I tried imagining this, and then I throwed up

Wow, the naiveté. There was never a time when I thought this would be a good idea.

Imagine a world is ruled by scientists, not by politicians.

I don’t know who the guy on the bottom right is, but I hope he’s embarrassed to have been lumped in with that crowd of people, none of whom have any qualifications in governance.

Also, the bad grammar — this seems to be an image patched together by some guy who has nothing but a twitter account, Physics-astronomy.org, a Facebook page, and an ugly news-aggregator site, Physics-astronomy.org, none of which are affiliated with any organization of physicists, and which seems to be a site that skims off articles on science from other sites and posts them without attribution. It’s the product of a no-talent parasite, in other words, so it’s doubly embarrassing to see that kind of stupid arrogance.

It’s a shame that so many atheists are suckers for this kind of crap.


  1. Marshall says

    That’s Leonard Susskind right? Sorry if you were being facetious and I didn’t catch it.

  2. markgisleson says

    Thanks for calling this out. We’re still suffering from decades of “business” leadership in politics. The notion that any field of endeavor has special insights into governance is not supported by actual history.

    At some point you have to scrutinize the people you vote for. Personal character and personal history are better indicators than professional accomplishments (how many fields truly provide advancement for the most qualified as opposed to the best connected?).

  3. kenbakermn says

    I would rather see a world ruled by systems engineers (not IT systems, I mean systems in the more general sense).

  4. kome says

    I’d rather imagine a world not ruled by anyone or any group. I’d rather leadership be representative, not ruling, and otherwise a society or a nation be without a class or caste system.

    Also, I don’t know much about Kaku aside from he really likes to engage in some flights of fancy that more science and tech will eventually solve all our problems and it’ll be super cool. Is he like the rest at all in terms of morally dubious views on society or engaging in morally dubious behavior?

  5. komarov says

    If I was in a generous mood I’d point out that, strictly speaking, there’s no implication attached to the image, i.e. it doesn’t say just what kind of world we ought to expect.
    But this is a grand line-up. We have Minister of Defence Harris, who’ll invade first and torture the locals to death in case they have any ticking time-bombs hidden away. In fact he knows they do, it’s in their nature, so it would be a dangerous waste of time to look for evidence first. There’s foreign minister Dawkins, who doesn’t understand why everybody is so upset with him all the time. They should just grow a thicker skin and stop criticising him all the time. Krauss, tourism board and marketing, presumably, who’ll never tire of pointing out all the good done by the vampire cabal who happen to support his other hobbies. And finally – not sure where to put the other two, sorry – head science advisor and chief optimist Michiko Kaku, who’ll lead the world into a bright future full of wonderful things, provided we don’t go asking for too many details.

  6. says

    @5: Mos. def. Tyson for Secretary of the Space Force. He won’t accomplish anything with it, of course, but hey, it’s not his fault he was born before we had the means to create viable off-Earth colonies…

  7. consciousness razor says

    How about Mars? I mean, if they want to rule in exile from the comfort of home, that may be okay i guess. They probably wouldn’t fuck it up too badly, as long as we’re imagining someplace that’s uninhabited. But if they’re going to have thrones and whatnot, who’s going to donate for that? And would we all have to listen to their royal decrees? I just want to know for sure that it’s going to be completely meaningless.

  8. kurt1 says

    Where is Pinker in this lineup? He could be secretary of the interior and tell everyone how they are better off now than their great grandparents 120 years ago. Sadly it’s too late for science and underage girl enthusiast Jeffrey Eppstein to become president and fight for abolishing these draconian age of consent laws.

  9. lasius says

    To be fair, some of the best politicians I know are natural scientists. That doesn’t mean I would want to be gouverned by the bozos in that picture.

  10. hemidactylus says

    I’m not averse to technocracy done right (excluding the clowns above). After 4 years of Trump and an enabling Senate I have a newfound fondness for the Deep (or Administrative) State. Now democracy is for electing the quasi-representative sausage makers who craft laws that executive agencies populated ideally with highly educated Masters and PhD level scientists, public administrators, and managers, not cronies, or relatives of others implement. I was about to exclude attorneys but we need someone to skim the algae from the bottom of the tank.

