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Thread: Scientists aim for public office

  1. #1
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    Scientists aim for public office

    Keep the politics out of it:

    News and Observer (and AP): Scientists aim for public office

    Daniel Suson has a doctorate in astrophysics and has worked on the superconducting super collider and a coming NASA probe. Now he's heading back to school to take on an even trickier task -- getting elected to public office.

    He is among a growing number of scientists who feel slighted and abused in the public debate in recent years and are mobilizing to inject "evidence-based decision making" into public policy.

    Today, Suson, dean of engineering, mathematics and science at Purdue University Calumet, will join more than 70 other scientists, engineers and students at a hotel at Georgetown University for a crash course on elective politics
    Please, please, please let this be a growing trend.

    "Politicians have thought they could get away with saying things that are quantitatively false," Foster said Friday.

    Foster said he wants more fact and less ideology in political debate.
    Whee!
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    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

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    hmmh...and if we get opposing scientists in the same race?...

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    Quote Originally Posted by sarongsong View Post
    hmmh...and if we get opposing scientists in the same race?...
    Write in a third!
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    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

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    Probably as effective as sending a scientist to investigate a psychic or figure out a magician's tricks. I don't mean scientists are stupid, but the training and personality is, in general, exactly what would make a bad politician. Remember Feynman's story about arguing with the yeshiva students about making fire on the Sabbath? By his own recounting they took him apart. My guess is the same thing will happen here.

    The best politicians are professionals, and they've learned their profession with time and effort. The same scientists would turn up their noses in distain at a politician who took a crash course in science.

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    Have any scientists ever managed to get elected before?

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    Among the first results Mr Google gave me for USA congress:

    Vern Ehlers (R-MI), first elected in 1993
    Ph.D. in nuclear physics from UC Berkeley; former chair of the Physics Department at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI.

    Rush Holt (D-NJ), first elected in 1998
    Ph.D in physics from NYU; assistant director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab 1989-1998.

    Nancy Boyda (D-KS), first elected in 2006
    Chemistry/Education double major in college, then worked as analytical chemist and field inspector for the EPA.

    John Olver (MA-01), first elected in 1991
    Ph.D. in chemistry from MIT; professor of chemistry at several universities, including MIT and UMass-Amherst.

    I was actually looking for a list I had seen a few weeks ago, that listed about 20 legislators with heavy science training, such as medical doctors possess. I know where the list is, I just can't get to it right now.
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    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

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    Thanks; couldn't figure out how to ask Mr. G!

    Your home district?
    John Olver (MA-01)
    Les'see...I think Ron Paul (R-TX) is a doctor, and so was that Senator from Tennessee recently.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 01101001 View Post
    I was actually looking for a list I had seen a few weeks ago[...].
    Found it. New York Times: Physicists in Congress Calculate Their Influence

    According to the Congressional Research Service, there are only about 30 scientists among the 535 senators and representatives in the 110th Congress, and that is counting the psychologist, the psychiatrist, a dozen other M.D.’s, three nurses, an engineer, two veterinarians, a pharmacist and an optometrist.
    But physics is on a roll.

    “Go back 15 years, and there weren’t any physicists,” said Vernon J. Ehlers, a Republican who taught the subject at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., until he was elected to Congress in 1993.
    Still, they say, they manage to overcome any intellectual disconnect between the more or less orderly laws of physics and the sausage-making aspects of legislation. “Physicists are versatile,” Mr. Ehlers said. “We live in the real world.”
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    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

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    we need more scientists in Congress- i'm sick of looking at a bunch of guys in the same black suits, and it would add a little bit of credibility around the world if our leaders wore white lab coats all the time and used big words..

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    Why would scientists be any less susceptible to the temptations of Washington?

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    How about other countries?
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    Skepticism enables us to distinguish fancy from fact, to test our speculations. --Carl Sagan

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    The temptations offered by foreign countries to U.S. elected scientists, or temptations that elected foreign scientists face?

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    Quote Originally Posted by 01101001 View Post
    Daniel Suson has a doctorate in astrophysics and has worked on the superconducting super collider and a coming NASA probe. Now he's heading back to school to take on an even trickier task -- getting elected to public office.

