When asked to name a scientist, Americans are stumped. In one recent survey, the top choice, at 47 percent, was Einstein, who has been dead since 1955, and the next, at 23 percent, was “I don’t know.” In another survey, only 4 percent of respondents could name a living scientist.Hat tip goes to Tyler Cowen, who hopes to see a cultural shift toward higher respect for scientists.
While these may not have been statistically rigorous exercises, they do point to something real: In American public life, researchers are largely absent. Trained to stick to the purity of the laboratory, they tend to avoid the sometimes irrational hurly-burly of politics.
One thing he didn't notice about the article was this amusing paragraph:
Daniel S. Greenberg, author of the 2001 book “Science, Money and Politics” (University of Chicago Press), said in an interview that he thought the odds of success [at making scientists more involved in politics] were “pretty poor,” in part because of the widespread belief that such activity is inappropriate for serious researchers or taints their objectivity. He pointed to the presidential election of 1964, when scientists organized opposition to Barry Goldwater, the Republican candidate. Goldwater was defeated, but, Mr. Greenberg said, the effort left many researchers feeling “we have sullied science.”I didn't know about this organized opposition to Barry Goldwater before. It makes sense, of course. It's just a little bit ironic, since one of the most prestigious scholarships for undergraduate science students is named after him:
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate.Oh, what a world we live in.