Science, religion, atheism, lawyers and politics

The discussion below between Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Dawkins is mostly about atheism and belief, and the degree to which the atheist viewpoint can or should be promoted.

But at one point, about 1 hr 3 mins into the video, Tyson talks about why he’s worried that there aren’t more scientists in politics. Everyone seems to be a lawyer. And his concern is not for the perhaps more obvious reasons of, say, ensuring sufficient funding for research. It’s that lawyers are people trained to be good arguers of a point of view, regardless of whether it’s the view they necessarily hold themselves.

I want people who know how to make decisions in Congress, and I’m sorry, but I don’t count lawyers among those…

When we have two scientists, if we disagree, it’s because one of us is wrong, or the other is wrong, or we’re both wrong… and we both agree with that fact — that those are the three possibilities that exist, and we’re both waiting for more or better data, to resolve it — so that we will one day agree, and then go out and have a beer.

Lawyers don’t… it doesn’t happen that way… any time I’ve seen lawyers in conflict.

Now, I’d be a bit more generous to lawyers than that, perhaps because I’m married to one! Good lawyers are at least trained to examine all the possible arguments, which is a very valuable skill, not taught to everybody. In some ways, I think, they’re almost scientists. But this doesn’t change the fact that, at least outside the academic sphere, they are usually exploring these possibilities on the behalf of a client, so they’re looking to turn their awareness of the other arguments into a reinforcement of a predetermined point of view. This makes them effective, but undesirable, politicians.

It’s nice to think that, in theory at least, good scientists would be better…

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