Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Letter to the Committee on Science

Dear Committee on Science, Space and Technology,

I would like to offer you my perspective as an American scientist currently working oversees. I work with scientists from all over the world, and frequently encounter the stereotype that Americans are willfully ignorant and prone to rejecting established scientific facts. Efforts to argue against this view are made nearly impossible by the frequent counter-factual statements made by America's political leaders, including those whose jobs specifically call for some understanding of science, such as those on science committees. While Rep. Akin has shown himself to be a particularly questionable choice, his membership demonstrates that no particular knowledge or understanding of science is expected of committee members. Indeed, it would appear that a significant number of committee members have repeatedly demonstrated a strong antipathy towards science.

This is an embarrassment for our great nation, and tarnishes the reputation of American science and education. I would like to suggest that our political leaders in general, but members of science-focused committees in specific, harm the USA when intentionally ignoring, misunderstanding or inventing scientific facts. This is because good policy can't be based on false knowledge, but also because our country is made to look like a bunch of fools. As such, I would suggest that some knowledge of science should be a prerequisite for membership in a science committee. The dim view that many in America and around the world currently take of your committee could perhaps be improved by removing one of your most glaringly ignorant members.

Dan Levitis

1 comment:

jte said...

When you say that "some knowledge of science should be a prerequisite for membership in a science committee," you need to specify what kind of knowledge you think qualifies. Rep. Aiken surely has "some" knowledge of science -- after all, he can cite a credentialed (if bone-headed) medical doctor in his claims about human biology. Is an avid lay interest in science sufficient, such as someone might have from reading all the best-selling science-for-general-audience books? Ought members of the committee have studied a scientific subject up to some particular educational level? If undergraduate study is sufficient, should such study have been at the level of major, minor, or merely one or two classes? What subjects qualify as science for sake of the committee: computer science, meteorology, statistics, psychology, political science?