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Author Topic: Should policy makers be required to take science classes?  (Read 7450 times)

Offline Eric A. Taylor

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I was just listening to a Science podcast and the person being interviewed wanted to encourage people who are trained in science to run for Congressional office. This seems a bit unrealistic to me. People who want to study science in school typically want to work in some kind of scientific field, not run for office, so any scientist who gets elected will be one or two at most in his or her house (whether Senate, Congress, Commons or Lords).

 Perhaps a better idea would be to require anyone interested in running for public office (in which they will be responsible for shaping their national or state policy) to take (and pass) a college level introductory science class. The class should teach critical thinking, basic scientific principles, and perhaps a bit of history.

 And perhaps teach them to better grasp really big numbers, like 14 trillion. (it takes more than 400 thousands years for 14 trillion seconds to elapse)
« Last Edit: 08/03/2011 08:22:55 by chris »


 

Offline Joe L. Ogan

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Re: Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #1 on: 25/02/2011 22:57:34 »
You are presupposing that Congressmen have the intelligence to understand scientific subjects.  Now, I ask, "Is that being realistic?"  Thanks for comments.  Joe L. Ogan
 

Offline Eric A. Taylor

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Re: Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #2 on: 26/02/2011 00:08:59 »
Well I did stipulate that they would need to pass the class to run. That wasn't an accident.
 

Offline Geezer

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Re: Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #3 on: 26/02/2011 00:36:27 »
Good idea Eric. I'll vote for it!

Maybe you could make this into a poll?
 

Offline Madidus_Scientia

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Re: Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #4 on: 26/02/2011 03:20:44 »
I agree 100%. The university of California has lectures designed for the basic scientific principals part available for free on youtube, I believe you'll find them if you search for "UC Berkeley Physics for future presidents" or something. Good lectures I reckon.
 

Offline Eric A. Taylor

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Re: Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #5 on: 26/02/2011 08:43:58 »
Good idea Eric. I'll vote for it!

Maybe you could make this into a poll?

To be honest a pole would be a little pointless, don't you think?
 

Offline Eric A. Taylor

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Re: Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #6 on: 26/02/2011 08:49:08 »
I agree 100%. The university of California has lectures designed for the basic scientific principals part available for free on youtube, I believe you'll find them if you search for "UC Berkeley Physics for future presidents" or something. Good lectures I reckon.

Most of the "City" or "Community" colleges in the States offer introductory science classes and the cost is very reasonable. (City colleges offer 2 year programs. They are mostly used by older (over 30) adults for further education or fresh high school graduates who's grades aren't good enough to get into a State University. I don't know if they have anything like that outside the US)
 

Offline graham.d

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Re: Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #7 on: 26/02/2011 16:47:40 »
I was just listening to a Science podcast and the person being interviewed wanted to encourage people who are trained in science to run for Congressional office. This seems a bit unrealistic to me. People who want to study science in school typically want to work in some kind of scientific field, not run for office, so any scientist who gets elected will be one or two at most in his or her house (whether Senate, Congress, Commons or Lords).

 Perhaps a better idea would be to require anyone interested in running for public office (in which they will be responsible for shaping their national or state policy) to take (and pass) a college level introductory science class. The class should teach critical thinking, basic scientific principles, and perhaps a bit of history.

There is not enough cross-discipline education and I don't expect to see the top politicians being scientists any more than the top scientists being politicians. You generally have to be very dedicated to be the best. On the other hand, it does not take so much effort to know that you don't know about something and to seek expert advice. It would not take many scientists to be on suitable advisory committees and for their views to be taken seriously about science matters. The problems arise when the result of the science conflict with the political dogma. It can then turn out to be a matter of the politician selecting the odd scientist who happens to support his dogmatic opinion. Also being science trained does not necessarily make you any more reasonable than a non-scientist; Margeret Thatcher was a research chemist for example. Whether a supporter of her views or not, I don't think many people would view her as someone who listened to others' opinions a great deal.

