Trump’s Anti-Science Campaign

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    Aug 21, 2016 2:42 PM GMT the past few months, we’ve seen Donald Trump lower, again and again, the bar for political discourse. All the while, though, he’s been lowering the scientific bar, too. In May, for instance, while speaking to an audience of West Virginia coal miners, Trump complained that regulations designed to protect the ozone layer had compromised the quality of his hair spray. Those regulations, he continued, were misguided, because hair spray is used mainly indoors, and so can have no effect on the atmosphere outside. No wonder Hillary Clinton felt the need to include, in her nomination speech, the phrase “I believe in science.”

    ...Often, Trump is simply wrong about science, even though he should know better. Just as he was a persistent “birther” even after the evidence convincingly showed that President Obama was born in the United States, Trump now continues to propagate the notion that vaccines cause autism in spite of convincing and widely cited evidence to the contrary. (As he put it during a Republican debate, last September, “We’ve had so many instances. . . . A child went to have the vaccine, got very, very sick, and now is autistic.”) In other cases, Trump treats scientific facts the way he treats other facts—he ignores or distorts them whenever it’s convenient....

    ...Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, has a more consistent record on science; unfortunately, it’s consistently bad. Pence is an evangelical Christian who is adamantly opposed to embryonic-stem-cell research; in a conversation with Chris Matthews, in 2009, Pence hedged on whether he believes in evolution. Even when it comes to more secular matters, Pence has made some outrageous claims. In 2001, he published an essay piece on his campaign Web site claiming that smoking doesn’t kill.

    ...Trump has argued for downsizing the Department of Education and said that the U.S. invests too much money in K-12 schooling. He has suggested that he might appoint Ben Carson—a young-Earth, anti-evolution creationist—to advise him on educational reform. He has called the National Institutes of Health “terrible,” and has said that he would eliminate the E.P.A....

    The differences between the candidates and their parties could not be more stark. Hillary Clinton has a long history of supporting scientific research; she has long understood the connections between that research and economic development. She has said that, if elected, she would increase funding for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health....
    On the level of party platforms, too, the differences are extreme. Perhaps in response to Trump’s candidacy, the 2016 Republican Party platform extends policy proposals that were, in 2012, already anti-science....

    The positions taken by Trump and the Republicans have consequences beyond science itself. Essentially, they are betting that, for a significant portion of the country, empirical reality doesn’t matter; they are also signalling that empirical reasoning won’t be the basis of their public policy....the quality of people’s lives will suffer.


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    Aug 21, 2016 2:45 PM GMT Trump’s Lack of Respect for Science Is Alarming

    The U.S. presidential election shows how far the political conversation has degenerated from the nation's founding principles of truth and evidence

    “If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong.” — Richard Feynman

    Four years ago in these pages, writer Shawn Otto warned our readers of the danger of a growing antiscience current in American politics. “By turning public opinion away from the antiauthoritarian principles of the nation's founders,” Otto wrote, “the new science denialism is creating an existential crisis like few the country has faced before.”

    Otto wrote those words in the heat of a presidential election race that now seems quaint by comparison to the one the nation now finds itself in. As if to prove his point, one of the two major party candidates for the highest office in the land has repeatedly and resoundingly demonstrated a disregard, if not outright contempt, for science. Donald Trump also has shown an authoritarian tendency to base policy arguments on questionable assertions of fact and a cult of personality.

    Americans have long prided themselves on their ability to see the world for what it is, as opposed to what someone says it is or what most people happen to believe. In one of the most powerful lines in American literature, Huck Finn says: “It warn't so. I tried it.” A respect for evidence is not just a part of the national character. It goes to the heart of the country's particular brand of democratic government. When the founding fathers, including Benjamin Franklin, scientist and inventor, wrote arguably the most important line in the Declaration of Independence—“We hold these truths to be self-evident”—they were asserting the fledgling nation's grounding in the primacy of reason based on evidence.

    Scientific American is not in the business of endorsing political candidates. But we do take a stand for science—the most reliable path to objective knowledge the world has seen—and the Enlightenment values that gave rise to it. For more than 170 years we have documented, for better and for worse, the rise of science and technology and their impact on the nation and the world. We have strived to assert in our reporting, writing and editing the principle that decision making in the sphere of public policy should accept the conclusions that evidence, gathered in the spirit and with the methods of science, tells us to be true.

    It won't come as a surprise to anyone who pays even superficial attention to politics that over the past few decades facts have become an undervalued commodity. Many politicians are hostile to science, on both sides of the political aisle. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has a routine practice of meddling in petty science-funding matters to score political points. Science has not played nearly as prominent a role as it should in informing debates over the labeling of genetically modified foods, end of life care and energy policy, among many issues.

    The current presidential race, however, is something special. It takes antiscience to previously unexplored terrain. When the major Republican candidate for president has tweeted that global warming is a Chinese plot, threatens to dismantle a climate agreement 20 years in the making and to eliminate an agency that enforces clean air and water regulations, and speaks passionately about a link between vaccines and autism that was utterly discredited years ago, we can only hope that there is nowhere to go but up.

    In October, as we did four years previously, we will assemble answers from the campaigns of the Democratic and Republican nominees on the public policy questions that touch on science, technology and public health and then publish them online. We will support's efforts to persuade moderators to ask important science-related questions during the presidential debates. We encourage the nation's political leaders to demonstrate a respect for scientific truths in word and deed. And we urge the people who vote to hold them to that standard.
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    Aug 21, 2016 3:13 PM GMT
    It's not only about respect for scientific truth and incontrovertible evidence. Some people (e.g., Trump and his right-wing cabal) manifestly don't feel obligated to do that. It's also about our obligation as rational, thoughtful human beings to ensure that we don't give fact-deniers (such as Trump and his cabal) an "out"--we must hold their feet to the fire and make them accountable for their lies.
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    Aug 21, 2016 4:10 PM GMT
    This is what the alt-right seems about. This alternate universe of theirs. It is not just lying. It is that but also it is worse. It is creating fiction and then living that as their reality, promoting their alt-reality and alt-expecting others to alt-accept it. When others don't they alt-attempt to alt-declare them "morons" "idiots" "psychologically damaged", dare I say "heretics", for this is not without precedence: religion is their game. Essentially they are the televangelists of politics. And their present day Bizarro Jesus is Trump.