We bring up the example of the grade school girl that stood up to Jason Chaffetz, the now-retiring chairman of the House Oversight Committee, at a recent town hall meeting in Salt Lake City. When he gave a non-answer about protecting the environment, the young girl questioned whether or not he believed in science at all, and the crowd went wild.
“Yes! See, this is what we need,” Phoenix replies. “If we give kids answers based on fact, we are opening up a world of possibilities. This is how we set our society free.”
Phoenix says that it’s not enough to just teach children that science is cool and that it’s fun to learn about the universe. There’s not enough of an emphasis on the importance of it.
“We need it to solve these big picture problems like climate change and food security, and to support everyone on this planet.”
“We need science for our survival.”
She is running as a Democrat, but she doesn’t have anything against Republicans per se. She grew up in a conservative area and her father is a Republican, but in recent years, the political landscape has been bulldozed over by extremists on the right. Both parties have become more partisan, and people are no longer connecting with much of the public.
How does Phoenix, a scientist by training, hope to change that?
“In order to connect, we need to talk about certain universal truths,” she begins. “Curiosity is the cure to ignorance – that is a universal truth.”
“You don’t have to believe everything I say, but when I show you how I got this information absent of an agenda," she adds. "When you show people how science is done, under the hood, people open up to science more."
Phoenix finds that when she emphasizes that she cares about clean water, clean air, less pollution, better healthcare for children and so on – people see that she really does have the same goals as they do and that she’s not a cardboard cut-out politician, but human, after all.
“I gave a talk at the Los Angeles March For Science,” she tells IFLScience. “I made the point that ignorance is a disease we’re fighting against. We’re not fighting people; we’re fighting ignorance.”
“You take away the fighting people element, and you start to fight the disease,” Phoenix concludes. “That’s what I do.”