We need politicians who listen to advice and to form a balanced view and we need everyone else, including scientists, to understand how politics works and to take a stronger interest in the decisions that get made on their behalf.
 

Offline grizelda

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Re: Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #8 on: 27/02/2011 01:50:29 »
I think most people who are elected are lawyers, and the people they listen to mostly are bankers, so we're doubly doomed.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #9 on: 27/02/2011 13:29:02 »
It would be good if the politicians learned some science, but it would be a great start if they learned some common sense.

Unfortunately, I don't see either of these as a reasonable goal
 

Offline Donnah

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Re: Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #10 on: 27/02/2011 15:33:56 »
I think we have a fundamental problem with our systems.  Political positions offer plentiful power, status, money and pensions.  What kind of people does that attract?  I suggest that we start correcting that by changing their pensions to the same as we get in the private sector.

If a polititian commits a felony they should be fired.

We have the capability to replace most of our "representatives" with machines (much cheaper).  Since government offiials are now voting with a PIN, why don't we eliminate them and vote with a PIN ourselves?   
 

Offline Joe L. Ogan

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Re: Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #11 on: 28/02/2011 22:10:55 »
I agree with what you say.  But the Congress have it so that we can not make a change in the system without their approval.  How do we get Congress to agree to their elimination?  Thanks for comments.  Joe L. Ogan
 

Offline Eric A. Taylor

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Re: Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #12 on: 02/03/2011 06:10:33 »
I think we have a fundamental problem with our systems.  Political positions offer plentiful power, status, money and pensions.  What kind of people does that attract?  I suggest that we start correcting that by changing their pensions to the same as we get in the private sector.

If a polititian commits a felony they should be fired.

We have the capability to replace most of our "representatives" with machines (much cheaper).  Since government offiials are now voting with a PIN, why don't we eliminate them and vote with a PIN ourselves?  

I think most of us would like to think our representatives are better informed than the general public but I'm not sure that's true. When I hear that the US Health-care bill is THOUSANDS of pages long, then they say there are no "Death Committees" I have to wonder how they know this. It's hard to imagine most people reading a 2000 page novel by the best, most interesting writers, but imagine trying to read 2000 pages written by lawyers!!!!!!

As far as common sense goes.... I know guns are illegal in England and have been for a long time. In America gun rights are a big concern. Counter to that is gun crime. Guns are fairly easy to get here even if you're not allowed. The vast majority of gun crimes are committed by people who are not allowed to have guns under current laws. So I ask, what good are more laws going to make? Yet every year new gun laws are introduced because the lawmakers need to feel like they are DOING something even if it's completely pointless. I'll tell you what will make a HUGE difference in the crime rate. People who continue to commit crime should be locked up for life. It makes me so mad to watch Cops and see aq guy or girl being arrested for the upteenth time! What's the point of locking them up if you just keep letting them out?
 

Offline Donnah

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Re: Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #13 on: 08/03/2011 08:12:23 »
I've spoken with police officers who are very frustrated after working hard and risking their safety to bring in a criminal that gets released because someone forgot to dot an i or cross a t.  We need to change that.  The punishment should fit the crime and restitution needs to be an intregal part.

I don't know about other countries, but in Canada we have far too many people on the dole.  It fosters a sense of entitlement to benefits not earned.  I'd like to see a five year life-time limit on welfare and unemployment benefits.  Five years is a lot of help.  Every dollar THAT I'VE EARNED that goes to helping (or is it enabling?) those on the dole is a dollar that I don't get to spend on what I'm working toward.  If there's no work available where a person lives, then they need to go where there is work.  I did and still do.   
 

Offline graham.d

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Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #14 on: 08/03/2011 12:45:32 »
Wow! This is a big change of emphasis from the question about whether politicians need science training. We now have "people who commit crimes being locked up for life" and ideas for reduction in welfare payments. I thought this was a science website not a promotion site for the right wing of the US Republican Party!
 

