Three responses to “I am not a scientist” Republicans, after Jeb Bush joined their ranks yesterday. First Obama, then Jonathan Chait, then Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
“Its pretty rare that you encounter people who say that the problem of carbon pollution is not a problem,” Obama told an audience of several hundred gathered in Washingtons Ronald Reagan building. “In most communities and workplaces, they may not know how big a problem it is, they may not know exactly how it works, they may doubt they can do something about it. Generally they dont just say, No I dont believe anything scientists say. Except, where? Congress!”
“In Congress,” he added, “folks will tell you climate change is hoax or a fad or a plot. A liberal plot.”Then there are those who if pressed about climate “duck the question and say, Hey, Im not a scientist, which really translates into: I accept that man-made climate change is real, but if I say so I will be run out of town by a bunch of fringe elements, ” he said. “So I am just going to pretend like—I dont know—I cant read.”The jokes snowballed from there.”I mean, Im not a scientist either, but Ive got this guy, John Holdren, hes a scientist. Ive got a bunch of scientists at NASA and Ive got a bunch of scientists at EPA.””Im not a doctor either, but if a bunch of doctors tell me that tobacco can cause lung cancer then Ill say, OK! Its not that hard.””Im not a scientist, but I read the science.”
“I’m not a scientist” allows Republicans to avoid conceding the legitimacy of climate science while also avoiding the political downside of openly branding themselves as haters of science. The beauty of the line is that it implicitly concedes that scientists possess real expertise, while simultaneously allowing you to ignore that expertise altogether.
“This mentality is a fundamental misunderstanding of how a representative democracy works. As elected officials, we aren’t expected to be experts on every issue. However, we are responsible for making decisions based on the best available information.
“It’s not even how a functioning adult acts. When I was told by my doctor that I had breast cancer, I didn’t reject their diagnosis because I wasn’t an oncologist myself. I listened to the advice of people who knew more than I did and started immediately on a course of action that would solve the problem.”