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50 Questions for Our Elected

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What domain of knowledge do we expect politicians to be familiar with? Politicians often launch into issues and take positions ahead of establishing a grounding in basic facts about our world. Also, politicians seem to adopt positions that seem based on contradictory facts. So perhaps we can help politicians put first things first by encouraging them to research some basic facts about the world we live in, and, make public their findings.

Below is a list of basic questions about our world that I propose politicians answer early in their campaigns. It samples a domain of basic knowledge on which I think it is reasonable to expect a policy-maker should be conversant.

Politician General Knowledge Assessment

Politicians often say things so surprising that it is tempting to wonder what they might be thinking. What is the factual basis that informs each politician’s stance on the issues?  Here are some questions to pose to political candidates to assess what they know about important issues, basic facts about our world, citizenship, and the rules of logic.

Respondents are encouraged to consult any sources they believe to be reliable in answering these questions.

  1. How old is the universe?

  2. How old is the earth?

  3. When did life begin on earth?

  4. When did the first humans begin life on earth?

  5. Where did the first humans begin life on earth?

  6. Describe, briefly, your understanding of the theory of evolution. Do you believe in that theory? Why or why not?

  7. In what year did the world population first reach one billion people? In what year did it reach six billion people? In what year did it reach seven billion people?

  8. What is the current human population of the earth? How many people, worldwide, are Christians?

  9. Describe your understanding of peak oil. When do you estimate we will reach worldwide peak oil, if ever?

  10. Describe the distinction between petroleum reserves and petroleum resources. Are world-wide petroleum resources increasing, decreasing, or staying the same?

  11. From what country does the US import most of its oil?

  12. Does the US export any fossil fuels? If so, please describe this.

  13. Many years after an acorn is planted it grows to become a huge oak tree. Where does most of the mass of that tree come from?

  14. Describe your understanding of economic externalities. Give several examples relevant to today’s economy.

  15. Describe your understating of the term “the commons.” Identify several examples of “the commons” that are relevant today. Describe your understating of “the tragedy of the commons.” Describe several examples that are relevant today. What specific proposals, if any, do you have for avoiding actual or potential tragedy of those commons?

  16. Describe the fallacy of “false dichotomy.” Give several relevant examples.

  17. Describe the difference between correlation and causation.

  18. Describe the difference between anecdotal evidence and systematic data.

  19. Describe how a literal truth can send a false message. Give examples.

  20. What, if anything, establishes a fact? How does it differ, if at all, from an opinion?

  21. Describe how you sort through conflicting information to decide what you believe; i.e. describe your theory of knowledge.

  22. Do you believe that contraception prevents abortion? Why or why not?

  23. Are corporations people? Why or why not?

  24. Where does the US rank, worldwide, on various measures of gun violence?

  25. Describe the recent history of gun violence in Australia.

  26. Discuss your understanding of the statement “if guns are outlawed, then only outlaws would have guns.” How is this relevant, if at all, to discussions of gun violence?

  27. What is the current level of gun violence in the United States? Do you find this acceptable? If not, what specific proposals do you have for reducing gun violence?

  28. Are there any limits to the second amendment? If so, please describe them.

  29. Rank the ten amendments in the bill of rights in order of importance.

  30. How many times does the word “Freedom” appear in the US constitution?

  31. Describe the “Great Compromise of 1787” and its role in drafting the US constitution.

  32. Describe the “Three-Fifths Compromise” and its role in drafting the US constitution.

  33. Describe your understating of statesmanship. Who was the greatest statesman ever? Who is the greatest statesman now serving in congress?

  34. Describe the purpose of federal form I-9.

  35. What role, if any, does form I-9 currently play in immigration policy? What role would you like to see it playing in the future?

  36. What was the federal income tax rate for the highest earners (the top tax bracket) in 1960?  What is it now?

  37. What is the purpose of taxation? Is today’s tax system fair? Why or why not? Describe, in detail, a tax system that you believe would be fair.

  38. Describe the distribution of income and wealth in the United States.

  39. Politicians often talk about values. Please rank order the following values from the most important to the least important: 1) Caring for others, 2) Fairness, 3) Liberty, 4) Respect for authority, 5) Loyalty, 6) Sanctity.

  40. Do you believe the current incumbents propose or enact policies or legislation that violates the US constitution? If so, please cite a specific example of such polices, and identify the section of the constitution that is violated.

  41. Describe your understanding of the phrase “all men are created equal.” Describe how it is relevant to today’s social issues.

  42. Is homosexuality a sinful choice?

  43. What is the cost of the F-22 Raptor program? What is the military role of the F-22 Raptor? What is the combat history of the F-22 Raptor?

