18 Scientists Win Seats in Congress!

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So the midterms are over here in the US and it went…okay. It wasn’t the blue wave I personally wanted to see, which would have been more like a tsunami that floods in and drowns 90% of our current congressional and gubernatorial representatives. I took a shot every time the news anchor announced a Republican winning a ticket, and I had several when Ted Cruz won. Wednesday morning was not a pleasant time for me, from what I recall.

But we still did pretty well, pushing out a few fascists and a few fascism sympathizers, and we have at least eight new Congresscritters who are actual scientists, bringing the total number of scientist reps who won this week to 18. This is an issue I try to not lose sight of — it’s important to me that we have representatives who will actively fight Trump’s fascism, and it’s important to me that we do our best to elect people who are not racists or misogynists, but it’s also important to have people who actually understand science, since the party currently in control thinks climate change is a myth. We are in an era where it’s drastically important that the people in charge understand climate change and humanity’s role in it and take serious steps to mitigate it, or else we are condemning the very next generation to a living hell of category 5 storms, flooding, food shortages, dangerous summer heat, and more.

So people on “my” side are celebrating these new scientifically literate representatives, and I would like to do that as well. However, remember how I started all this by saying how important it is to oppose fascism, and to not be misogynist or racist? As we should all know by now, being a scientist doesn’t mean you check those other boxes. Hell, James Watson is one of the most famous scientists in the world for helping discover DNA, but he’s a virulent racist and if he were in charge of our government things would go downhill very quickly.

Maggie Koerth-Baker posted a thread on Twitter calling this problem out, and I want to highlight her very good points. Of those 18 scientists who won, two are Republican, which at this point it’s hard to argue isn’t the party that tolerates fascism the best, and one is a Democrat who is on the record as being anti-abortion. Yes, it is possible to be a scientist and to have no respect for the rights and bodily autonomy of women. It’s even possible to be a scientist and not understand the science of fetal development.

And for that matter, it’s possible to be considered a scientist and still think the moon landing didn’t happen, that 9/11 was an inside job, and yes, that global warming is a hoax. The list of scientists that everyone is passing around includes eight engineers. I’m not here to bash engineers or to say they’re in any way more ignorant than the general population, but I will say that whenever a creationist posts a list of “scientists” who don’t “believe” in evolution, it’s usually actually mostly engineers. Same thing goes for “scientists” who think Bush detonated the Twin Towers, and those who doubt global warming — more often than not they aren’t working scientists, they are engineers.

Meanwhile, as Koerth-Baker points out, congresspeople like Haley Stevens don’t have a STEM degree but have demonstrated an understanding of science and a fierce drive to bring a scientific understanding into politics. There’s nothing that a pro-life or Republican engineer offers that Haley Stevens doesn’t already have, plus she understands the need for single-payer healthcare, the importance of women’s bodily autonomy, and oh yeah, gun control. I haven’t even mentioned gun control yet, and there was literally a new mass shooting in my own state two days ago.

I’m not here to burst anyone’s bubble who is happy about more STEM grads in Congress. I just want to make sure we don’t get a false sense of security. We don’t need to be single-issue voters on science degrees. It’s possible to elect people who understand science (with or without a degree) and who also understand the myriad other issues Americans are currently facing today.

So congrats to the blue wave, but here’s hoping that wave doesn’t just trickle out and wash back into the ocean.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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