    He is among a growing number of scientists who feel slighted and abused in the public debate in recent years and are mobilizing to inject "evidence-based decision making" into public policy.

    Today, Suson, dean of engineering, mathematics and science at Purdue University Calumet, will join more than 70 other scientists, engineers and students at a hotel at Georgetown University for a crash course on elective politics
    Sorry, but I've read way too many great big steaming bowls of economic woo theory served up in OTB by people calling themselves scientists to think that scientists will 'inject "evidence-based decision making" into public policy' any more than anyone else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mike alexander View Post
    The best politicians are professionals, and they've learned their profession with time and effort. The same scientists would turn up their noses in distain at a politician who took a crash course in science.
    I think I have to agree with this. Politics, at least as practiced in Washington, DC, requires a particular skill set that I doubt many active scientists possess. Better to look for candidates that have a scientific background but have subsequently proved themselves in the political arena, such as in state or local office.

    The best politicians are those who draw on the knowledge and experience of subject matter experts.

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    The best politicians are professionals, and they've learned their profession with time and effort. The same scientists would turn up their noses in distain at a politician who took a crash course in science.

    While this is exactly the opposite of what the Founders envisoned, it is the truth in American politics. The skill set of a politician (corruption, lying convincingly, backstabbing, etc.) is either learned or passed down within a family. I doubt anyone could any more take a "crash course" to become an effective politician than they could to become an airline pilot.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 01101001 View Post
    Keep the politics out of it:
    How does one do that when responding to a thread about entering political (ok, "public") office?

    I love the fact-based decision-making approach, though, as most politicians appear to be incapable of this skill and ignorant of various tried and true group decision-making algorithms which have proven to be far superior to to the very old-fashioned "majority vote" or "quorum" approaches.

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    I would rather have someone who loves being in public office run for public office and just have a lot of advisors--scientific, economic, and so forth.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 01101001 View Post
    How about other countries?
    It depends on what you mean by 'scientist'. The former president here [F.H. Cardoso] is a prestigious academician in the field of the 'social sciences'. You stumble on PHDs [of questionable quality] on every corner [economists, historians, sociologists, anthropologists, etc] since it is a social distinction here, and everybody pursues one [again, of questionable quality]. A great deal of congress people [lawyers, engineers, economists] have at least a Master´s degree. The former minister of Energy [Jose Goldenberg] is also a prestigious physicist [there have been some physicists in the several ministries]. But I´m not aware of any hard scientist in office [in charge of the policies].

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    Very few generals majored in any of the hard sciences, as working with people is much more a form of social art than it is about science.

    Unfortunately, while scientists do have access, in the form of advisors, they have very little real power, and no veto authority to put the kabosh on a decidedly undesirable course of action.

    Give the group a 2/3 annonymous vote-required veto authority over whom they're advising, however, and the next thing you'll see are changes to legislation which does away with that veto authority.

    This is the same reason why line-item veto proposals never make it out of Congress.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gillianren View Post
    I would rather have someone who loves being in public office run for public office and just have a lot of advisors--scientific, economic, and so forth.
    We've got that now, and it doesn't seem to be working too well, IMHO. Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt was a Senator after he came back from the Moon, and he's said that one of the biggest problems we have are the entrenched politicians who spend their entire working lives in Congress.

    Electing scientists to public office won't be a panacea, by any means, but in recent years, the Federal government has been gutting funding for the sciences in all areas (not just controversial things like stem cell research), which IMHO, is treasonous. First of all, we're in the middle of a couple of wars, and the absolute last thing that you want to do during a war is cut back on scientific research. Second, the planet's in a royal mess environmentally speaking, and unless we put some real cabbage towards changing that, we're going to be having problems of Biblical proportions. Finally, and probably most important for many folks, China's economy is growing rapidly, and they will soon become a dominant power in global affairs. Very dominant. Their economic power, in terms of ability to buy things, will utterly eclipse ours by a factor of at least 4. I'll be the first to admit that the US hasn't been all that great in terms of how we've acted on the world's stage, but we at least give token deference to things like human rights, and have processes (however slow they might be at times) to ensure our mistakes don't get too far out of hand. The Chinese don't and are pretty amoral when it comes to things like human rights. If the US wants to matter as a nation, then we must maintain our technological edge. Otherwise, we'll simply wind up a footnote in history. I don't care if we take second place to the Europeans, the Japanese, or the Indians, but to be behind a totalitarian state like China will be very bad for everyone in terms of human rights alone.

    Putting more scientists in office won't fix everything, but it just might give us enough breathing room so that the folks who are best qualified to fix our other problems (employment, healthcare, education, The War Against Terror, etc.) can do their job.

    Oh, and Einstein was offered the Prime Minister position when Israel was created, but turned it down.

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    I know that the Premier of China (Wen Jiabao) is a geologist, something that came in handy during the recent earthquake.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sarongsong View Post
    Have any scientists ever managed to get elected before?
    Ron Paul is a doctor, if I recall.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tuckerfan View Post
    We've got that now, and it doesn't seem to be working too well, IMHO.
    That doesn't mean it couldn't. The effectiveness of science's influence on government has increased and decreased from one case to the next as different people, organizations, and relationships have come, gone, and changed along the way. Having a particular structure or set of rules for this purpose codified and built into the system could bring consistency.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tuckerfan View Post
    the folks who are best qualified to fix our other problems (employment, healthcare, education, The War Against Terror, etc.)
    The problem is with the grouping. Scientists, at least at the high level that would be influencing political entities, are specialists. Qualification in one field does not imply qualification in another. In fact, to me it appears to do the opposite; high-level scientists, the instant they start talking about anything but their own specialties, appear to be even MORE ignorant, antilogical, hypocritical, biased, gullible, and just plain dumb than normal people... and more stubborn and haughty about how obviously indisputably right they are about everything and how laughably silly and pathetic those lesser humans out there who disagree with them are. And, for any given scientist, most political issues will fall outside of his/her area of expertise, which means that if you present political issues to a group of different kinds of scientists, EVERY issue will fall outside of the areas of expertise of MOST of the members.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    This is the same reason why line-item veto proposals never make it out of Congress.
    That and the fact that the US Supreme Court declared the line-item veto unconstitutional.

    Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417

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    The problem with a science/fact based system of government is that you can argue scientifically for any position just by assigning the "right" weights to significance and trustworthiness of the different observed fact.

    Opinion won't be eliminated, it'll just be argued at a higher level.
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    it's a great idea 01101001 about public office by the scientists, hope they will be able to do the experiments publically,and more transperantly.

    sunil

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    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    That doesn't mean it couldn't. The effectiveness of science's influence on government has increased and decreased from one case to the next as different people, organizations, and relationships have come, gone, and changed along the way. Having a particular structure or set of rules for this purpose codified and built into the system could bring consistency.
    We could also have a manned lunar base, but we don't.

    The problem is with the grouping. Scientists, at least at the high level that would be influencing political entities, are specialists. Qualification in one field does not imply qualification in another. In fact, to me it appears to do the opposite; high-level scientists, the instant they start talking about anything but their own specialties, appear to be even MORE ignorant, antilogical, hypocritical, biased, gullible, and just plain dumb than normal people... and more stubborn and haughty about how obviously indisputably right they are about everything and how laughably silly and pathetic those lesser humans out there who disagree with them are. And, for any given scientist, most political issues will fall outside of his/her area of expertise, which means that if you present political issues to a group of different kinds of scientists, EVERY issue will fall outside of the areas of expertise of MOST of the members.
    I don't think that anyone's claiming that scientists would be the perfect politicians, only that they'd be more inclined to support the sciences than the non-scientists would be. The question is: Do you think that the government is supporting scientific fields enough now or not? If the answer's "No." then it seems to me that a scientist/politician is part of the solution.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tuckerfan View Post
    Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison "Jack" Schmitt was a Senator after he came back from the Moon, and he's said that one of the biggest problems we have are the entrenched politicians who spend their entire working lives in Congress.
    I agree, and have proposed to several Congressmen (perhaps the wrong door?) that we limit Congressional service to a maximum of three, four-year terms in either the Senate or the House, and a maximum of five, four-year terms for both houses.

