FCCJ Class Discusses Science in Politics; the Course Examines Policies amid the Presidential Race

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Byline: ADAM AASEN

The 2008 presidential candidates have been asked some tough questions on the economy, abortion and national security.

But scientists have some pretty difficult questions they'd like to ask, too ... like, how is the world going to end?

In "Science and Politics," a new course taught by biology professor Pamela DeMent-Liebenow at Florida Community College at Jacksonville, students will research how politicians answer some of science's biggest questions.

Is climate change an immediate concern? What's the best energy policy for the United States? And should someone who believes the earth is 6,000 years old be on a presidential ticket?

Even though only five students are enrolled in the elective course, there's plenty of lively discussion. Especially because Mike Reynolds, FCCJ's dean of liberal arts and sciences, sits in on most of the classes. The students are graded based on presentations and class participation.

"We don't avoid any topic here," DeMent-Liebenow said. "Sex, religion, politics. It's all on the table."

DeMent-Liebenow, 62, has taught some unique sciences courses in past semesters at FCCJ such as "The Science of Science Fiction" and "Science and Investigation." Next semester, she's teaching a course on the search for extraterrestrial life.

DeMent-Liebenow said she was a political activist in the 1960s who marched for issues such as women's rights, civil rights and environmental protection. Through classroom discussion, she said she realized, "none of the candidates know a whole lot about science, so we decided to put together this course."

She isn't shy about expressing her political views. She supports Sen. Barack Obama for president and took a couple of shots during class at Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain's running mate. Palin's religious beliefs and stance on polar bears as an endangered species are some of her flash points.

"I could not possibly vote for president for people who believe the earth is 6,000 years old, there's no global warming and species depletion is not important," she said, then added mockingly, "and who cares about the polar bears? …