Throughout this election cycle, and certainly since Election Day, many Americans are wondering whether what binds us together can overcome what divides us politically. Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that many of our fellow citizens are feeling more estranged from their countrymen and their government than they ever have.
Rightly, both President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump have emphasized the need for Americans to act as one team and unify our great country. But that is no easy task.
How does one compromise on a dearly held position? How does one settle for a partial solution when she believes only a total solution will work? How does one treat another person's perspective with validity if he believes there is no factual basis for it?
There is no easy answer to these questions, of course. But there is one thing that can be, and must be, part of the solution: science.
Though science gets a great deal of credit for advancing our understanding of the world, it gets too little credit for its foundational quality: humility in the face of evidence. That's not to say that scientists don't have egos, because we do, just like anyone else.
But what makes science science - publicly presenting facts and reasoning, subjecting ideas to rigorous criticism, and many rounds of testing to confirm or overturn theories - is premised upon a willingness to be proved wrong. We need more of that in our politics.
I recognize, of course, that policymaking does not take place in a laboratory. I am not suggesting that science should be the only factor that lawmakers consider.
But when it comes to the factual basis lawmakers use to inform their policy views, and to decide on a process for evaluating whether a particular policy has worked or failed, science should be the tool of first resort.
The stakes for our democracy are high. Many Americans are fearful that our elected leaders have forgotten how to find common ground, or don't want to, and that they continue to make assertions in disregard for each other.
A scientific approach to formulating views and evaluating policies will provide politicians what they need to hone their proposals and, perhaps, walk back from some of their previous positions.
That's not easy — I know, I've been there — but political arguments must resolve into policy choices at some point. Those choices should be pragmatic and informed by hard evidence and sound reasoning.
The stakes for our planet are high. We know, based on the work and expertise of the vast majority of climate scientists and virtually every leading scientific organization in the world, that human-caused climate change is real and dangerous. It is folly to ignore this scientific consensus - obstinate and irresponsible in the extreme.
And yet, a climate-change doubter has been put forward as the possible head of the Environmental Protection Agency in the next administration.
There is no reason for such an appointment when there are scientists of every political stripe who adhere to the scientific method, have the humility to accept when they are wrong, and would be willing to serve their country if asked by an incoming president.
I urge the president-elect and every incoming member of Congress to make use of the country's deep pool of talented scientists to serve as political appointees, staff members and outside experts.
Our Founding Fathers saw understanding and hope in science. They sought not only to encourage the pursuit of science and to protect it in the Constitution (which they did), but also, they hoped to infuse our society with the benefits of science. We have benefited mightily from their wisdom.
As the head of the world's largest multidisciplinary scientific society, which has led since 1848 and thus has endured countless shifting political winds, I have an obligation to stand up for the scientific process and to advocate for fidelity to science in all areas of policymaking.
We need science on an ongoing basis for reaching the best conclusions that tested knowledge can inform.
The range of issues on which science is relevant is infinite. My plea to our leaders is short: May they commit to using science to inform their policy views, and may they have the humility to accept the results.