First of all, it highlights what I have argued earlier. What is important is not that one learned a specific issue, but that one is equipped to learn about things and think things through analytically, which is something that can be acquired as a skill in a science class.
There are 435 people in the House, Mr. Holt said, and “420 don’t know much about science and choose not to.” He recalled his exasperation when anthrax spores were discovered in the Capitol in 2001 and colleagues came to him and said, “You are a scientist, you must know about anthrax,” a subject ordinarily missing from the physics curriculum.
“The difference,” he said, “is we would be perfectly happy to pick up a copy of The New England Journal of Medicine and read about the etiology of anthrax.”
“In fact, we basically did that,” Mr. Ehlers said.
“We know more than our colleagues,” Mr. Holt said, “but not more than they could know.
But it is also sad to know that these lawmakers are saddled with the same level of ignorance that we have seen in the general public.
But sometimes, he said, the problem is just old-fashioned ignorance. Several times he has found himself “rushing to the floor” to head off colleagues ready to eliminate financing for endeavors whose importance they did not understand.
Once it was game theory. The person seeking the cut did not seem to realize that game theory had to do with interactions in economics, behavior and other social sciences, not sports, Mr. Ehlers recounted.
Then there was the time he rose to defend A.T.M. research against a colleague who thought it should be left to the banking industry. In this case the initials stood for asynchronous transfer mode, a protocol for fiber-optic data transfer.
One would think that if one is making such an important decision on something, that one would at least figure out what those things mean, especially when these lawmakers have staffers that can easily brief them on what they are.
It would be nice to have more people in power who have a more positive inclination towards science, and physics in particular. However, I'm skeptical that there will be significantly more.