Should scientists become more involved in politics?
Debate Rounds (3)
I'd certainly like to thank my opponent Sean_Nobury, for posing this debate. It's something that I feel should be discussed, but I think it's often romanticized. An "if only" scenario such as this really ignores the central issues of inserting such a group into a sector such as politics.
As my opponent has yet to make fleshed-out arguments, I won't spend this round fully making mine. However, I will start out by asking my opponent to clarify his case in the next round (I'll explain what clarification I need) and outline the pieces of my case that I feel are likely to enter into the round following that clarity.
So first, points of clarification. Pro may clarify in the comments if he wishes, or he may do so in the next round:
In what manner do you mean to involve scientists in politics? Is it specific to science-based policy, or would their involvement encompass more of the political realm?
How would the scientists utilized here be selected? How many scientists would be selected? Would they be removed or replaced at various times? Would there be some form of oversight for this group? Would this group be accountable to the people, to a subset of politicians, or to some other group entirely?
Would these scientists essentially function as an independent branch of government, or be added to a specific branch? What should we expect in the way of balance of power between this group and others? I'll be specific here: say you insert them into the Legislative Branch. Would the House or Senate be able to outvote them? Would the president be able to veto them? Would the USSC be able to verify the constitutionality of anything they pass? Would they be able to formulate their own policy or be given policies by the legislature?
Alright, I realize that's quite a few questions to answer, but I think it's important to define what is and is not your case here. As these points are currently vague, I reserve the right to alter the following outline based off of both what he leaves vague and what he specifies.
So I have three basic points that I will likely be making on my side of this debate:
1. Scientists are the wrong people for the job. There are substantially important reasons that we put politicians in these roles instead of scientists or math teachers.
2. On a very basic level, power taints. This certainly depends on the level of power, but I would argue that whatever the power increase Pro provides for a group of scientists or for the scientific community at large, he's inviting corruption and avarice into a separate field entirely, and in turn leading to more corruption of the political one.
3. Scientists do tend to have very similar mentalities - that's how we manage to work with each other and get papers published with plenty of important names on them. It often leads to major roadblocks in scientific research, which require an influx of new talent and different ideas. Pro's case would encourage the sort of groupthink that makes scientists often ineffective and, in fact, detrimental to the political system as a whole.
I will start by apologizing for not being clearer in my initial argument. I am sure you understand why I was not clear after reading the preceding paragraph. As you have asked, I will clarify my case, but first I would like to touch on something you said in your second paragraph. What some consider as "romanticized" or "if only" scenarios are only considered that way because of our culture's reluctance to accept big changes, even when those changes are clearly morally right, or just plain logical. I do not want to get into the possible reasons why our culture is so scared of change, but if you wish to go there, I am willing. I will now clarify my case for you.
Should scientists become more involved in politics?
When I say that scientists should become more involved in politics I do not mean that they should join an immigration board, or something of that nature, I mean they should be more involved in the decision making when it comes to issues involving areas of science, specifically the environment. My initial argument was not well thought out and mostly out of anger, so let's ignore it. I am not concerned about points on this website.
The only way this "if only" scenario would take place is if scientists show a little bit more aggression when it comes to the defense of science, again, particularly when it comes to the environment. We have the technology to change the world, and scientists should be in Washington fighting for its implementation. I know once I am finished with school, I will be there.
Responses to your points:
1. Why are scientists the wrong people for the job? Can you give me one substantially important reason why someone like Paul Broun is on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee. I don't consider people voting him into office substantially important. There are plenty of scientists or math teachers that are capable of making much better decisions than Paul Broun on the subjects of science, space, and technology. He believes the planet is only a few thousand years old. Are you comfortable with him in there making important decisions for our country? Paul Broun has a degree in Chemistry, which really makes the fact that he believes our planet is only a few thousand years old bewildering. I believe that scientists are better suited for political office because, overall, in my opinion, they have better moral standards than most of the other professions out there, especially lawyers, which seem to love political office.
2. Absolute power does corrupt absolutely. Most politicians going into office have $$$ on their minds. Scientists are usually more passionate about discovery and the progression of life in general. I believe there is a much lower chance of scientists becoming corrupted by money compared to the people currently being attracted into political office.
3. I am not a scientist yet so I cannot speak with knowledge on this problem you speak of, but it does not sound like a reason scientists shouldn't become more involved and vocal in American politics. Are you saying that this two party circus we have going on right now has the capacity to be more productive than a group of scientists that all think alike? Please explain that to me, or let me know if I misunderstood your reasoning for mentioning the fact that scientists thinking alike is a problem.
Since you are a scientist, can you not think of a group of you and your fellow scientists that can do a better job than the people currently running our branches of government? I have read through a lot of legislation, it is only written that way to dissuade the public from getting involved. The legislation our government pumps out is filled with more fluff than a pillow. That is why I find formalities unimportant. They serve no productive purpose. They are all about image, ego, and presentation. I asked my physics professor if I could write my final Honors paper in my own style, instead of in the standard, drone like form that so many scientists love to write in. He gave me the okay and I got an A on the paper. For my Biology Honors paper I had to write in that "technical" manner, and I still got an A, but I didn't enjoy writing the paper as much as I did that Physics paper. What does any of this have to do with our debate? I'd like to hear your hypothesis to that question before I answer it.
