Can scientists get elected today?

Whee! When I grow up, I want to be a mad scientist. With minions. Lots and lots of minions Credit: flickr/moria

In Singapore, the new president with a Ph.D. In applied mathematics joined the Prime Minister who also has a mathematics degree. Could that happen here?

Not according to the New York Times story, "Why Don't Americans Elect Scientists?" Although the modern world has become highly complicated and technologically sophisticated, scientists aren't getting elected. Of the 435 members of the House, there are six engineers, almost two dozen with medical training, a chemist, a microbiologist, and a physicist. That leaves about 400 House members unfamiliar with the scientific method.

The reasons for this situation vary. Scientists rarely engage in public policy debates, and when they do, they can come across as socially insensitive. Religious and cultural groups need careful handling, and scientists stick to the facts. Add in the anti-intellectualism found in modern culture and a media slavishly devoted to celebrity rather than facts, and getting more scientists into politics seems doubtful.

Here's why

A politician needs to be able to take information from many different sources and make a decision very quickly using incomplete data. That is the opposite of the scientific method.

Andrew S on nytimes.com

Because current American culture is anti-intellectual. I can't really back this up concretely, but as an American, it's hard to find anything intellectual around.

prewett on news.ycombinator.com

being good at one thing doesn't make you good at another.

uuilly on news.ycombinator.com

For what its worth, some lawyers I know have to be good at the first two things, lying and speculating, while some MDs I know have a talent for speculating and overvaluing their own opinion. Born politicians.

n on nytimes.com

Understanding science is important, but a good scientist ? good manager.

kolinko on news.ycombinator.com

Let's blame...

The media have generally encouraged the dumbing-down and brutalization of our culture and discourse that are antithetical to a scientific approach to problem-solving.

JP on nytimes.com

That won't change until the electorate chooses intellect over greedy primitive warriors and superstitious Elmer Gantrys, starting at the local level.

Mary on nytimes.com

Party uber alles

But it IS true the left has made us a laughing stock to the world, because of Democrats insistence on rejecting science.

davedix2006 on nytimes.com

They're called Republicans.

Robert Watson on nytimes.com

In general, though, "anti-intellectual" seems to usually mean, "Why won't those damn hick Republicans just get out of the damn way!?"

thecabinet on news.ycombinator.com

Could we at least introduce the politicians to some scientists, so they know who to consult when the issues crash into conflicting facts?

What’s wrong? The new clean desk test
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies