Not a Good Time To Have Leaders with No Background in Science

I wrote a piece recently questioning the wisdom of our leaders’ ignorance and abandonment of basic science. I  could have chosen from a few of the presidential candidates, but I happened to single out Rick Perry, who hung onto his aspiration until very recently:

Rick Perry dismisses evolution as “just a theory,” one that has “got some gaps in it.” Isn’t that a remarkable thing for a man to say who wishes to be taken seriously in the 21st Century? In the circle of biologists, the theory of evolution has the same status as Newton’s universal gravitation and Einstein’s relativity have among physicists.

On climate change, Governor Perry tells us: “I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we are seeing almost weekly, or even daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change.”

The idea that thousands of scientists are conspiring in secret to perpetrate a hoax is preposterous, and the second part of Perry’s statement is patently false: the scientific consensus about man-made global warming includes 97 percent to 98 percent of researchers in the field, according to the National Academy of Sciences. Moreover, the evidence is becoming stronger, not weaker.

To this, frequent commenter Mihai Grumazescu wrote:

I read somewhere that about half of the Chinese government is made of engineers and scientists and Germany’s chancellor was a chemical engineer – why wonder why they understand which direction to take instead of wasting everybody’s time with senseless political rhetoric? By negating all advances in science, America, through its elected representatives, is heading straight to the Stone Age. The enemy within is way more efficient than any external threat. There was a time when incompetents and illiterates were losing – now they win in a big way.

Unfortunately, I think Mr. Grumazescu has nailed this: incompetents and illiterates really are winning big — and that should be enough to scare anyone.

I don’t know precisely what it takes to become president of the U.S.  Certainly, requirements include incredible rhetorical skills, an unparalleled ability to memorize information to disgorge it in speeches and debates, and especially the enormous backing of money and power – from one or more sources that see you as a meal-ticket in terms of policy/legislation.  I guess it’s hard to expect anyone to be good at everything, so maybe I should be more lenient on politicians. But I know a ton of high schoos kids with a better grasp on science than any one of these people. Shouldn’t that be a point of concern?


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