Something a bit different for this post. No instructions on fun science experiments I'm afraid. Instead I want to recommend a book that everyone who loves science should read. It's called "The Geek Manifesto: Why Science Matters" (by Mark Henderson) and its a bit of a call to arms for scientist and science lovers everywhere. Amongst other things it describes how poorly scientists are represented in politics. In the UK just one (out of 650) of our Members of Parliament had a career in science before entering politics (and its not better in the USA). Consequently politicians fail to understand how science is conducted leading, amongst other things, to a systematic abuse of evidence to support their policies.
But this evidence abuse and misunderstanding of the scientific method is not all their fault. Scientists too often fail to engage with politicians (and the media). So Mark calls for scientist to do just that, help support politicians, talk to them and make science (and evidence based policies) a vote winning issue.
One of the book's fans, Dave Watts, took Mark's message to heart. He thought that our politicians should read the book so he rallyed the troops and via an online pledge site got scientists to agree to send a copy of "The Geek Manifesto" to every MP in the UK parliament. With the help of the publishers (Transworld, who agreed to match the individual pledges) the target has been reached and books are winging their way to MPs right now.
I joined in the fun and have sent a copy to my MP with the following accompanying letter.
Within the next few days you should receive a copy of “The Geek Manifesto: Why Science Matters” by Mark Henderson (Head of Communications at the Wellcome Trust) I hope you enjoy reading it.
A few years ago we engaged on the Royal Society’s Scientist/MP pairing scheme. I found it a most useful insight into the workings of government and the role that science can play in the decision making process.
Unfortunately and despite excellent schemes, like those run by the RS, it seems to me, and many others, that science is greatly undervalued and misused in British politics. Many of our decision makers are unfamiliar with the scientific methods and how it can be applied to policies.
This lamentable state is in no small part due to scientists’ failure to engage with politicians. But this is changing. In recent years scientists have started to form lobby and pressure groups to better make their cases heard.
Mark Henderson’s book follows in this vein. It is acting as a call to arms, rallying scientists and persuading them to make science and evidenced based decision an electoral issue. Therefore many of us consider “The Geek Manifesto” to be an extremely timely and important book. It contains arguments that all rational thinkers should consider. With this in mind hundreds of scientist around the country have pledged to buy and send their MP a copy of the book. Within the next few weeks every MP should receive a copy.
I hope you and your colleagues find the book to be an interesting read.
An offer to help
I know from my experience on the scientist/MP pairing scheme that you are a extremely busy working to help you constituents.
In turn I believe that scientists must do more to help their MPs understand science and the scientific method. I would therefore like to offer my services in helping to form evidence based views and decisions.
My specialist expertise lies in chemistry and biochemistry. However my scientific skills are highly transferable, after all science is more about asking rational questions, solving problems and understanding date than it is learning facts and figures.
Meet the Geeks
Lastly, I would like to draw your attention to your local “Café Scientifique” (details attached); a monthly meeting were local scientists talk, in an informal, setting to members of the public. You are welcome to come to our meetings, which would be an excellent opportunity for you to meet some of your ‘geek’ constituents.
I look forward to your reply, which I will post on my blog www.t2ah.com .
Dr Mark Lorch
I'll keep you posted on any reply. In the mean time you can read more about the book and the pledge on blogs here and here and many others. And of course I heartily recommend reading the book.