Donald Trump is perhaps one of the most controversial Presidents in the history of United States. A lot of political issues from the economy to healthcare are very complicated and researchers can spend their entire careers studying them and still not offer clear and easy solutions. Other issues are a bit more clear. In particularly, there are issues that are in some sense scientifically decidable where we can known with scientific confidence what is accurate and what is not. If we cannot trust politicians to accurately navigate these relatively easier issues, how can we trust them to navigate very difficult and complex issues where it is much more difficult to figure out what is true and what works.
Lets us go over ten of the worst anti-science moves taken by Donald Trump or the Trump administration more broadly in no particular order. This covers general scientific issues like vaccines and global warming. Trump has pushed vile anti-vaccine myths when science has demonstrated that there is no link between vaccines and autism and promoted hilariously pathetic conspiracy theories that global warming was invented by the Chinese to hurt the U. S. financially when the basic physics behind the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide was discovered in the late 1800s. This also includes more specific issues like improving the scientific credibility of forensic methods and the effectiveness of torture. The Trump administration closed down an important interdisciplinary commission created to improve forensic science in the U. S. and also claimed that torture is effective despite being contradicted by a Senate report showing that it was not. Debunking Denialism has covered these issues before.
#1: Trump is anti-vaccine
Trump has for years tweeted anti-scientific myths about vaccines that have been debunked by over a dozen high-quality scientific research papers that looked at hundreds of thousands of people. Vaccines are completely unrelated to autism. Several vaccines given together are not harmful for the immune system. The Vaccine Court is a compensation system with a relaxed burden of proof and not scientific evidence of causation. There is no clear evidence that autism is on the rise because the definition of autism has expanded and there is a lot more attention given to the condition now than in the past. These are scientific facts and those that deny them are pushing dangerous misinformation.
Autism rates through the roof–why doesn't the Obama administration do something about doctor-inflicted autism. We lose nothing to try.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2012
Between March 30 of 2012 and September 6 of 2014, Trump posted or retweeted at least 31 anti-vaccine tweets, even going so far to link Natural News and claim that autism is inflicted by doctors. Like many anti-vaccine activists, he claims to not be anti-vaccine, but merely in favor of spreading out vaccines. But we know that such vaccine schedules are not well-tested and delaying vaccines only increases the time during which the child is at risk from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn't feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2014
#2: Trump thinks global warming is a hoax
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and humans contribute to rising levels of it and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. There is a current warming trend. Humans have a substantial part in that warming trend and it is not too late or too expensive to do something about it. Several consensus studies have shown that there is a scientific consensus about this in the scientific literature.
Trump does not seem to grasp these simple facts, but instead insist that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese.
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
In reality, it was discovered by Swedish and British researchers and had nothing to do with Chinese manufacturing.
In his flawed tweets about global warming and climate change, he confuses weather with climate, pushes the Climategate conspiracy theory, that there supposedly a global cooling consensus in the past and that “they” changed the phrase from global warming to climate change and so on. All of these claims are engineered pseudoscience designed to spread misinformation about climate science by those who wishes to obscure reality for various ideological and economic goals.
Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I'm in Los Angeles and it's freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2013
Clearly, Trump does not understand the difference between weather and climate. Here is a list of dozens of Trump’s tweets about global warming and climate change.
#3: Trump pulls out of the Paris climate agreement
The Paris climate agreement is an international agreement to curb emissions of greenhouse gasses as well as mitigate and adapt to climate change from 2020 and later. This agreement has so far been signed by 195 countries and 160 have ratified it. This is a clear victory for fighting climate change. Historically, these kinds of global agreements have worked quite well to handle environmental and climate issues, such as the Montreal Protocol that involve phasing out ozone-damaging substances called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Predictably, climate denier Donald Trump pulled out of this agreement on June 1, 2017, while spouting the same kind of ideological rhetoric that he has previously pushed, including claiming that the agreement was “less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States.”
#4: Trump shuts down study of health effects of coal
The Department of the Interior commissioned a study into the health effects of surface coal mining in the state of West Virginia and put aside 1 million dollars for this study. This is because people who live near places where mountaintop removal happens have higher rates of certain diseases such as lung cancer or birth defects which could potentially be due to different kinds of pollution. To find out the facts, a scientific study has to be done to figure things out. So far, the study has been going on for about a year, so it is half-way through its two-year plan.