Offline imatfaal

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Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #15 on: 08/03/2011 13:05:29 »
Well said Graham. 
 

Offline CliffordK

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Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #16 on: 08/03/2011 14:26:50 »
Most Politicians at least have a college education.

I'm not sure about the British education system, but the US system is a bit different than the Italian education system.  Many students get a Liberal Arts Education which requires at least an introduction into a variety of fields.  The Italians are far more specialized in their education, as early as High School.  Which means perhaps better training in their Major, but less of a multi-discipline approach.

Heck, I'm part of a dying breed (in the USA) required to get 2 years of a foreign language for a science degree.

I think a good politician should also be able to ace HISTORY.

Most congressional staffs should also include science advisors, as well as many other advisors.

Perhaps what we need is a 3-month Multi-Cultural, Science, History, crash-course required of all incoming congressmen.  And require them to get the equivalent of a B+ or better before they receive a salary and can vote (or perhaps a short probational period).  Testing-Out should, of course, be an option.
 

Offline graham.d

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Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #17 on: 08/03/2011 14:48:31 »
I think that politicians should be people who we vote in to represent us. I am not at all sure I care for the idea that they should be selected from any group in society; if people want to vote for them as their representative, that should be enough. A qualification system can lead to elitism and can prevent some good people from being able to stand for election. I also expect that would be unconstitutional in most western democracies.

In the UK, at present, we have too many lawyers as politicians. Not because they are better people but because they tend to come from privileged backgrounds (though not always), their profession often allows time for a parallel political career and they are effectively trained in oratory and techniques of pursuasion. Worse than this, we are developing people who are professional politicians, who know nothing of the world outside of politics! It is somewhat different in the US where the only way most people can get into politics, at least at a senior level, is by being independently wealthy or (at least) having backers who are.

As I said previously, a quality a good politician should have is to know when to seek advice and where to seek it, be it scientific or otherwise.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #18 on: 08/03/2011 15:53:04 »
Obviously people are elected by a vote of the people.
And, how many people in the general public have a science degree?

Too much of the elections revolve around sound-bites and biased reports, but it is difficult to know everything about our representatives. 

We certainly have too much legalese in the legislation... to the point where the laws are no longer available to the people who are being governed.
 

Offline imatfaal

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Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #19 on: 08/03/2011 17:46:38 »
Cliff - I have studied and written on legal history, and I think you are right that law is not accessible to the people being governed, I also query if it ever was!  You can read brief transcripts of the Old Bailey (London's Central Criminal Court) proceedings for about the last 350 years - and the stories haven't changed much. 

Statutes are clearly longer than once they were, but whether they are more or less approachable by a member of the general public I don't know.  I can read a statute and tell you what a lot of it will mean to a general extent - but the vast majority of the interpretation and meaning of a statute only comes when it is tested in court.  Lawmakers tend to expand legislation in an attempt to trammel the interpretive process - this rarely works! 

But we do need legalese in the legislation - without an agreed protocol of interpretation, mutually understood wordings, set phrases, and legalese; a good prosecutor could make most acts fit at least one law, and a good defence qc would stop anything being criminal.  if we are not willing to leave criminal law in the hands of the common law (and increasingly we are not) - then we need the legislators and their draftsmen to be punctilious and pedantic in the extreme to avoid overly weak and overly strong laws.
 

Offline CliffordK

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Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #20 on: 08/03/2011 19:02:51 »
I suppose you need the Legalese, at least to some extent.
But it just makes for lots of paperwork, and very dry reading.
And, often a LOT is lost in the legal summaries.

If Case History is the law...  then that needs to be searchable, and 100% available to the people...  not in the realm of Lawyers.

If the "International Building Code", or "Uniform Plumbing Code" is the law...  they should not be copyrighted.