    I would think appointing Tyson as public science communications czar would be ok. Dawkins is a Brit and jackass. No to Harris. Being a science popularizer or new atheist polemicist doesn’t qualify you for being a technocrat. Just knowledge, experience, and mundane workaday ethic.

  11. says

    I still shudder at the memories of Gov. Dixie Lee Ray…

    …who was a crank as a scientist, too, but whatever.

    The biggest problem with putting scientists in charge of politics is the subcultural tendency toward “the greatest good for the greatest number, ok, that’s a wrap” that underlies conversations on turning “science” into “policy.” I do think that policymakers should be much more educated in the sciences than they are, but the research-agenda-orientation serves poorly in policy matters in which “the big picture” is always a prime consideration.

    And that’s before getting into the tunnel-vision problem epitomized by this set of scientists — think any of them routinely handle Ehrlenmayer flasks, petri dishes, or photomicrographs? OK, think any of them even have any Ehlenmayer flasks, petri dishes, or photomicrographs within 50m of their “labs”? “Being a scientist” isn’t restricted to any particular subset of the broad areas of inquiry called “science”…

  12. says

    Thanks, we had millennia of a world run by mostly white cis dudes, I think we could do with some time without. Especially without dudes who are so full of themselves that their shit basically flows from their mouths.

  13. PaulBC says

    Imagine a world that is not “ruled” at all, but governed by the consent of the governed. I do not know where I got that crazy idea, but it would be a nice thing to try.

  14. Saad says

    So basically still creepy sexual misconduct, misogyny, and anti-Muslim bigotry but without the Jesus stuff.

    Yeah. Pass.

  15. PaulBC says

    BTW, I also think “politician” as a concept is sadly underrated. There’s a lot to be said for someone whose stated goal is to gain votes by representing the interests of their constituents. That’s setting the right incentives for representative government.

    The problem is that we don’t have politicians at a high level, or enough of them. Instead we have functionaries of elite interests who “win” elections by virtue of being part of a limited slate of choices. At the local level, we may sometimes have actual politicians, and they don’t have to be rocket scientists. They do have to be engaged in their communities and subject to the will of their constituents. If you hate “politicians” then you basically hate democracy. Politics is how democracy functions.

  16. littlejohn says

    Recall that when the state of Israel was being formed, they offered the job of prime minister to Albert Einstein, on the grounds (I’m guessing here) that he was the most prominent and admired Jew at the time. To everyone’s relief, Einstein declined. I tried to work “relative” or “speed of light” into a joke, but realized it would be stupid.

  17. PaulBC says

    40 years after John Lennon was shot (and a couple of days), I’d rather imagine his vision than the nightmare of that picture.

    I will add that I always found the lyrics kind of trite, but mostly because I agree. And in fact it’s, a humanist vision (“imagine all the people living for today”) running contrary to the religious zealotry that’s rampant in the US today, so I guess that does make it a radical statement. I was surprised to see it referenced in an old Quantum Leap episode, since that got to be such a cloyingly religious show as it progressed.

    This whole “ruled by scientists” thing is the same warped vision you get from teenage Ayn Rand buffs. Wouldn’t it be great if the disaffected teenage boys were in charge? No. It would not. And I say this as a former disaffected teenage boy. I grew up.

  18. hillaryrettig says

    PaulBC – the song is simple (which makes it easy to mock or dismiss) but truly profound.

  19. springa73 says

    I don’t think that scientists as a group would necessarily make better government leaders than anyone else, but being completely illiterate in science and (worse) unwilling to listen to scientists on relevant issues would in an ideal world be a big strike against someone seeking public office. Also, in an ideal world, I think that politicians should come from a very wide variety of backgrounds – the idea that the world should be run by people from any single profession strikes me as really bad.

  20. says

    I understand the basic concept, at least what I hope is the basic concept. I’d say, rather, imagine a world where political decisions are INFORMED by science. (Not that PhD-holders haven’t made some darned good politicians – although they’ve also represented some of the worst. Humans.) For me, that’s the larger issue and a better solution.

