Steven Chu, who is leaving his position as secretary of energy, might have been a great pick for the job, if only the real world worked like bad science fiction.
In comedies and sci-fi, we often encounter the “generic professor” character, the all-discipline scientist, the master of all areas of human knowledge. In real life, though, most scientists specialize. One might be an expert on the CCR5-Delta32 AIDS-resistance allele, another on the (mem)brane concept in string theory. The amount of study and the narrow focus needed to become a world-class scientist rarely allow scientists to move outside their fields.
When scientists get involved in politics and public policy, they often make fools of themselves. Scientists promoted now-discredited ideas about phrenology (linking traits such as criminality to the shapes of people’s heads), eugenics, white supremacy, nuclear winter and the “impossibility” of missile defense.
All-star polymaths do exist, and some have become effective politicians. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin come to mind.
Steven Chu is no Ben Franklin.
Read more at The Washington Times. By Terrence Scanlon.