So, to start, I'd like to clarify the case for anyone reading this round, and Pro can feel free to correct me should I make any mistakes or misrepresent his arguments. It appears that he's arguing for more scientists to run for public office, and that other scientists bring their case to Washington more regularly.
I'm at a loss for how he can call this a "big change." This isn't a big change from the status quo. There are plenty of science advocacy groups that spend an awful lot of time in Washington. You have the Union of Concerned Scientists, the American Association for Cancer Research, the Association for Women in Science, the American Society for Microbiology, and a slew of student organizations, just to name a few. They're regularly in Washington, advocating for more funding, and often being very aggressive. It's not changing anything, and we get no idea out of Pro how many scientists it will take going to Washington or getting elected to solve for this.
The reality is that the population of scientists is relatively small by comparison to other groups, and despite the fact that our advocacy groups are disproportionately larger than those of other lobbyists, it doesn't make much difference when the others represent far larger segments of the population.
The system in Washington simply prefers short term outcomes to long term benefits. That doesn't change if you get more scientists into the mix, they will simply be frustrated by the system and forced to accede to the wills of current politicians.
So now, I'll get into my points.
1. I didn't explain this argument, so I'm not surprised with my opponent's attack on it, but now that I know the case, I will explain it.
Politicians come into office and stay in office as a result of a large amount of effort and a wide array of resources. By far, most often they get the support of a major political party, which funds an expensive campaign that speaks to the issues of the people who would be voting for them. They have to make a lot of stump speeches, travel their state or county, and doggedly pursue the votes necessary to achieve their goal of being elected. After they get into office, in order to be effective, politicians have to understand how to use the system to reach their goals and be able to understand legalese otherwise they just become the equivalent of an empty seat.
Now, why does all this matter? Because this is the role that Pro is advocating scientists assume. These scientists will have to learn how to speak to crowds of non-scientists, something that is often difficult coming from a highly technical background. They will have to leave their labs for extensive periods of time, often having to close them altogether, which means shutting down their research. They will have to expand their knowledge of the political realm, pander to their local communities, fight for votes against people who will call them inexperienced and incapable, and seek money and resources from seedy sources. Even if they somehow manage to navigate this briar patch while keeping their ethical boundaries intact, they will then either be completely ineffectual in office, or will have to stretch those boundaries then in order to make an impact.
This will change them. They can't simply keep their current policy ideas and stay in office. They will be forced to pursue more funding each time they run for office. They will become the very politicians Pro finds so distasteful, tarnishing the public image of scientists and ruining reputations.
Pro talks about Paul Broun. No, I don't support the man, but remember how he got into office " he won a plethora of the vote. And he'll likely keep winning, because he plays the system well, otherwise he wouldn't be on that committee. If anything, Broun functions as the perfect example of what scientists will have to contend with once they reach office, and what many of them will have to pervert themselves into in order to be successful.
2. This is actually much simpler. The reason why we find it abhorrent that many politicians engage in a system where they can utilize their own monetary interests to decide policy. Why are we concerned with this? Because of conflicts of interest. Scientists worry about these too, and are required to mention any such conflicts in papers they submit for publication.
Well, that certainly makes them sound less corrupt. Seems to support Pro's point. But this is a different situation. Start by cross-applying my argument from #1 that this will change their attitudes. Second, they are coming in with a blatant conflict of interest. They work on a specific subset of research. They are associated with other researchers in that same field. They therefore have a very rational interest in increasing funding for that particular group. If they work in plant pathology, as I do, they will do their best to get more funding for the National Science Foundation. This funding could very easily come from funding for other scientific disciplines, since it's much simpler to affect changes to existing funding rather than simply increasing it. That means that the money will come from the NIH, CDC, medical device research, etc.
3. "Are you saying that this two party circus we have going on right now has the capacity to be more productive than a group of scientists that all think alike?"
Yes, I am saying this.
Why? Well, what is groupthink?
"Groupthink, a term coined by social psychologist Irving Janis (1972), occurs when a group makes faulty decisions because group pressures lead to a deterioration of "mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment" (p. 9). "Groups affected by groupthink ignore alternatives and tend to take irrational actions that dehumanize other groups." A group is especially vulnerable to groupthink when its members are similar in background, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making."
That page lists an extensive number of symptoms as well. What this means is very simply that having any one group dominate the conversation is a problem. At least with the current system, you force two separate groups to engage in discussion with each other. Neither group has full control.
Of course, this only applies if a lot of scientists get in and stay in, something I would say is also very problematic for these reasons.
"Since you are a scientist, can you not think of a group of you and your fellow scientists that can do a better job than the people currently running our branches of government?"
In many ways, yes. I think they could. The problem is that that's not what Pro is advocating. The system still exists following implementation. Politicians and elections will still exist. Nothing changes by inserting a few scientists into that system except the scientists, and the harms are glaring. That's why this argument is an "if only" situation " it lacks the changes necessary to demonstrably alter the system.
I'm honestly not certain what the point of those last few sentences is, but if I had to guess, it's a method of stating that "there is more than one way to skin a cat." I'll wait for you to explain and respond in the next post.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by zmikecuber 2 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con's arguments were much stronger, and went practically unrefuted. Pro didn't meet his BoP at all. Con was the only one to use sources. Both were pleasant, and had good S/G, so that's tied.
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