I disappeared for a few days after the election of a man who espoused racism, xenophobia and misogyny as the reasons to vote for him. His actual policy proposals were threadbare and, if he really believed them, we are looking a historical dismantling of all that is special about the USA. It’s hard to choose what scares me most about this sexual predator’s policies, but the antiscience Donald Trump ranks pretty much at or near the top.
Generally, the Republican party is quite antiscience. Republicans deny climate change. Republicans deny evolution, while Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, is hypercritical of evolution. And of course, Republicans have shown themselves to be vaccine deniers. There’s a lot more, but many of us consider those topics to be in the top 5 list of science denial. Frankly, if someone said that Trump believed in alien visitations and Sasquatch, and he was sending tax money to investigate them thoroughly, I wouldn’t be surprised.
On a broader level, a Trump administration will probably gut science research by cutting funding to National Institutes of Health and NASA programs in basic scientific research. There are probably areas, where Trump will appoint directors who are opposed to the years of science that form a basis of policy.
Despite the press tacitly being in bed with Trump, never really investigating him, Hillary Clinton won the election based on the popular vote, with a several hundred thousand vote lead over Trump. I think most Americans wanted a President who supported science. Sadly, Trump won the election because the USA uses an antiquated and anachronistic method to actually choose the president. A method that is based on needs of 250 years ago and on the negotiations required to get slave holding states to agree to the new Union. But, I’m not a political scientist, and the arguments for and against the Electoral College system of voting would be far beyond what are topics for this website.
Let’s just look at the antiscience Donald Trump, sticking to the key issues of climate change, evolution, and vaccines.
Antiscience Donald Trump and evolution
First of all, Trump himself has not clearly articulated an opinion about science, but there are more than enough clues where he is going. Given Trump’s distinct lack of intellectual curiosity about almost anything but a woman’s genitals, he probably couldn’t explain the difference between biological evolution and young earth creationism. According to Hemant Mehta,
[infobox icon=”quote-left”]Knowing Trump has no clue about the origins of our species — it would require thinking about a topic other than himself — someone urged him to say he accepts two completely contradictory ideas. Evangelical Christians are famous for their embrace of Young Earth Creationism. Proclaiming that he supports theistic evolution — God created us but uses evolution to help us adapt — is a way to make all sides happy. But there’s no scientific justification for it. (It would be wildly entertaining to hear someone ask Trump how old the universe is.)[/infobox]
In other words, Trump panders to the right wing evangelical vote by claiming he supports it, but then also supports a theistic evolution, which is not supported by science and which attempts to reconcile religious beliefs with the scientific fact of evolution. Most scientist reject theistic evolution as science, but I guess on the scale of scientific evolution to pseudoscientific creationism, it sits somewhere in the middle.
What’s more problematic are some of the advisors attached to Trump through the transition to taking office. The aforementioned Vice President-elect, Mike Pence, is rabidly anti-evolution. One of Trump’s key advisors is Dr. Ben Carson (yes neurosurgeon) who was a candidate for the Republican nomination to the presidency. Dr. Carson has reiterated his belief in creationism, it is no secret. Carson claims that his creationist beliefs have not been a hindrance to his becoming a physician and surgeon.
Some of the readers here might think, “I don’t like evolution deniers, but it’s not like climate change which is really dangerous.” Except not knowing about evolution is dangerous. Theodosius Dobzhansky once wrote, “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” All of basic medical research relies on intimate knowledge of the power of evolution. We know how to attack viruses and other microbes because we understand how evolution works. We understand DNA and how it relates to diseases and treatments, because of our knowledge of evolution.
If we become a nation of evolution deniers, where creationism is taught as “science,” then the country falls behind in medical innovations that save lives. Ironically, so that our country can still make money on medical research, we’d have to hire foreign skilled researchers and scientists who aren’t ignorant in the fact of evolution.
Finally, though not directly evolution, understanding related facts like the age of the earth and how the earth changes over time, gives a better chance to grasp the fact of anthropogenic climate change. Which leads to the second problem with the antiscience Donald Trump.
Anthropogenic climate change
As bad as the antiscience Donald Trump is about evolution, there is more direct statements from him about anthropogenic climate change, that is, human-caused global warming. According to a Scientific American analysis of the four candidates for President (including Jill Stein and Gary Johnson), Trump’s antiscience views on climate change are pretty clear:
[infobox icon=”quote-left”]Trump refers to “climate change” in quotation marks, apparently to signal that he still believes—as he has asserted in the past—that human-caused global warming is a hoax. Then he suggests that “our limited financial resources” are best spent on things such as clean water and anti-malaria efforts, without acknowledging the argument that the success of such efforts could be largely influenced by how climate change is addressed.[/infobox]
And then there’s this Tweet from the antiscience Donald Trump:
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
Or this one:
NBC News just called it the great freeze – coldest weather in years. Is our country still spending money on the GLOBAL WARMING HOAX?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 25, 2014
Or this one:
Snowing in Texas and Louisiana, record setting freezing temperatures throughout the country and beyond. Global warming is an expensive hoax!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2014
To be fair, the aforementioned evolution-denier, VP-elect Mike Pence, is at odds with Trump on climate change. It’s pretty upsetting to learn that the right wing anti-gay, anti-evolution, and anti-abortion VP elect is the sane one.
