Dammit, Jim, I’m a Doctor, Not a Scientist

LE TESTAMENT DU DOCTEUR CORDELIER [FR 1959]The refrain from the original Star Trek physician, Bones, has arisen like Lazarus from the mortuary of old TV shows.

But this time it’s politicians.

When asked their opinions of, say, climate change, politicians of late have demurred. “I’m not a scientist,” is the response.

Coral Davenport of The New York Times wrote recently the trend has snared Republicans politicians

One critic said the tactic is “dumb.”

“Using that logic would disqualify politicians from voting on anything. Most politicians aren’t scientists, but they vote on science policy. They have opinions on Ebola, but they’re not epidemiologists. They shape highway and infrastructure laws, but they’re not engineers,” said lobbyist Michael McKenna.

What it really means is the politician simply doesn’t want to talk about climate change.

But the story goes on to say that, “While the politicians debate, the scientific evidence linking weather extremes to climate change continues to mount. Earlier this year, the National Climate Assessment…detailed the ways in which climate change caused by burning coal and oil is threatening the American landscape.”

The take-away is that we allow politicians to pick and choose how they respond to reporters about their areas of expertise.

Reporters need to dig in their heels and insist on honest responses.

Politicians make judgments about birth control when they’re not health practitioners. And they make decisions about war when they’re not soldiers.

Legislators have made decisions on issues that affect American Indians for hundreds of years.

I’ve never heard one of them excuse himself from voting because, “I’m not an Indian.”

Blog #3 for Native American Heritage Month

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About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. She is enrolled with the Osage tribe.
This entry was posted in american indian, authenticity, framing, Indian, journalism, Native Science, science, science communication, writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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