    This will give them enough time to learn the ropes, be productive, but knowing it's not a life calling, they'll be focused far more on the issues at hand, rather than keeping the constituents happy so they can be elected another term.

    I would similarly propose a graduated "retirement" pay scale beginning with 20% of the maximum after just 1 term, 40 % after 2 terms, etc. If someone wasn't elected and skipped a term, they wouldn't have to start over. Rather, they'd pick up where they left off.

    First of all, we're in the middle of a couple of wars, and the absolute last thing that you want to do during a war is cut back on scientific research.
    That's somewhat of a misnomer...

    All things being equal (training and capability of the troops on both sides), technology will turn the tide. However, history is repleat with examples of how vastly larger and better-equipped armies were decimated by their more cunning and innovative enemies, include the Revolutionary War (we, the underdogs, won), the Vietnam war (they, the underdogs, won).

    Great thinkers and skilled military leaders will usually beat whoever's holding the technology card. Not by force on force (dogfighting), but by small force against large weakness (hardwired charges triggered by a guy undercover in the woods, and designed to decimate an entire column of tanks all at once).

    That's a WWII example. I won't provide more. However, look at the relative success of those from which the movie The Great Escape was made.

    Second, the planet's in a royal mess environmentally speaking, and unless we put some real cabbage towards changing that, we're going to be having problems of Biblical proportions.
    Agreed, and there's a terrific article in this month's Discover magazine about that very issue, and just how bad it really is as well as how drastically it is, and will continue to affect us.

    Oh, and Einstein was offered the Prime Minister position when Israel was created, but turned it down.
    Probably a bit too little science, and way too much religion and politics were involved for his taste.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mugaliens View Post
    All things being equal (training and capability of the troops on both sides), technology will turn the tide. However, history is repleat with examples of how vastly larger and better-equipped armies were decimated by their more cunning and innovative enemies, include the Revolutionary War (we, the underdogs, won), the Vietnam war (they, the underdogs, won).
    Not really. First, even counting both of those as "victories for the underdogs", they weren't "decimations". The "winning" side in both cases took roughly the same or much heavier casualties and won only because the other side chose to "lose" by not bothering to continue fighting anymore. Second, as you might have guessed from the way I wrote that sentence, I consider it debatable whether or not they really count as cases of the underdogs "winning" at all; it depends on how you define that word.

    The USA had help from some more powerful European countries against the British, and the empire never committed most of their forces to the fight. And despite that, it was still awfully close, with the treaty being signed after some American victories that were significant but not decisive on their own, leaving many historians to think that we would still have been likely to lose if the fighting had continued. It didn't, not because the Brits didn't think they could win, but because winning would have taken more effort than they were willing to expend. As for HOW we won in terms of tactics and strategies, the idea of sneakily clever American militia hiding among the trees and hills and picking off bright red ranks and files in formation is a myth. The British were familiar with the concept of hit-and-run using a small light force too, and used it at times, but it only got small results. The militia never made significant progress until combined with a regular army with standard training and tactics that could stand against another army in an open pitched battle. And even after the war was over, Britain didn't honor the terms of the treaty at first (which is what the War of 1812 was about) and continued to treat us as if we were still really theirs, not an independent country, which indicates that they still considered themselves to be in the position of greater power, which is not something that a truly defeated enemy would think.

    In Vietnam, again, we didn't withdraw due to losing; we withdrew due to internal politics that amounted to a decision that winning just wasn't worth the trouble. And even then, the degree of success which we did have was hampered by rules of engagement that limited our own effectiveness. The pattern of the more powerful force holding itself back has been repeated since then, often to the detriment of that force or its goals, but they still do it for other reasons such as moral principles or a desire to minimize costs or to control political appearances. That's just not the same thing as a small, weak force "decimating" the greater one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Delvo View Post
    Not really.
    Yes, actually, and the details contained in countless books written by those who've been there, done that, are either required reading, or their reading is "highly encouraged" and on "suggested reading lists" put out annually by all five services of the US Armed Forces.

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