  21. PaulBC says

    @20 @21 I agree that politicians should listen to experts. It varies a lot. You don’t usually see civil engineers being second-guessed on bridge construction for instance. When it comes to social policy, many people seem to think they’re experts, and they are often informed by a worldview that it is counter to science, being more concerned with some perceived moral onus (e.g. for being a drug addict) than simply trying to find the solution that will be most efficacious. This is especially true when the problem itself (e.g. unplanned teenage pregnancy) is seen as a moral consequence and “deserved.”

  22. PaulBC says

    @23 I’m trying to imagine a county in which the public health officials don’t get death threats from crazy people. That would sadly not be my own, Santa Clara County, though it’s better than most of the US. Maybe in Europe such magical, rational places exist.

  23. naturalistguy says

    The former Soviet Union was officially atheist and professed to be scientific, but its politics were brutal.

  24. raven says

    PaulBC – the song is simple (which makes it easy to mock or dismiss) but truly profound.


    It’s even more of an amazing idea today.
    Imagine a world and a country like the USA, that isn’t completely dysfunctional and heading rapidly downhill.
    John Lennon said it is “easy if you try”.
    These days it is all but impossible.

  25. Pierce R. Butler says

    Imagine that meme with the syntax cleaned up and the pictures replaced with Anthony Fauci, Michael Mann, Jane Goodall, David Attenborough, …

  26. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    What I love the most about this silly nonsense is that they picked six people not because they were innovators whose work touched on public policy, or people who truly spoke truth to power. They didn’t pick someone like a Kahneman over Harris. They picked their sacred idols. They chose popular people. Meaning they don’t actually really like science all that much.

    Which of course shows one of the flaws with the whole idea. Who are the most qualified scientists to rule? Might sheer popularity take over?

  27. PaulBC says

    @25 Republicans claim to be on the side of working people but actually do everything in their power to preserve the wealth of the rentier class. Shocking how people “say” one thing and “do” another. Isn’t it ironic? As Alanis Morissette might put it.

    With respect to the Soviet Union, you could be atheist, scientific, and brutal at the same time. But more to the point, under Lysenkoism, the Soviet Union wasn’t scientific at all. Their life sciences and agricultural research were dominated by crackpot ideas at a time when they would have benefited from sound science. So while I don’t want even competent scientists to “rule” me, Stalinism isn’t a great counterexample to anything.

  28. ORigel says

    Imagine a world where all politicians accept science that is relevant to their duties– like the science on education methods, vaccines, and earth systems

    That would actually be a decent thing to yearn for.

  29. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @11: How can you possibly “do it right?” The period in American life where folks just trusted government and science the most was… the 50s to the 70s. (It all basically ends with Watergate). Do you really want to use that as your model?

    The very problem is that a culture that appreciates science can’t be one where people just blindly obey. If scientists and other experts explain plans and suggest alternatives, you still have democracy. But to avoid that, you need a hierarchy that everyone trusts to make decisions about who is qualified and why… a hierarchy that now has the levers of real power. Why would you trust scientists with that power inherently more than anyone else?

    The irony is that the whole idea hinges on the notion that expertise is about everything but government. That there is no such thing as political science or an art of leadership.

    Think about how many times scientific institutions eagerly joined vile nationalistic causes. The fact that these supposedly rational people can’t conquer bias in STEM. Do you realize that calling for technocracy is calling for the rule of white non-working-class male cis-gender straight people, just because they were lucky enough to benefit from an opportunity structure?

  30. PaulBC says

    CR@8 I know I’m taking your comments too literally, but the sheer environmental impact on earth of attempting to get these clowns to a livable habitat on Mars along with followers to “rule” over makes it a non-starter even if the technology existed. It harms “children and other living things” here on earth without helping anyone except a few privileged assholes.

    Also, suppose you had some way to terraform Mars cheaply, transport wingnuts, and let them establish their preferred hellscape there. Assuming they had kids, it would still result in human suffering, just very far away. It’s unclear how that solves anything. (Stanislaw Lem made a similar point about giving a bad person a simulated universe to lord over, but I can’t think of the story off the top of my head.)

