An Egghead For The Oval Office

In 2000 and 2004 many people voted for George Bush because they would rather have a beer with him than with Al Gore or John Kerry. We’ve seen the result of a President who lacks the intellectual curiosity to evaluate the problems faced by the nation. Eugene Robinson is  concerned about the response to The Assault on Reason where many feel “Gore, poor fellow, is just too ostentatiously smart to be elected president.” Robinson believes we’d be better off with an egghead:

I want a president who reads newspapers, who reads books other than those that confirm his worldview, who bones up on Persian history before deciding how to deal with Iran’s ambitious dreams of glory. I want a president who understands the relationship between energy policy at home and U.S. interests in the Middle East — and who’s smart enough to form his or her own opinions, not just rely on what old friends in the oil business say.

I want a president who looks forward to policy meetings on health care and has ideas to throw into the mix.

I want a president who believes in empirical fact, whose understanding of spirituality is complete enough to know that faith is “the evidence of things not seen” and who knows that for things that can be seen, the relevant evidence is fact, not belief. I want a president — and it’s amazing that I even have to put this on my wish list — smart enough to know that Darwin was right.

Actually, I want a president smart enough to know a good deal about science. He or she doesn’t have to be able to do the math, but I want a president who knows that the great theories underpinning our understanding of the universe — general relativity and quantum mechanics — have stood for nearly a century and proved stunningly accurate, even though they describe a world that is more shimmer than substance. I want him or her to know that there’s a lot we still don’t know.

I want the next president to be intellectually curious — and also intellectually honest. I want him or her to understand the details, not just the big picture. I won’t complain if the next president occasionally uses a word I have to look up.

The comments on science, and on recognizing the difference between fact and belief, were particularly welcome to read considering some of the recent comments to posts here from people who deny established science regarding either evolution or climate change. Some commenting show no understanding of the differences between science and religion, seeing either as an equally valid opinion, oblivious to the rigorous verification process demanded by modern science. My fear is that these types of comments are representative of an overall ignorance of science in the general population, which is responsible for the adoption of a flat-earth philosophy by the Republican Party.

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