There Are Zero Scientists in the U.S. Senate. This Geneticist Heard the Call
President Trump disagrees with scientific consensus on a number of issues, and currently there are no scientists in the Senate. But geneticist Dr. Michael Eisen plans to change that in 2018.
Americans can no longer wait for scientists to be more involved in politics. This is what Michael Eisen, professor of genetics at UC Berkeley and co-founder of the Public Library of Science, recently told Nature as he gears up to run for the Senate in 2018. He bemoans the complete absence of scientists in the Senate’s hearings, where we wishes that science-literate questions could be raised. Given what Professor Eisen describes as the present administration’s “basic rejection of the fundamental principles upon which science is based,” he has decided to devote his sabbatical this year to the preparations needed to launch a political career. Although he has no prior political experience, he notes that this past election demonstrated how little that matters to many voters.
The dearth of scientists in American government is unusual. Reflecting on how rarely Americans elect scientists back in early 2012, John Allen Paulos observed in an op-ed for The New York Times that politicians in other countries are often far more well-versed in science than those in America. Indeed, Tony Tan, the president of Singapore, earned a doctorate in applied mathematics and Xi Jinping, the president of China, studied chemical engineering. Meanwhile, of the 535 senators and representatives in the American Congress, only two have doctorates in science (neither of whom is a senator).
Professor Eisen agrees with people who say that scientists do not publicly defend science enough and is trying to change that. His political aims are not simply to appeal for more federal funding for scientists, rather it is to represent a scientific perspective in the political process. In particular, he seeks for climate change to be treated like the urgent catastrophe that it is rather than gesturing vaguely at goals of reducing the output of greenhouse gases as an expedient to do the bare minimum. He described to Nature:
We need to recognize that climate change is not just some real phenomenon, it’s a major crisis. My goal is not to go around shouting that you have to believe scientists, because that doesn’t work. It’s not trying to go to Paris and passing some sort of aspirational goals to cut back on emissions. We need to be looking at every aspect of our lives: how we produce food, how we produce fuel, how we travel around the planet, and asking fundamentally what things we can do right now to have a major impact.
The lack of influence that scientific consensus has on decision-making in the American government is having very pressing consequences. Electing more scientists into office and giving scientists more political clout can assuage this. For Eisen's Senatorial updates, his Twitter is @SenatorPhD.
Famous physicists like Richard Feynman think 137 holds the answers to the Universe.
- The fine structure constant has mystified scientists since the 1800s.
- The number 1/137 might hold the clues to the Grand Unified Theory.
- Relativity, electromagnetism and quantum mechanics are unified by the number.
Younger Americans support expanding the Supreme Court and serious political reforms, says new poll.
- Americans under 40 largely favor major political reforms, finds a new survey.
- The poll revealed that most would want to expand the Supreme Court, impose terms limits, and make it easier to vote.
- Millennials are more liberal and reform-centered than Generation Z.
A 2020 study published in the journal of Psychological Science explores the idea that fake news can actually help you remember real facts better.
- In 2019, researchers at Stanford Engineering analyzed the spread of fake news as if it were a strain of Ebola. They adapted a model for understanding diseases that can infect a person more than once to better understand how fake news spreads and gains traction.
- A new study published in 2020 explores the idea that fake news can actually help you remember real facts better.
- "These findings demonstrate one situation in which misinformation reminders can diminish the negative effects of fake-news exposure in the short term," researchers on the project explained.
Previous studies on misinformation have already paved the way to a better understanding<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU1NzQ4NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNjE2Mjg1Nn0.hs_xHktN1KXUDVoWpHIVBI2sMJy6aRK6tvBVFkqmYjk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C800%2C0%2C823&height=700" id="fc135" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="246bb1920c0f40ccb15e123914de1ab1" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="fake news concept of misinformation and fake news in the media" />
How does misinformation spread?
Credit: Visual Generation on Shutterstock<p><strong>What is the "continued-influence" effect?</strong></p><p>A challenge in using corrections effectively is that repeating the misinformation can have negative consequences. Research on this effect (referred to as "continued-influence") has shown that information presented as factual that is later deemed false can still contaminate memory and reasoning. The persistence of the continued-influence effect has led researchers to generally recommend avoiding repeating misinformation. </p><p>"Repetition increases familiarity and believability of misinformation," <a href="https://engineering.stanford.edu/magazine/article/how-fake-news-spreads-real-virus" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the study explains</a>.</p><p><strong>What is the "familiarity-backfire" effect?</strong></p><p>Studies of this effect have shown that increasing misinformation familiarity through extra exposure to it leads to misattributions of fluency when the context of said information cannot be recalled. <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797620952797#" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2017 study</a> examined this effect in myth correction. Subjects rated beliefs in facts and myths of unclear veracity. Then, the facts were affirmed and myths corrected and subjects again made belief ratings. The results suggested a role for familiarity but the myth beliefs remained below pre-manipulation levels. </p>