Make politicians evolve to care about science

Julian Huppert, scientist and politician

Most politicians are not scientists. Some of us are, but most stopped studying any scientific subject even at A-level. Some get it. Others are supportive of science, but don’t really understand it. And some are actively hostile to scientific approaches.

Evolution by natural selection applies to politicians much as it does to any other organism. If we want to evolve politicians who care about science, the scientific method, and the use of evidence, we have to make sure that there is a selective pressure that moves them in this direction. Currently, almost no one changes their vote based on whether candidates understand science, or care about it.

If those of us who care were to insist that an important factor in our own voting was whether our candidates cared about science – or even were trained scientists – we would create a reason for politicians to care about science, and learn about it, and try to avoid saying silly things about it.

My idea is to use the power of voting to create a selective pro-science-literacy pressure, so that we evolve the politicians we need.

Dr Julian Huppert is a scientist and politician. His research looked at unusual structures of DNA, and the role they play in controlling gene activity. He was the Member of Parliament for Cambridge 2010-15 as a Liberal Democrat, and worked extensively on science and technology issues, among many others. He was voted as the ISPA ‘Internet hero of the year’ 2013. He currently runs the new Intellectual Forum at Jesus College, Cambridge, and will be re-standing for Parliament at the next General Election. 

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