Over at Blake's place, there's some musing about who might serve as Presidential Science Advisor in a Democratic administration. It's an interesting question, as John Marburger III has clearly been hamstrung by the Bushies in a number of areas, and this post has not enjoyed as much influence with the Executive Branch since the days of Glenn Seaborg. Blake goes so far as to suggest that someone from the current ranks of science popularizers, or even an eminent biologist like E.O. Wilson might be a good choice.

Here's my take: the idea of a science popularizer as Science Advisor to the Prez has its appeal. In a perfect world, I would love to see Timothy Ferris in some kind of role, as he has both public and private sector experience, a broad knowledge and appreciation for science and the ability to communicate both to the public and academia.

Having said that, let me lay it on the line here. Independent, thoughtful men and women who are career scientists or better-known for science popularization are probably not the best choice, because they will have already said or written things which are impolitic or easily misrepresented.

E.O. Wilson is one of my heroes, but the moment his name is floated all the sociobiology crap will be sifted through to find examples of alleged racism, etc. Besides, Uncle Eddie is a little long in the tooth.

No, what you need is someone who has achieved in science, but who switched to bureaucracy and who has some understanding of the weight lifting and making nice-nice that gets science funded in the first place. In other words, someone like a Glenn Seaborg or, dare I say it, like a Francis Collins. Or, if you prefer an astrophysics type, a Daniel Goldin, a France Cordova, a George Blumenthal.

I invite comments!


Blake Stacey said...

To clarify:

E. O. Wilson was Chris Mooney's suggestion; at that, it's not a bad one, but (as I tried to explain in my post) I don't think Wilson has the magic cure-all properties which Mooney implied.

I suspect there is no one person who can satisfy all the criteria we can think up, even if we agree that our criteria are fairly reasonable. However, it's still an interesting game to play, and we might elucidate the criteria by which we folks out in the fringes judge such an official.

Also, it's Timothy Ferris and Francis Collins. ;-)

Forthekids said...

Hi Scott,

Per you comment over at PZ's place...

"It is the height of creepiness that someone whose monicker is 'For the kids' would appear to deliberately target the 17-year-old daughter of an intellectual nemesis."

FYI, Skatje was "targeting" me. She made a comment at *my* blog in regard to a post I wrote titled "homosexuality-gone-wild". She was commenting on my sense of morality. See here.

She then went to her blog and posted further on the subject of zoophilia. That was back in October.

She's a 17 years old college student who has placed herself in the public square where she voices opinions on very controversial subjects. There is absolutely nothing morally wrong with commenting on her position, and I was honest and accurate about every piece of information I wrote about.

Save your self righteous "Christian" condemnation for someone else.

btw, no doubt there are countless PZ fans trying to track down my identity as I've been threatened about being outed before. So, when you find out who I am, please feel free to go hog wild with the information. In the real world, there is not a Christian *I* know who would consider PZ's Palace anything other than a cesspool. The way they treat people and the names they call those who disagree with their point of view is really horrific. The intolerance is staggering.

Blake Stacey said...

Incidentally, you might be interested in the discussion going on over here.

The Lorax said...

So Wilson has a history that prevents him from being effective, but Collins doesn't?!?!? Personally I'm bothered by the fact that only those names being bandied about have written popular science book. You want someone the leads at NIH, why not Anthony Fauci? How about some of the presidents of major scientific societies like AAAS, ASM, AACB (I know the major biological ones, but clearly the chemical and physical fields have major players). How about some major university presidents/deans. It seems more like the discussion is which scientist has the most popular name recognition. Lovely, the next science advisor gets to be the "scientific" version of Britney Spears.