  31. says

    the problem is with the picture not the idea.
    The world governed by scientists with expertise relevant to their job would be probably better place than the world full of political appointees.
    The problem with characters from the picture is that they are more politicians with an agenda than scientists

  32. ORigel says

    Some of these scientists would be better at governing than Republicans are nowadays. Which means America is in a really bad state.

  33. naturalistguy says

    One example of a scientist who had political skills, Robert Oppenheimer comes to mind. Oppenheimer was a very capable administrator who worked with not only other scientists but with engineers, the military, as well as politicians. Richard Dawkins is a capable scientist and a good writer, however he’s not someone who can lead a mission like Oppenheimer did.

  34. Frederic Bourgault-Christie says

    @36: While I do have a soft spot in my heart for Oppenheimer, is the archetype of a good administrator really going to be the man who helped make the most horrific weapon of all time? If people before him had dealt with the fascists when they were goons with no power, there would never have needed to be a bomb. Oppenheimer himself made clear that constant questioning of every authority is critical and that in a very serious sense physicists had sinned. Obviously non-scientists can do awful things too, but it seems to me a primary selection criterion for leaders should be a deep grasp of ethics.

    @34: So the alternative is… what? A bunch of scientists who don’t care about the political implications of their actions, doing policy? Who do you imagine will become technocratic leaders? They’re not going to be politically disinterested.

  35. tacitus says

    They didn’t choose from a list of scientists, they chose them from a list of celebrity scientists. That would work just about as well as choosing from a list of celebrity businessmen.

  36. harryblack says

    Give me a less educated, less ‘competent’ politician with actual values and I will take them every fucking time.
    Its absolutely pointless having people informed by science and able to make deals if they arent going to make deals that actually benefit the population.
    Ideology became a dirty word but we all have one and if helping people is not part of someones ideology then they are just in the way.

  37. Jazzlet says

    In the UK it would be a good start to say that there can only be one MP and one ‘lord’* from any given school** or college, and no more than ten from any one university.

    ‘lord’ as place holder or whatever we call those elected to the second chamber

  38. consciousness razor says

    PaulBC, #33: I was supposing that they would continue to live here (“in exile”), so that the whole thing would maximally pointless. Besides, if we were just looking for a prison colony, isn’t that why the Brits invented Australia?

  39. PaulBC says

    @42 Sorry, missed that. The fighting for Emperor of Mars could get extremely nasty. Elon Musk probably has a jump on the rest.

  40. consciousness razor says

    That may be, but the nastiness is pretty much out of our hands. I guess we could still attempt appeasement. Perhaps Dawkins wouldn’t find it beneath him to accept the title of King of the Moon? Shogun of Ganymede? Czar of Iapetus? There are many positions available.

  41. Thomas Scott says

    There is a reason that we have institutions of higher learning with schools of governance. But of course as we all know, everything can be explained by physics.

  42. says

    The thing I think is weird about Neil DeGrasse Tyson is that he’s been on Colbert once or twice since his “exoneration.”

    Now, I haven’t watched any of those segments, because something just doesn’t feel right about seeing him on the air again like that; nor do I recall the specific outcome of that case or whatever…

  43. anat says

    littlejohn @17: A few corrections, with implications to the topic: The offer to Einstein was not for the position of prime minister, which is the position of the head of the executive branch in Israel (that was Ben-Gurion, elected and re-elected several times) but for president, which in Israel is a ceremonial figurehead role. So even had Einstein accepted, the world would not have seen a country run by a non-politician scientist. Also, the offer to Einstein did not come at the founding of Israel but in 1952, when the first Israeli president, Chaim Weizmann, died in office. Weizmann in fact was a biochemist before he became a politician. (Ben Gurion came up with the position of president so as to make sure Weizmann was not competing with him politically.)

  44. oddie says

    Change the wording to “Imagine a world run by bigots and rapist” and be horrified by how little you have to alter the image.

  45. Edward Villarreal says

    I would take any of these over Trump.

    They may not be the best but they would be better.