Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why Don't We Elect More Scientists?

An editorial in today's New York Times asks this question, and it's a good one.  We live in an increasingly complex world, yet in the US Congress we have only one physicist, one chemist, one microbiologist, and six engineers.  There are some doctors and nurses too, but not many (about two dozen).

There's no guarantee that a scientist or engineer will be a good leader or politician, but having more people in Congress who are capable of analysis and reason strikes me as being a good thing.

Bill Hooke, Senior Policy Fellow for the American Meteorological Society, runs a summer colloquium  for graduate students and professionals with a strong interest in atmospheric policy.  The registration deadline for this summer is 1 March.  I attended several years ago and it is an incredible opportunity.  One morning during the colloquium, I had breakfast with Neil Lane, former science advisor for Bill Clinton.  We had dinner with Vernon Ehlers, then a republican member of the House of Representatives.  If policy and politics interest you, look into the colloquium.

This is not the emphasis of the colloquium, but Bill has a hope that someday we'll see a meteorologist elected to Congress.


  1. One (hyphenated) word: anti-science. And if Fox News started quoting scientist politicians, the Daily Show would have nothing to talk about.

  2. "having more people in Congress who are capable of analysis and reason strikes me as being a good thing"

    While I do have a problem with congress, I have an even bigger problem with the notion that only scientists and engineers are capable of 'analysis and reason'. I believe some extremely smart people would take serious offense to this.

  3. #2 - good point. My flippant comment was not carefully considered - maybe I'm the one in need of improved analysis and reasoning skills!

  4. Jim,

    Or, perhaps someday we may have a meteorologist/atmospheric scientist as the head of NOAA? Bob

  5. We elect so few scientists because, being rational, they won't run for election. Politics is hard. Being a good politician is several orders of magnitude more difficult than being a good scientist. Being a good scientist is easy: think logically and gather data. Being a good politician requires working with people, many of whom don't think logically and don't believe in data.