Among the new Democrats heading to Congress in January is Congressman-elect Bill Foster (IL-11). He stands out in the freshman class because he's not just a politician – Foster is also a physicist and presumably a member of the “reality-based community.” And he has a plan: elect more people like him to public office.
Scientific American interviewed Foster after his election:
I think the necessity for dealing with budgets forces a connection between quantitative pursuits and real political considerations.
There's also a very important connection in that you have politicians determining the future of scientific budgets, which is a fundamental reason that we have to work to inject more scientists and engineers in politics.
One of the fundamental principles is strength in numbers. I'm not advocating that Congress be dominated by scientists, but when I had a look at the composition of the U.S. Congress, even with a very generous definition of scientists, then roughly 4 percent have technical backgrounds.
More people with scientific and engineering backgrounds simply have to say that they're going to spend part of their lives in electoral politics explaining to the American public some of the fundamental facts about science and science policy as they relate to their public life.
Good luck with that. Congressman Foster has a tough road ahead of him in the House. It's a chamber governed by a political party that's in the grip of proud anti-science know-nothings who have no problem questioning basic climate research, think the Christian Bible is eyewitness testimony on cosmology, and who are ignorant of basic biology.
Will Foster and his fellow scientists be able to “shut that whole anti-science thing down” and shine the light of reason and the scientific method on public policy questions? I sure hope so!