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ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Why do you think there are so few scientists and engineers in political office?

Asked by ARE_you_kidding_me (19773points) December 24th, 2015

I have my own thoughts on this but shouldn’t we be demanding rigid problem solvers and not career politicians? Why are they largely absent?

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20 Answers

Bill1939's avatar

There is more money to be made in politics. After a few years, politicians have established contacts with major law firms and corporations that guarantees increased wealth in their future.

JLeslie's avatar

A lot of them aren’t extroverts? Many are, but statistically I’d say there are fewer extroverts in the sciences. Also, maybe they just can’t play the political game well. Science likes facts, truths, and problem solving.

That’s my guess.

Bill1939's avatar

@JLeslie I think you observation that ” maybe they just can’t play the political game well” is right on. In theory, politics is a game of compromise (except when the president is hated). However, how can a scientist/engineer compromise facts?

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I have known a couple engineers who tried it, one confided in me that he was basically “run off” by not pulling the party line and they would not listen to reason. This could be anyone though. On average they do tend to be more introverted but ones in higher positions have a great deal of politics to wade through as part of their regular work. This often goes beyond office and union politics. They seem to navigate and carve that up without much effort.

rojo's avatar

The personality traits that lead them to science and engineering are not those that lead a person into politics. I don’t think that they are able to do the lying and backstabbing required to be a “successful” politician.

Seek's avatar

They’re busy science-ing and engineer-ing.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I agree with @JLeslie . If someone asks me a question, I answer it with either a number, a yes or no or I don’t know. Listen to politicians respond to toug questions. They talk and say nothing. The clear cut answers reduce the support base. Do you support gun control? Yes. Do you support a woman’s right to choose?. Yes Do you support freedom from religion in government buildings? Yes. Do you think we should have a Carbon Tax, Yes about $25 per ton. . Do you favor gasoline tax? Yes. How much would you raise it? I don’t know now I estimate about $1 to $1.50 per gallon. Do you favor universal health insurance? Yes but with limits. What limits? If you are a smoker or overweight or within 5 years of actuarial life expectancy you will be limited to only $20,000 of services per year.
And so on. No matter how reasonable or necessary eventually the opposition will find a hot button cause that the majority support (even if it is wrong) and they will play on that until the election.
Do you favor free viagra for all men over 50 with diabetes? No. Fix your diabetes first and your erections will come back.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@LuckyGuy I’m basically the same…matter of fact-ish and blunt. I could not be a politician because this tends to piss off everyone who has any kind of ideology. People generally have an aversion to the truth if it does not fancy their worldview. How do we get past this and get problem solvers in office?

kritiper's avatar

Politics don’t pay the same.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me There are so many hot button issues that need belt tightening to solve. Nobody wants to hear it. Isn’t it obvious that roads need repair? The road tax has been ~25 cents for a long time (not raised since 1993). Gasoline is so cheap now. Raise it for Pete’s sake!
Social security? Tat mat is easy. We are living longer, retiring younger and have fewer children. It doesn’t take a genius to see something has to change. Bump up the SS tax cut – off. Why is it ~$100k, make it $1M. $ 2M. If your income is that big you can afford to kick in a few bucks.
And too many people are on disability! We can’t afford it. Really! We’ll cover you fully if you are disabled by an accident, terrorist act, or disease out of your control .
Are your knees and hips bad because you’ve been hauling around an extra 150 pounds? Well no shit Sherlock. We’re not paying for it. You were warned wen you were 20 pounds over, warned again at 50 pounds. At some point you need to look in the mirror and admit it is on you. Ask that person to pay.
You want to have a kid when you are 15? Tough! We’re not paying for it. It’s your choice. We’ll cover the first abortion. Life is choices. Unless you pay for it yourself you can’t always get what you want. Stay in school, get educated and have a kid when you are prepared to be a good parent.
Nope. Engineers would make terrible politicians.

stanleybmanly's avatar

It’s simple:

The careers of scientists and engineers are (usually) not dependent on the gullibility of the people paying them!

elbanditoroso's avatar

Politics is based on lying.

