The Republican party has widely been considered anti-science for years, due mostly to their collective denial of climate change, large contingent of fundamental Christian Creationists, and hostility to progressive ideology. On January, 20th, however, the country was taken over by someone far more dangerous than the average Republican party member. Donald Trump is possibly the most explicitly anti-science president the nation has ever had. I have already written about Trump’s possible us of Alex Jones’ InfoWars as a news source, but his science denial has already translated into real policy that affects the entire country and world. So I have ranked (by my own criteria) the top 5 threats to science by the Trump Administration.
Despite being one of the most important public health measures of all time, Vaccines are constantly under fire as a supposed cause of childhood autism. This conspiracy theory is not one that is confined to the political left, but in recent years has been propagated by a wide variety of conspiracy mongers, Celebrities, and the infamous Andrew Wakefield (formerly Dr. Wakefield). Donald Trump has repeatedly tweeted about vaccines, likely to garner support from the large contingent of anti-vaxxers in the U.S.
Most disturbingly, shortly before the inauguration, Donald invited vaccine opponent Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to Trump tower. Kennedy claimed that Trump had asked him to lead a commission on vaccines, which the Trump administration was quick to deny. Leading anti-vaccine crackpot Alex Jones publicly endorsed Trump’s campaign, as did NaturalNews.com’s conspiracy theorist in chief Mike Adams.
The reason this item is at #5, despite being so potentially dangerous to public health is that it is unclear where Trump’s administration is headed with regards to vaccines. In all likelihood, Trump will seek to advance vaccine opt-out programs under the guise of states’ rights or individual freedoms. His HHS nominee, Tom Price, rejected the false notion that vaccines cause autism at his confirmation hearing. For now, the future of American policy on vaccines is unclear, but definitely something to keep an eye on.
As with Vaccines, it is very unclear what the future holds for renewable energy under the Trump administration. While Trump has already signaled his ignorance of energy by referring to “beautiful, clean coal” at the GOP retreat in Philadelphia, he has simultaneously claimed to be a big fan of solar and wind power.
Trump repeatedly promised to put coal miners back to work, but as of now no clear policy or strategy has been announced. If Trump plans to cut regulations on coal mining and power generation, that alone would not have much of an impact other than the effect of making coal powered electricity slightly cheaper, possibly causing an investment shift away from renewables. The alternative would be to cut funding for subsidies of renewable energy.
According to author and Climate Change activist Chris Goodall, Any Trump policy would likely have little impact on the growth of renewable energies. He says that as solar and wind power has become less expensive, even states that strongly support coal and oil powered plants cannot ignore the advantages of renewables. In his view renewables would continue to grow unless government took specific legislative action to prevent it. While I agree that renewable energy is likely to continue growing, U.S. funding cuts to subsidies or basic scientific research could slow the rate of growth immensely.
Data and Evidence.
Starting on his very first day in office Donald Trump showed his opposition to real data and measurements. The attempts to deny the very clear difference in inauguration attendees shows how little Trump cares for real numbers. His administration, and Donald himself, quickly followed up their denial of what the eyes can see with completely unfounded claims that 3-5 million votes were cast illegally in the 2016 election, giving Hillary the popular vote. Almost all aspects of science rely on good data and evidence, making this especially troubling.
Almost every policy change pushed by the administration so far completely ignores all evidence, relying on the now infamous “alternative facts” perhaps. The recent travel ban executive order is in conflict with the reality that most Islamic terror in the U.S. comes from countries not included in the ban. In addition to being criticized as an attempt to pass a legal Muslim ban, the executive order ignores the source of most of the country’s terror, Radical Christian White Nationalism.
This item ranks because of the incredibly worrisome inability to use the truth to influence policy. From Climate change to immigration, the new administration seems to be ignoring all evidence that contradicts their political ideology. If our leaders will not accept scientific data and evidence as the backbone of their decision making, the country could be headed into the past.
Trump, along with congressional Republicans have called for an Obamacare (Affordable Care Act) repeal for years now. The recent line has been repeal and replace, signifying Republicans’ desires to simultaneously pass a new plan along with the repeal. While as recently as February 2nd VP Mike Pence has confirmed the Trump administration’s commitment to fully repeal and replace, Congressional Republicans have balked and changed their tune to one of “repairing” Obamacare.
The repeal of Obamacare is an issue that could affect millions of Americans who have recently become insured for the first time since the ACA exchanges opened in 2013. The issue in determining what the actual effect will be is that no plan to replace the ACA has yet been proposed that garnered widespread support in Congress.
This item ranks at #2 because of the imminent threat to so many people. If the ACA were repealed and not replaced, millions would lose coverage within one year. While Trump has vowed insurance for all, as part of the replacement, even if that occurs coverage on many items will likely be cut. The GOP’s traditional opposition to abortion and women’s health options signals that contraceptive care would likely not be a part of any plan they pass. Republicans prefer to talk about universal access, rather than universal coverage, a euphemism for removing mandatory coverage and letting people find their own.
Climate Change Science.
Undoubtedly the greatest threat to science from the Trump Presidency is his denial of climate change. He has made a number of outrageous statements over the years about climate change including that it is a Chinese conspiracy, and that nobody really knows if it’s real, among many other comments.
The actions of his administration, even while in transition, were particularly troubling. Early on Donald sought the names of Energy Department employees that were involved in climate change meetings. As soon as Trump moved into the white house, the climate change page of the White House website was pulled down.
Most alarmingly, perhaps, is that Trump nominated Scott Pruitt (not the race car driver) a climate change denier to head the EPA, perhaps the most important executive agency combatting climate change. Many are worried about what will happen to currently compiled climate data, as well as future climate monitoring. Trump also vowed to remove the U.S. from the Paris Climate agreement, and as I write is preparing to do so. Science is in peril under the Trump administration. Meaning the burden of furthering scientific research and bettering our world may have to shift away from government until at least 2020.