Science Matters

Will science matter in the Trump Administration? All signs are that it will not. Indeed, not only will science not matter, it will be actively opposed. The title of Lawrence Krauss’s article “Donald Trump’s War on Science,” published in the December 13 New Yorker, sounds alarmist. After all, haven’t we heard hype from the right about the “War on Christmas” and the “War on traditional values,” and so forth? Is Krauss engaging in the same sort hyperbole? Not at all. He details the “qualifications” of Trump’s cabinet nominees and shows that “war” is not too strong a characterization.

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education (Education, mind you), is an active member of a fundamentalist church, The Christian Reformed Church in North America. As quoted by Krauss, that denomination requires that “all scientific theories be subject to Scripture.” Further, their official statement on science asserts: “Humanity is created in the image of God; all theorizing that minimizes this fact and all theories of evolution that deny the creative activity of God are rejected.” Her husband advocated the teaching of “intelligent design” (creationism lite) in the public schools when he ran for governor in 2006.

Scott Pruitt, Attorney General of Oklahoma, will head the EPA for Trump. Pruitt is a very vocal climate-change “skeptic” (Semantic note: “Skeptic” does not mean “one who adamantly denies in defiance of the evidence.”). The fossil-fuel industry could not ask for a more loyal lapdog than Pruitt. According to Krauss, an investigation by the New York Times showed the letters sent by Pruitt to the EPA and other agencies had been drafted by lobbyists for the energy industry. Myron Ebell is Trump’s head of the transition team at the EPA. Ebell is the leader of a group called The Cooler Heads Coalition, an anti-climate science organization.

Such criticisms as Krauss’s deeply incense conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer. In his essay “Trump’s Cabinet Picks; Bonfire of the Agencies,” published in the Houston Chronicle on 12/16, he characterizes such critiques as the imposition of a religious test by liberals:

“Pruitt has been deemed unfit to serve because he fails liberalism’s modern day religious test: belief in anthropogenic climate change. They [liberals] would love to turn his confirmation hearing into a Scopes monkey trial [Sounds great to me!]…It doesn’t matter whether the man believes the moon is made of green cheese. The Challenges to EPA actions [by Pruitt and his ilk] are based not on meteorology [sic] or theology, but on the Constitution.”

Really? Seriously? So it is OK if the head of an important and government agency is a flat-earther, a young-earth creationist, a Holocaust denier, an anti-vaccine activist, a moon-cheesist, or any other kind of crackpot, just as long as he supports your ideology? He may be a total crank, but he is your crank! Wow. Now, just who is imposing a religious test? You qualify if you believe in the Constitutional Gospel of Krauthammer; otherwise, it doesn’t matter if you believe that ancient astronauts built the pyramids or that Bigfoot was sighted in Central Park.

In fact, science matters. It really does. If science does not matter, then rationality does not matter. If rationality does not matter, then truth does not matter. If truth does not matter, then…we are screwed. Nature does not give a damn about your ideology. If your agenda is not nature’s agenda, nature does not care. You are the one who will pay the terrible price, and you will—sooner or later. And it is looking like sooner all the time.