• Question: Who are you guys voting for the the electoral race? (Hint: Don't say Trump)

    Asked by Jonathan The Awesome to Alex, Ana, Clay, Keegan, Mark on 3 May 2016.
    • Photo: Clay Robinson

      Clay Robinson answered on 3 May 2016:

      Scientists are trained to be skeptics.
      What I mean is that in science we are taught to make observations, consider what factors might contribute to those observations, weigh the evidence supporting those factors and use all that information to draw a conclusion. We often try to limit all the other factors that might affect the process we are observing so we understand what that one thing does. And then we question our results. We submit them to other scientists for their input because we may have overlooked something, had a gap in our logic, or maybe just held to a favorite explanation. As scientists, we want to catch such things before they are published.
      But in the social sciences (which many physical and applied scientists do not consider actual science), it is not possible to evaluate all the factors. Physical processes always operate within expected boundaries, for example, hot air rises due to a difference in density as a result of increases in volume, dropped objects fall due to the effects of gravity. But humans are an odd bunch, and unlike physical processes, do not always react in the same manner to the same stimuli. So, the first time your sibling gently punches you in the arm, you ignore it. The next time you tell them to stop. After a few times, you yell at them to stop. At some point you may lose your temper and punch them back, probably much harder than they were punching you. The stimulus was the same the entire time – a gentle punch on the arm; your reaction varied greatly.
      Political campaigns play on the idiosyncrasies of human behavior. They prey on, or appeal to, people’s fears, desires, selfishness, emotions, ideologies, and a whole host of other things. Campaigns depend on a group dynamic, because the responses of groups generally more predictable than the response of an individual.
      So, as a scientist, how do I decide for whom to vote. That issue is complex because there are so many issues to consider. I have to evaluate those issues and decide which ones I think are more important, and which ones are preferable, but not a deal-breaker. I have to find ways to cut through the sound bites and smoke screens and accusations and diatribe to evaluate what does the candidate think about those issues I think are most important. Sometimes it is difficult to identify where the candidate stands on a particular issue, either because they have not taken an open stand, or have made contradictory statements.
      In some elections, I have voted for what I felt was the best choice of two good candidates.
      In this election, I fear I many be choosing which candidate I think is the least distasteful and will do the least harm.

    • Photo: Keegan Cooke

      Keegan Cooke answered on 3 May 2016:

      Regardless of political affiliation, I respect those that base their opinions and views on science, logic, and facts. Trump is simply not one of those people (and that has been scientifically proven through numerous studies, hehe).