5/7/12, "Can Science Save Us? Mourdock Sees a Savior in Science," Scientific American, J. Morrison
"Mourdock, who holds a Master’s degree in geology from Ball State University, worked in the energy sector for more than 30 years. If elected he would join a small group of scientists in the 112th Congress—a group that contained around 30 scientists among the 535 senators and representatives in the 110th Congress.
“Those of us who are trained in the sciences look at problems differently,” says Mourdock. “We are more analytical and less ready to accept what appears to be the obvious answer.”
But is he prepared to balance the views of his conservative constituents with his own training in science when faced with issues of climate change, reproductive health and evolutionary science?...
Mourdock says that his background in science will allow him to take an analytical approach to politics. He scoffs at the notion that conservatives are waging a war on science.
“I think that’s silly. Galileo was attacked. Darwin was attacked. I don’t know that this is a political attack so much as a societal attack,” says Mourdock. “If it’s political, it’s because so much in our lives, and I’m not just talking science here anymore, seems to require involvement of government.”
Mourdock says that topics like teaching creationism in schools should be debated at the local level, not the national level.
“Where I think there should be a debate on science, to really cut to the heart of it, is how we have government better support new technologies that only science can provide,” says Mourdock. “I became a geologist because the summer I graduated from high school, I saw people walking on the moon.”
That was 1969. Mourdock says the national feeling about science was different then.
“It was all about science. You couldn’t escape how the nation was involved in science,” says Mourdock. “That inspired a whole generation of people like myself.”
Mourdock says the national debate should be that if the government is going to be involved in science, how can it be involved in a way that “inspires people to love science, to study science, not knowing where it will take them, but just having that educational background?”
Mourdock does not expect a re-focusing of the national science debate to happen overnight.
“It takes real leadership from those of us who love science and understand its importance to society,” says Mourdock. “The reason it was happening [in the 1950’s and 1960’s] was because of the Cold War. The Soviet Union and the United States had this intense rivalry that spurred a space race.”
Fear that the Soviet Union could launch a nuclear attack as easily as it launched a space shuttle created a generation of science-savvy young adults. But that fervor soon faded.
“A renewal of that spirit is going to take some real sense of urgency that science can save us,” says Mourdock. “We have to look at science as what’s going to save our economy. How can we develop new technologies to make us better equipped to go forward in a very, very competitive world?”
Mourdock self-identifies as a Christian, but he does not take a Creationist view on the origin of the Universe. He says it is important that political parties not be divided into a party for science and a party against science.
“I tell my Christian friends: when you look at the rock record, the fossil record, of course evolution occurred. It continues to occur,” says Mourdock. “It is important that we understand that others can disagree. I’m more concerned, frankly, when I see science misused by politicians.”
Specifically, Mourdock says the debate is not over on global climate change. He says that in science the debate never ends.
“That is the most anti-scientific stance that you can take,” says Mourdock. “It’s never over. One question leads to another, leads to another, leads to another.”
“Politicians are always going to do a horrible job of assessing science when there is no clear, obvious outcome,” says Mourdock, “because science is being used to drive a political outcome.”
The bottom line is funding, he says.
“One group will want one outcome because it may mean funding in this area,” says Mourdock, “and another group will want another outcome because it means there won’t be funding in that area. It’s not about what the science says. It’s about how the science is being used.”...
Mourdock is a proponent of increasing the presence of science in Congress.
“We need more people with a science background in physical sciences—physics, biology, geology, chemistry—in this public life,” says Mourdock.
He would like to become one of those people.