As far as the 2000 page health care package...  Did all of our legislators read 100% of it?  Not skimming...  every word, comma, semicolon, etc.

I suppose we are getting away from the "Science" topic.
I'm not sure if there was an event that started this topic.

I know that the "climate" is somewhere stuck in the middle of science and politics.

And, even in science, there are multiple levels from the real hard-core Ph.D. researcher (in their own field), to the lay-person who knows enough to get themselves into trouble.

In a sense, there is also a problem with how science interfaces with politics and the public.

When I look at the Cryosat-2
http://www.esa.int/esaLP/LPcryosat.html
Quote
CryoSat mission, launched on 8 April 2010, is dedicated to precise monitoring of the changes in the thickness of marine ice floating in the polar oceans and variations in the thickness of the vast ice sheets that overlie Greenland and Antarctica.
Quote
Scientists can now tap into a flow of new data that will help to determine exactly how Earth's ice is changing. This information from ESA's CryoSat mission is set to make a step change in our understanding of the complex relationship between ice and climate.

So...
My first question is how much ice is there in the Arctic, and how is it changing.
But, a year into the mission, and this answer seems to be very elusive.

There is other data that it is being used for such as sea level monitoring, and looking at individual ice shelves...  and in that sense, it is an excellent tool.  I realize that many research labs are excited about the new information that they can generate...  but they aren't doing a very good job with communicating this back to the people.

One can't just have groups of scientists working away in their basement labs oblivious to the rest of the world. 
And the rest of the world using the latest fascinating gizmos oblivious to the science that went into making them.

And everyone expecting the politicians to make the right fundamental choices.
 

Offline graham.d

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Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #21 on: 09/03/2011 08:55:59 »
One can't just have groups of scientists working away in their basement labs oblivious to the rest of the world. 
And the rest of the world using the latest fascinating gizmos oblivious to the science that went into making them.

An interesting point, but it's always been like that. Several thousand years ago most users of bronze age tools would not have a clue how they were made. Right up to even a few hundred years ago, skills and trades (and the associated knowledge) was protected by Guilds.

It's generally in the nature of scientists and engineers to want to understand how things are made or how they work, but this is not really necessary for everyone. There are many other skills that are not science related and there are many scientists at the top of their field who can't tie there own shoelaces, to coin a phrase. Very few people have the gift of being a true polymath.
 

Offline imatfaal

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Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #22 on: 09/03/2011 12:24:15 »
I suppose you need the Legalese, at least to some extent.
But it just makes for lots of paperwork, and very dry reading.
And, often a LOT is lost in the legal summaries.

Apart from the fact that it is indisputable that a recording will always produce a different sensation from a live performance (whether that is a law report of a trial or a cd of a concert) then I would say this is not correct; legal reporting is a mature art and we have got very good at it; any change in the standard, protocol or volume would entail a substantive change in the law which should be avoided.  And yes it's dry and hard work to read - it's a complicated subject; you cannot do science without maths at anything other than a superficial heuristic level and the parallel applies to the law and the legal language used.

Quote
If Case History is the law...  then that needs to be searchable, and 100% available to the people...  not in the realm of Lawyers.

If the "International Building Code", or "Uniform Plumbing Code" is the law...  they should not be copyrighted.

As far as the 2000 page health care package...  Did all of our legislators read 100% of it?  Not skimming...  every word, comma, semicolon, etc.


It is available and searchable - but it is by no stretch of the imagination easy.  How can it be?  You seem to be implying that everything can avail itself of simple and plain explanations; this just is not the case. 

I doubt many of the legislators read all 2000 pages - but that is the power of delegation.  Dozens of letters leave my office, with my name at bottom, for which I bear the legal responsibility, without me reading them; it's matter of trust in the person and in their training and ability.
 

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Should policy makers be required to take science classes?
« Reply #22 on: 09/03/2011 12:24:15 »

 

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