Our politicians are not, generally speaking, morons. Most are actually of above average intelligence, and that’s true regardless of party affiliation. But the backgrounds of most politicians, both educational and experiential, are narrow.
Most politicians are lawyers. Getting a law degree and passing the Bar Exam is no mean feat, but it doesn’t prepare a person to face the types of issues that now bombard politicians at many levels of government – climate change, “super-bugs,” genetically engineered organisms, fracking, etc. These are scientific issues, or issues that at least require a scientific perspective.
In this millennium, politicians who have only been educated in the law and/or business are making decisions on issues they know nothing about, that’s obvious. But what bothers me more is that the education and experiences of politicians have not even given them the intellectual tools necessary to process scientific information.
The concept here is really not too difficult. Would you want an expert in French impressionism to come over and fix a problem with the electrical wiring in your house? I suppose there might be a French impressionism expert who also once worked as an electrician, but someone like that is probably just a wee bit hard to find. Why would you want an expert in corporate law to make decisions about the food you eat and how it gets to your plate? Why would you want an expert in constitutional law to make decisions about practices that will make a lot of money, but badly pollute our water? Why would you want an expert in franchise and distribution law to make decisions affecting the fate of the entire human race?
Technically, a “moron” is defined as a person whose IQ falls between 51 and 70 points. A moron could hardly pass the bar, nor could he or she easily become a captain of business (the second-leading source of our politicians). But a person can easily be made to look dumb if they are placed in a situation about which they know almost nothing.
Do you want to see an apparent moron? Ask me to fix your plumbing, or your teeth, or balance the books for your corporation. I can’t do any of these things, despite the fact that I do have the necessary intelligence (my mom sez I is real smart, an’ hansum too!). I have no training in these areas. I haven’t read a book about them or even watched a Youtube instructional video!
This lack of scientific training among our politicians might have been OK (well, not really) 50 or 100 years ago. Here in the third millennium, A.D., our leadership needs to go back to school. Either that or we need to have some scientific prerequisites for our elected officials, well beyond the general education requirements of most colleges.
Politicians need to know something about the scientific method and about scientific processes. It would also be very helpful for them to have some experience in the debates that go on between scientists, so that they can get an understanding of just what types of disagreements are given validity in the scientific world – the rules are very different from the rules of evidence in a court of law.
This would be government reform with real meaning. Now where’s that television repair person? I need some music lessons.
Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.