  44. What fraction of the US federal budget is the defense budget?

  45. Where does the US education system rank among countries in the developing world?

  46. What countries rank below the US in infant mortality rate (calculated as deaths of infants under one year old)?

  47. Where does the US rank in health care outcomes?

  48. Describe poverty in the United States.

  49. Describe malnutrition in the United States

  50. What are the five most important issues facing the American people? Why do you choose these? What solutions can you offer?

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Showing 10 reactions

commented 2013-06-13 05:42:28 -0400 · Flag
Thank you for your time. I agree this was a good dialogue. In an unrelated issue here is a song that you might like.
commented 2013-06-12 07:22:33 -0400 · Flag

Careful studies of substantial empirical evidence over the past 2,000 years have brought us increasingly accurate answers to questions 1-8. This information was not available to Jesus at the time he was teaching love and compassion. The human spirit sustains our quest.

I believe we best move forward when we can combine the best lessons on compassion with the best integration of empirical evidence. Regarding compassion, see:

This requires a mature understanding of tolerance. See:

The essential skill of tolerance is the ability to distinguish fact from opinion. This is difficult.

There are many unanswered questions in theology and in physics. We need to continue exploring with open minds, and warm hearts.

Thanks for the dialogue!
commented 2013-06-12 04:46:40 -0400 · Flag
My last post was in reference to conversations I have had with many people who feel abandoned by a theological construct that seems to be more imposed by mass media, than what we (as Christians) feel is our ultimate responsibility (in our way of speaking “calling”) to make a better situation for people who have been marginalized by society, and just because we have some idea that our prayers leave our heads and go to the Creator doesn’t mean we are “Delusional” as the legal code defines. The current legal code is very unforgiving towards the rights of people who “lack mental capacity.” Much of the language of the Left, in the United States, is tantamount to hate speech towards specifically Christians and Muslims. I am in a minority in my belief system, which positions me more towards the agnostic side of the force. But all this typing is to convey that these words are agreed with by hundreds of thousands of Christians, who believe that modern media so vastly misrepresents how we choose to view reality, that we are marginalized. Your questions 1-8 don’t really drive me away so much as they do many people who think that following a philosopher’s words from a few thousand years ago don’t deserve political exclusion.
commented 2013-06-12 04:30:52 -0400 · Flag
Thank you for your time and consideration to this issue. Left wing Christians feel as if they have very few allies.
commented 2013-06-11 07:37:36 -0400 · Flag
I consider multiple universes an open question. Running the numbers in the Drake equation, it seems likely that life is abundant in the universe and that intelligent life is likely.

We are not far apart in our religious beliefs.
commented 2013-06-11 00:42:43 -0400 · Flag
I am a Christian. I believe in evolution. I don’t attempt to convert people to my way of thinking. I am not an Evangelical, but I am Protestant. I don’t believe Jesus was God on Earth (in my opinion that is a debate for Christians only, but you asked). These are only a few points about my own thought process. It is impossible to simply describe my faith in just a few loaded terms and many points of my faith have changed over time. I don’t care about the afterlife (as I am not dead). I prefer the scientific method for matters of practicality.
commented 2013-06-11 00:27:11 -0400 · Flag
Okay, then. I would like to ask some questions that primarily apply to agnostic and atheists. I admit my bias towards the definition of agnostic “how do you know?” 1. Do you believe that there are multiple universes? 2. Do you believe that there is intelligent life that is not from Earth?
commented 2013-06-08 07:02:54 -0400 · Flag
Thanks for these questions.

You are free to answer questions 1-8 in any way you choose. I have no intention of controlling your system of thought. I do believe a voter has a right to glean insight into a candidate’s system of thought before deciding who to vote for.

The definitions given in are sufficient for the terms you ask about. The religious person claims: “There is a God” and the agnostic asks “How do you know?” The atheist claims: “There is no God”, and the agnostic asks “How do you know.”

See #21. My theory of knowledge is described at:

In today’s world where we are bombarded with information at all levels of accuracy, I believe it is essential for each person to know how they know. Perhaps that is what you mean by a “system of thought”. Have you developed or chosen a theory of knowledge you are comfortable with?
commented 2013-06-08 03:39:58 -0400 · Flag
Scrap questions 1-8 and I will trust that you don’t want to control my system of thought. I have 3 inquiries. Describe the difference between the 3 terms “religious,” “agnostic,” and “atheist.” Are these systems of thought; why or why not? Can people who don’t know you predict your answers to questions based on one word that you choose to describe your system of thought (wether or not you find the term “system of thought” to be offensive)?
followed this page 2013-06-04 20:17:03 -0400

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