To be even more fair, Trump is no different than the rest of the science denying Neanderthals that make up the Republican Party. Most Republicans and their voters are solidly on the side of climate change denial. Let’s be absolutely clear – climate change is a scientific fact, supported by a huge consensus of the most important scientists and scientific institutions across the world. To refute this consensus, Donald Trump and his Republican lackeys need to provide more than bullshit conspiracy theories and pandering rhetoric. But, that’s how the antiscience Donald Trump
lost the election won the majority of electoral votes – pandering to the lowest common intellectual denominator of the electorate.
I guess we could wait until sea level rise destroys the lower elevation parts of the USA. But by then, it will be too late.
Vaccines and vaccination
But there is one more topic, where the antiscience Donald Trump drives this scientist crazy. It’s vaccines, or more precisely, vaccine denial from President-elect Trump that is dangerous in both the short- and long-term. I’ve written several articles about Trump’s antiscience views about vaccination several times before. Trump continues to push the trope that “vaccines cause autism,” despite the overwhelming high quality which clearly states that vaccines and autism are unrelated.
Trump also pushes the false narrative that too many vaccines cause autism:
Autism WAY UP – I believe in vaccinations but not massive, all at once, shots. Too much for small child to handle. Govt. should stop NOW!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2014
Again, another belief that’s refuted by real science. I know that Trump lacks the intellection wherewithal to actually uncover facts, but we’re not talking about some potential threat – the real facts are without vaccines, children will be harmed and die from vaccine preventable diseases.
Oh but it’s so much worse. The anti-vaccine cult thinks it helped elect Trump (I don’t think exit polls ask about vaccines, so I doubt there is real information anywhere). As I wrote prior to the election Trump met with world’s greatest scientific fraud, Andrew Wakefield to discuss vaccines. The Trump-Wakefield bromance lead to this statement from Mr. Wakefield,
[infobox icon=”quote-left”]For me, this is a one issue election. That is the future of this country, invested in its children. And if we have mandatory vaccination, in this country, in this state, as they have in California, it’s all over…so you use your vote extremely carefully.
There is one person, whatever else you may think about him, who has expressed the fact that he knows that vaccines cause autism, that vaccine damage is real, and that this is an issue that will never lead, in his mind, to mandatory vaccination.
He would never allow mandatory vaccination. I had the privilege of meeting with him to discuss this precise issue. He (Trump) is on our side.[/infobox]
With that support, the antivaccine gang is demanding payback from Trump. The eloquent Orac outlined several demands that the vaccine deniers are insisting be pushed their way:
[infobox icon=”quote-left”]Another, much smaller, group of supporters who think they can get something from the Trump administration after January 20, 2017 are antivaxers. As I’ve mentioned before, in general, antivaxers leaned heavily towards Trump, thanks to Donald Trump’s long, sordid history of antivaccine statements in interviews and on Twitter. I’ve documented them before on multiple occasions going back to 2007, which is the first time I learned of Trump’s antivaccine proclivities, leading me to frequently observe that, given Trump’s well-known history of flip-flopping and taking multiple sides of any issue based on convenience, his antivaccine views are quite possibly the one set of beliefs that he’s been utterly consistent about for at least a decade.[/infobox]
Orac details the all the antivaccine nonsense of Donald Trump (linked above), so I’ll be lazy to not repeat them. However, I cannot let go of a blog post by the reprehensible and disgraceful Levi Quackenboss (nom de plume of a well-known antivaccine creep), which has the temerity to outline a list of demands of Donald Trump. She makes the following list of demands:
- Drain the swamp we call the CDC.
- Get Dr. Ben Carson to man up about autism.
- Nominate a US Surgeon General who understands that autism is an illness.
- Publicly acknowledge the CDC Whistleblower investigation.
- Dilute the CDC vaccination schedule back to one that is reasonable.
- Make your (Trump’s) personal stance against vaccine mandates known.
- Work toward legislation to ban pharmaceutical campaign donations to Congressmen.
- Create an Autism Prevention Program.
- See that we amend the National Vaccine Compensation Program.
- Pardon Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.
Wow, that’s some list of demands. Let’s look at them.
