

Acknowledging Climate Science Doesn’t Make You A Liberal

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Mar 28, 2012

You can’t prove that any one of Barry Bonds' 762 home runs was sparked by alleged steroid use. But it did increase his “base state”, raising the overall odds of hitting a home run. You can’t point to any one weather extreme and say “that’s climate change”, but a warmer atmosphere increases the potential for historic spikes in temperature, and more frequent weather extremes.

Americans Deserve a Presidential Science Debate

In an age when the major US challenges revolve around science, we deserve candidates who will share their views on it

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Mar 19, 2012

America needs and deserves a president who can show that he or she understands the importance of basing public policy on the best available evidence, as the founders intended.

Missouri, The 'Stupefy-Me' State?

Six Missouri republicans are working to make their kids stupid

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jan 12, 2012

Six Missouri republicans - "the stupefy me six", let's call them - are hard at work trying to make Missouri kids stupid.

Franken, Whitehouse Expose Climate Deniers on Senate Floor (Video)

Two senators deliver a striking colloquy that is an outstanding resource for civics and science teachers nationwide

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Dec 19, 2011

It is shocking that US Senators actually have to rise to defend science. But two defenders of reason and liberty did a great job of it.

Obama is Just Plain Wrong on Plan B

Eight reasons why Obama should reverse his support of Secretary Sebelius's decision on Plan B

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Dec 15, 2011

The last time this happened, it was under Bush administration FDA commissioner Lester Crawford, and it was a major scandal. It should be this time too, and here's why.

Republicans Cut Top Science Office by 1/3

"Compromise" cut in Congress down from 55% in House bill

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Nov 16, 2011

White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) budget by a whopping 32 percent. The cuts "will have real consequences on OSTP's operations," said spokesperson Rick Weiss.

The UnAmerican War on Science

Today's antiscience politicians are not going to take America where we need to go

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Oct 27, 2011

America didn't keep the world safe for democracy by pandering to ideological dark agers - we got ahead by using hard-headed science. It's time we get back to it, and start putting America first again.

A Starred Review from Publishers Weekly for Fool Me Twice

"In this incredible book, Otto explores the devaluation of science in America."

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Sep 19, 2011

I'm really thrilled to announce they've given my new book Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America not just a passing grade, but a "starred review" which they say "indicates a book of outstanding quality."

Am I a bad parent?

Why I gave my son a dangerous cell phone even after San Francisco said it's bad for him

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Aug 01, 2011

Last week the big science news was a new study saying cell phones don't increase cancer risk in kids. It was promptly called into question on HuffPost and elsewhere. Several reporters referenced the May 31 release by the World Health Organization about a "possible" link between brain cancer and cell phone use, which classed it in the same risk category as eating pickled vegetables and drinking coffee. In a related move, last week San Francisco passed a regulation requiring retailers to post radiation exposure warnings on every phone and hand every customer educational material counseling them on the possible risks to their health.

Republican Science

Today's GOP seems increasingly anti-science, but it wasn't always so. 80 years ago, the antiscience social conservatives were Democrats.

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jul 07, 2011

Today the party that most stands for freedom, openness, tolerance, caution, and science is the Democratic Party, which may explain why fifty-five percent of scientists polled in 2009 said they were Democrats, while only six percent said they were Republicans, compared to thirty-five and twenty-three percent of the general public, respectively. Early in the twentieth century this situation was almost reversed. Republican Abraham Lincoln had created the National Academy of Sciences in 1863. Republican William McKinley, who is admired by Karl Rove, won two presidential elections, in 1896 and 1900, over the anti-evolution Democrat William Jennings Bryan.

The Manufactured Candidate

The truth-telling, pro-life, anti-science Tim Pawlenty is a closet moderate who once told me that "personally" he is pro-choice

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 25, 2011

Tim Pawlenty has based his presidential campaign on truth-telling and toughness, and likes to talk about his pro-life credentials. But there are some problems with that. I've known Pawlenty since he was a young republican state representative from Eagan, Minnesota. We had some of the same friends and used to golf together once in a while. His campaign treasurer was my accountant. And Pawlenty told me then that "personally," he was pro-choice.

Was Cap and Trade Oversold?

Environmental Leader Says Democrats Were Too Quick to Appease

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 14, 2011

Democrats and many members of the environmental movement are too quick to appease industry voices and have lost their focus, says a leading attorney forcing the climate change debate in the United States. Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity says she is "disappointed" with the Obama administration's approach to environmental issues. "Perhaps the president himself just doesn’t get it," she told me. "He certainly doesn’t have a background in environmental matters."

Siegel forced the Bush administration to list the polar bear as a threatened species, raising the ire of energy industry lobbyists, climate change denialists and antiscience radio commentators and prompting oil industry-funded pseudoscience papers arguing the bears were doing fine, like this one, partially paid for by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the American Petroleum Institute, and Exxon-Mobil Corporation.

The Science of Political Sex Scandals

Why politicians risk it all for a little nookie

By Shawn Lawrence Otto | Jun 07, 2011

Anthony Weiner has admitted his virtual affairs. What makes powerful men (and I say men because it seems so far to be predominantly a male trend, but as more women enter public office that may be revealed not to be the case) - what makes powerful men risk it all? On the surface of it, it seems crazy. But there are reasons from neuroscience. Let's start by looking at a short list of recent political sex scandals. More after the fold.