Science is based on rational, provable fact.

stanleybmanly's avatar

The situation shifts into focus when the obverse is asked: Why is it that so many lawyers choose a lifetime as politicians?

Buttonstc's avatar

Most engineers and scientists whom I know absolutely love their work. They find the challenges endlessly fascinating and have a genuine passion for their chosen field.

Imagine leaving that for a job requiring so much Bullshitting and ass kissing just to raise enough money to get elected again every few years. Who in their right mind would leave a career they love for that kind of torture?

Obviously what others have previously said about facts and bluntness sounding the death knell in politics also plays a part.

I think that this tendency to state the facts without sugar coating was what doomed Carter (in addition to the bad luck of the Iranian hostage crisis)

Don’t forget he spent years as an engineer on one of the first nuclear subs. Since he was chosen by Adm. Hyman Rickover, he was obviously highly intelligent and capable, but those aren’t really traits that people value that highly when presented with an optimistic sounding bullshitter and actor like Reagan.

He should have stayed in the Navy. He would have been happier.

ucme's avatar

Over qualified by virtue of having a functioning brain.

ibstubro's avatar

Two words:
Ben Carson

Apparently you be a brilliant scientist and have virtually no basic understanding of the world outside your field of expertise.

Haleth's avatar

Politics takes such an insane amount of soft skills. Even calling it “soft skills” is maybe a soft skill. Others may call it bullshitting or deception.

A number of politicians run on a tough-guy, straightforward public persona. Crafting that persona, and then saying exactly what the voting base wants to hear, takes a lot of nuance. When George W. Bush ran and won, his rhetoric was tailored to be exactly what the public wanted. But nobody who voted for him thought that about him- he seemed like a straight shooting, straight talking cowboy.

I think populist appeal is also why Obama says “folks” so often. But he’s also trading on highbrow appeal, a thinking man’s president. His way of doing populism is more about being just an everyday guy like you and me. Eating at Ben’s Chili Bowl, a DC landmark and greasy spoon, is a good example. He also uses a lot of accessible dry wit in interviews, which makes the viewers feel smart for laughing and included for getting it. Probably why John Stewart and Stephen Colbert are so popular, too. He’s pretty much a perfect candidate for broke, college-educated young people.

What scientist would go through all these crazy contortions? Take @LuckyGuy‘s example. He would probably make an amazing president, if you didn’t count voters into the equation. Blaming health problems on weight? Congratulations, you just pissed off the 69% of the electorate who are overweight, and especially the 31% who are obese. And good luck negotiating to pass a bill.

The other day I was joking that my main job skills are knowing how to talk to little old rich ladies and making really nice gift baskets. Working in a sales-heavy job has taught me how to switch gears and quickly build rapport with almost anyone, by bringing in completely different sides of my personality. Same with negotiating, or meeting people in a corporate setting. Conversations have little ripples and eddies underneath them.

It’s spilling over into my daily life. I’ve become comfortable making small talk with just about anyone on nearly any topic. If it’s not a familiar subject, I’m happy to ask them open-ended questions and learn a few things until we find common ground. For someone like me, engineering or other hard sciences are pretty much a foreign language. I’d imaging it’s a lot the same from the other side. It’s just a whole area that they don’t use very often.

I don’t even know how to change a tire, never mind do science!! Vote for me in 2040. :D

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@ibstubro. Most physicians and surgeons are not scientists. Carson majored in a soft science before med school.

JLeslie's avatar

Doctors and surgeons tend to study, memorize, “apprentice” and apply the skills they learned. Researchers actually think about how things work, and use the scientific method. Medical researchers look down on medical doctors if you want to think of it that way.

Ben Carson isn’t as bad as everyone thinks in my opinion. I don’t want him to be president, but if you really listen to him when he is given latitude to explain himself, instead of listening to the media and the outspoken people on the left, you see that he believes in a creator, but also believes in natural selection and mutations, and he seems not to be one of those all or none creationist types. He also does not seem to want to control what others believe on that front. He seems fine with people having differing opinions.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

they are smarter than that, and they are not egomaniacal, self-absorbed, closet narcissist with visions of grandeur.

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