Will having a scientific president matter in policy-making in Kenya?
William Ruto won the presidential election against all odds. We have in the past tried to explain why and how he won.
We look forward to his cabinet giving us an idea of how he will run the government. I’m particularly interested in who gets the hot finance file. Can we call these men and women minister or waziri, the cabinet secretary is old-fashioned and copied from the American constitution?
However, we have not reviewed President Ruto’s academic credentials, which are unique. He is the first Kenyan president to earn a doctorate and the first scientist to occupy the house on the hill. He is a botanist.
Curiously, he is a very religious man, since his student days. Religion is a matter of faith, with few questions asked. It mainly relies on a source of knowledge, usually a holy book like the Bible or the Koran.
Science is a matter of skepticism, not certainty as we are led to believe. All scientific knowledge is provisional, until we gain higher knowledge.
Remember that at one time the atom was the smallest unit of matter? And we thought Earth was the center of the universe?
Why should we care about Dr. Ruto’s academic credentials?
Scientists think differently from artists, who call themselves social scientists. These try to mimic the methods that “real” scientists use to gather new knowledge after collecting data and testing hypotheses.
Social scientists are more bound by emotions, sentimentality and beliefs despite their flirtation with objectivity. They don’t like being told that.
Scientists are known for their objectivity, focus on cause and effect relationships, and transparency. The methods they use to collect and analyze the data are made public and anyone can reproduce their study if in doubt.
This contrasts with social scientists whose key subjects are human beings with their biases and prejudices. Social science studies are very hard to replicate, our views and beliefs keep changing.
Since Dr. Ruto is a religious politician, we look forward to seeing his scientific part. How objective will he be in his decisions? Will he make better decisions taking into account the cause and effect relationship?
As a scientist, will he demand data or evidence for the most critical decisions? Will it eliminate our whims in making important decisions for this country? Will it make public participation more scientific?
Will transparency reign in the spirit of science? Will it remove “siri” from serikali? How will he balance his religious beliefs with science?
A more curious question is whether more scientists will get big jobs in government. Do not the birds of a feather flock together? Will college degrees compete with gender in internships?
Instead of the two-thirds rule on sex, why not the two-thirds rule on science? Ensuring a mix of social and “hard” scientists in top positions? Some think there will be a new mix of hard work, religious inclination.
There is no doubt that evangelicals played a role in Dr. Ruto’s victory. What will their dividend be?
Will Ruto’s scientific side be visible in public? Winners of drama and music festivals in school competitions always visit State House. Will the laureates of science and technology congresses also visit the president?
The United States has an Office of Science and Technology Policy under the Presidency. Will we have such an office under President Ruto?
Will the rise of Dr Ruto lead to more STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) students at the university level and catalyze industrialization, which is driven by scientists and their engineer cousins?
Will there be more money for research and development? Today, 75% of university students study social sciences; will Dr. Ruto reverse this?
make a difference
Has Dr. Ruto busted the myth that scientists can’t make leaders? Jomo Kenyatta was an anthropologist, Daniel arap Moi was a teacher and Kibaki was an economist. Uhuru Kenyatta studied economics but rarely pronounced his area of academic interest.
We should also accept that Dr. Ruto’s scientific training is not unique. Margaret Thatcher was a chemist, Angela Merkel is a quantum chemist. Xi Jingping is a chemical engineer and Pombe Mangufuli was a chemist. Why do chemists make good politicians? Mix things up?
Will Dr. Ruto’s academic background make a difference to our economy and lead to its transformation? Remember the big fight over the degree requirement for our leaders.
We can only wait to see what direction Dr. Ruto’s regime will take, starting with cabinet appointments. Science has been the engine of innovation and industrialization and has changed our view of the world. And through it, civilizations have flourished.
Is science the missing link in our quest to transform our society? Will Dr. Ruto and his science finally usher in the Kenyan renaissance?