Trump and Pence vs. Science: climate, health, and evil lightbulbs

By Mark Sumner | 11 November 2016
Daily Kos

(Credit: YouTube / screengrab)

Donald Trump. Mike Pence. Science. One of these things is not liked by the others.

In the hours after the election of Donald Trump, Michael Lubell, director of public affairs for the American Physical Society in Washington, told the journal Nature that Trump will be “the first anti-science president we have ever had.”

It’s not just that both Trump and Pence are anti-science on specific issues. It’s that they both present the whole concept of science itself as a kind of conspiracy to fool non-scientists. And they are not going to fall for it.

In the course of their careers and this campaign, they have made several false claims about science, eliding complexity and sometimes outright rejecting the conclusions of the vast majority of researchers. Often, they have repeated dangerous misconceptions about science, such as the nonexistent link between vaccines and autism, which could make it harder for researchers to communicate the truth.

Energy, health, evolution, and … lightbulbs. There’s almost no area of science, at any scale, where Trump and Pence haven’t just been wrong, but have been immune to the truth. Because both men elevate their own opinions above any amount of experts or evidence.

Donald Trump’s fight with science is, as with all things Trump, a personal drudge. He’s angry at wind energy because he doesn’t like looking at windmills from one of his Scottish golf courses, so naturally he has elevated wind farms into one of the world’s great horrors.

Not only are wind farms disgusting looking, but even worse they are bad for people’s health — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2012

This tweet cites the testimony of Carl V. Phillips, a wind power opponent who previously worked as a paid expert for the tobacco industry. Multiple reviews of the research on the purported health impact of “infrasound” from wind farm turbines found that there was none, aside from annoyance that could contribute to stress.

The fight over wind power is at the heart of Trump’s disdain for climate change. In his mind, wind is bad, so fossil fuels are good and climate change can’t be real.

In September, hundreds of U.S. researchers, including 30 Nobel laureates, published an open letter criticizing Trump for his stance on climate change and highlighting the risks of failing to comply with the Paris climate accord. Studies published in peer-reviewed journals find that at least 97 percent of all actively publishing scientists believe that global warming in the past century is a consequence of human activity.

This approach is like trying to punch out a shadow. On a brick wall. Trump’s opinion on energy and climate didn’t come from experts, and it won’t be swayed by experts. Trump doesn’t even believe in experts. With his good brain, he knows more than every general and intelligence officer, and he also knows more than every scientist and engineer. He knows that he hates wind power, so they are all wrong. End of story.

In fact, wind power is so wrong that it makes climate change wrong and climate change is so wrong that it makes conserving energy wrong and conserving energy is so wrong that it makes fluorescent lightbulbs wrong.

Remember, new “environment friendly” lightbulbs can cause cancer. Be careful — the idiots who came up with this stuff don’t care. — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2012

Except they don’t. But it doesn’t matter how many “experts” you stack up. Trump already knows this, so you’re wrong.

Oh, and the ozone layer? Trump knows that he can use all the hairspray he wants, because that’s just another lie. Don’t get between the man and his hair spray.

Meanwhile, over at Dumpty’s house …

Mike Pence: Do I believe in evolution? I embrace the view that God created the heavens and the Earth, the seas and all that’s in them.

No. The answer is no. Mike Pence does not believe in evolution. He’s followed the creationist line since his own ancestors crawled out of the muck were gloriously created, and he’s still pressing the old “the fossil record doesn’t show evolution” button as hard as his pale fingers can manage. He’s testified before Congress asking that children hear “other theories on the origin of species” (like *poof* you’re a species) and he’ll likely get his wish from a Congress freshly reminded that their bread is buttered with evangelicals.

Back to Humpty …

The U.S. must immediately stop all flights from EBOLA infected countries or the plague will start and spread inside our “borders.” Act fast! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2014

Trump was wrong, of course. Several Americans who became infected overseas came home and were restored to health.

Though for some reason … Trump’s nightmarish scenario just doesn’t seem as nightmarish as it did two years ago. Or maybe even last week.

As with the broader class of things called “facts,” expect Donald Trump to be immune to any number of experts, any amount of research, or pulsing tendrils waving in his face. He does his research the old-fashioned way—pick the answer you like, and stick with it.

Mark Sumner is the author of the nonfiction work The Evolution of Everything as well as several novels including Devil’s Tower.

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  1. I find Trump's rejection of science and, even facts a bigger problem that the racism that permeates his circle. I am very biased, however. I am a professor and scientist who has spent the last 35 years conducting, reviewing and publishing science. Heaven help our country if we are really now an era when facts and reality don't matter. If that's the case, we will rapidly fall behind the Chinese as leaders on world stage.


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