- The CDC is made up of public servants who study and research the sciences of epidemiology, public health, immunology, infectious diseases, and human health to better the lives of all of mankind. They are often the first responders to outbreaks of diseases across the world. Calling it a swamp and draining it of all money will cause undue harm to our planet. Levi Quackenboss, who has all of the intellectual capacity of her hero, the antiscience Donald Trump, would rather kill human beings by destroying the CDC than thinking about all the good the CDC does. But why should I expect any different from unscientific vaccine denier. The CDC is one of the great American governmental entities whose successes are important to the world. The scientists, physicians and technicians there have given their professional lives to protecting humans. Quackenboss can take her quackery elsewhere.
- Surprising, Dr. Ben Carson says there is no evidence that vaccines are related to autism. And the science supports him nearly 100%. In other words, as far as I can tell, on this particular point, Dr. Carson has “manned up” about autism and vaccines.
- Whether someone wants to change terminology about autism spectrum disorder, whether it’s an “illness” or a “mental disorder” is irrelevant, as long as we recognize it is not caused by vaccines. I doubt a Surgeon General who denies vaccines will be appointed and approved by the Senate. He or she would deserve and get no respect from the world at large if they were a denier.
- Does Quackenboss mean the ridiculed and mocked CDC whistleblower? This story has been debunked so many times, that it’s in the same league as “evolution is just a theory” in denying real science. As Orac describes this nonsense, “The “CDC whistleblower” phenomenon is nothing but one big conspiracy theory based on a highly incompetent “reanalysis” of a single study and the angry actions of a single disgruntled CDC employee named William Thompson.” Let’s be clear for the 47th time – vaccines do not cause autism.
- The current vaccine schedule was determined by scientific research. And Quackenboss wants to stuff the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the CDC committee that decides on which vaccines are to be required along with the schedule, with famed vaccine deniers, like Bob Sears.
- Well, I think Trump has done that through his unfettered use of Twitter. However, who knows what Trump really believes. He may have just pandered to the vaccine deniers to get more votes. Who knows?
- I might agree with this one. But it should include banning of all corporate contributions, but I doubt that will happen. And as far as I know, Big Pharma loves Republicans and Democrats, so there will not be much of an effort here.
- Quackenboss doesn’t want to really have an “Autism Prevention Program,” she wants a “Vaccines Cause Autism” program. After the boatloads of billions of dollars spent on this particular question, and finding no links between vaccines and autism, this seems to be a huge waste of time.
- She wants to “fix” the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. Digested down to its essential components, Quackenboss wants the court to remove all rules of scientific evidence, “trust” the parents beliefs, and pay out tons of money. Uh no.
- Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are not relevant to vaccines. But I guess she thinks they’re heroes by helping the
Soviet Union CzaristsRussians to influence the 2016 election. I guess getting the antiscience Donal Trump elected is so important that ex-communists and anarchists are just fine by her accounting.
Levi Quackenass can ask for whatever she wants, but I doubt it will get much of a hearing. Donald Trump and his Republican Party (it’s really his) will overreach in other areas, like selling off public lands, repealing Obamacare, denying climate change, and pushing religion into schools. It protects their base of support.
Of course, Quackendork isn’t the only one pushing Trump about vaccines. Dr. Rachael Ross, one of those TV doctors known more for their on-air presence rather than actual medical knowledge, recently wrote on Facebook, “Well, back to business…So Mr. Trump, can we discuss this vaccine schedule?”
Antivaccine voters are a tiny minority, probably less than 5%. And they’re mostly crackpots, probably too few for even Donald Trump and his crowd of crackpots to consider. But who knows, Trump’s well known lack of intellectual prowess might get distracted by it for a minute, and suddenly, it’s policy.
I do worry that Trump could name heads of the CDC, NIH and HHS that are not as pro-science as we would like. And despite all the whining about Big Pharma, the US leadership in medical devices, pharmaceuticals and equipment means a lot to the US economy. If we don’t fund science at the rate that we have in the near past (which is way down from pre-Reagan days), we will fall behind Japan, Europe and other areas in this critical technology.
There’s a lot of reasons to loathe Donald Trump. His nefarious activities and mistreatment of women are near the top. His pandering to racists and xenophobes are others. His lack of intellectual curiosity and broad experience with national and international issues is scary. His lack of temperament to deal with the intense pressures of the presidency gives me an existential fear of the future.
But as a scientist, his tradition and comments that indicate a deep-seated disdain for science and scientific thinking will bring great harm to this nation and its people. And the damage to science can last generations, even if the Democrats get their act together (wouldn’t bet on it) and block him from his most outrageous decisions. Science matters to our country, and I fear that Donald Trump will be a great enemy to technology and science.