Trump has now shut down this study with reference to fiscal responsibility. A spokeswoman for the Department of the Interior said that the current U. S. administration is “dedicated to responsibly using taxpayer dollars in a way that advances the department’s mission and fulfills the roles mandated by Congress.” A news item in Nature questions the appeal to fiscal responsibility, since the study has already been spending money for about a year. Instead, it “raises questions about what other studies could be cancelled if the government fears their results” and that this is “another blow for science and for academic freedom”.
#5: Trump closes down National Commission on Forensic Science
In 2009, US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) published a systematic review of the scientific reliability and validity of forensic methods used in the U. S. The report found that only forensic methods based on DNA had well-known empirical error rates. FBI also discovered that FBI expert testimony was flawed or contained errors in over 90% of cases involving forensic hair analysis. In 2013, Obama formed an independent and interdisciplinary forensic science commission to address some of these issues. This commission was composed of law enforcement personnel, scientists, legal scholars and activists.
The Trump administration has decided to shut down this commission and are planning to “appoint an in-house adviser and create an internal committee to study improvements to forensic analysis” instead. This is an unfortunate development, because the strength of this forensic science commission rests on, among other things, the interdisciplinary nature of their project where law enforcement, legal experts and independent scientists collaborate and cooperate to improve forensic science.
#6: Trump appoints a climate denier to head EPA
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a U. S. government agency created by Richard Nixon to protect the environment and human health against environmental pollution and other human activities. The EPA has also accepted the threat of threat of global warming and had a section on their website discussing it and related issues. However, this page was taken down when Trump became President. Although it is normal for new Presidents to change websites, it is telling that this is part of a larger assault on climate science.
Even worse, Trump nominated Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. Pruitt explicitly rejects the scientific consensus position that human emissions of greenhouses gases is a powerful cause of the currently observed warming trend. He has also sued the EPA over a dozen times as an attorney general in Oklahoma.
#7: Trump thinks torture is effective
Early in 2017, Trump claimed that torture works. In contrast, a 2014 summary report from US Senate Select Committee (based on a classified report spanning almost 7000 pages) found that “use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques was not an effective means of obtaining accurate information or gaining detainee cooperation”. Presumably, they had detailed knowledge of specific circumstances where it failed to work and also access to psychological research that shows that torture does not work. First, people generally want torture to stop so the will confess to anything or provide false information that is complex enough to verify that the torture stops because they are able to fool their captors that they cooperated. Furthermore, pain and stress is might reduce ability for accurate recall of memory.
#8: Trump wants to cut science funding
Trump’s budget proposal for his first budget involved massive cuts to science. This involves the following budget cuts:
- National Institutes of Health: 18% funding cut.
- National Science Foundation: 11% funding cut.
- Environmental Protection Agency: 30% funding cut.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: 1.2 billion dollars cut.
- Food and Drug Administration: 31% funding cut.
- NASA: 2.8% funding cut.
- Department of Energy: 5.3% funding cut.
- US Geological Survey: 13% funding cut.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: 17% funding cut.
If this succeeds, it would mean less funding for finding effective treatments for common diseases, less funding for research carried out by universities, less funding for helping to keep the air and water clean, less funding for combating infectious diseases, less funding for keeping food and medications safe and effective, less funding for climate research, less funding for important early-detection warning systems for earthquakes and so on. However, it looks like Congress is ignoring some of these demands for budget cuts.
#9: Trump wrongly claims transgender people in military causes tremendous costs / disruption
In July of 2016, Trump tweeted that he would not allow transgender people to serve in the military due to “tremendous medical costs and disruption”. A study by the libertarian think tank RAND Corporation found that there are only a few thousand people in the U. S. military that are openly trans and that the total costs are just a tiny part of the medial expenses. They also found little to no evidence that trans people serving openly in the military cause disruptions. In summary, the report concluded that “have minimal impact on readiness and health care costs”. Some might claim that this is not a scientific issue but a social issue, but the claim made by Trump is testable and the available evidence shows that it is incorrect.
#10: Trump stops collecting data for pay gaps
One of the most sneaky ways to oppose science is not to attack it directly, but simply stop collecting data on some crucial issue hoping that it goes away. The Trump administration has stated that they will stop collecting wage data that Obama intended to be of help in narrowing the wage gap due to gender and ethnic background. This is likely an effort to downplay the entire issue, despite the fact that studies that send out the same CV just with different names on it show that people give women less pay, rate the identical CV as less quality and even have less interested in being mentors. Similar findings have been found for callbacks and ethnic background in CV studies and reviews of racial discrimination.