Does Donald Trump Really Hate Science?

Headlines and statements have been as hyperbolic and apocalyptic as the language Trump himself used to energize a winning electoral coalition. Funny, that.


Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton is, without question, the greatest upset in American political history. It might even be the greatest upset anywhere, anytime, on any field of endeavor, period.

Surely, the reality of “Trump Defeats Clinton” overtakes the erroneous “Dewey Defeats Truman” for the most remarkable presidential election headline of all time.

Indeed, we need to range beyond the electoral discipline to find a comparable competitive surprise — the June 2016 “Brexit” vote that provided Trump’s template notwithstanding.

Does the U.S. Olympic hockey team’s win over the Soviet Union in 1980 qualify?

How about Villanova’s victory over Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA basketball championship game?

On the battlefield, there are the famous examples of the Spartans at Thermopylae and the English at Agincourt.

More recently, the Việt Minh’s defeat of the French at Điện Biên Phủ set off a chain of events with catastrophic consequences for the United States.

And yes, “The flute is a heavy, metal instrument.” But nobody — especially not Metallica — expected Jethro Tull to win the first-ever Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental.

Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton is, without question, the greatest upset in American political history. It might be the greatest upset, anywhere, anytime, on any field of endeavor, period.

Only if we turn back to sports — into the curious world of the “squared circle” — can we see an event where expectations were so thoroughly smashed, with reverberations across decades.

That’s Muhammad Ali’s destruction of World Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston in 1964 — a perfect illustration of the failure of the Establishment’s imagination.

Liston was boxing’s dominant figure at the time, “more ferocious, more indestructible” than Mike Tyson in his prime, as promotor Harold Conrad remarked.

But Ali was revolutionary.

Not just the ringside press but the Mainstream Media took Liston’s side, hopeful that the one-time “hoodlum” would be the “cop” to snap the brash upstart back into line, as Murray Kempton wrote in The New Republic.

Ali — bigger, faster, and quicker than the fearsome, feared title holder — proved the better boxer, winning by TKO in the seventh round. He died this year a legendary figure, with social and political cred to go with his athletic achievements.

For all the criticism he’s absorbed for his incendiary speech, Trump was able to put together a coalition that toppled the dominant political machine of the Baby Boomer era.

Like Ali, Trump has promised to be the “people’s champion.” There are signs already that he’s tacking toward at least the right wing of the Establishment.

But as the great Dave Chappelle said in his Saturday Night Live monologue on November 12, “I’m going to give him a chance.

Hereabouts, we talk about innovation and technology, with emphasis on biomedicine and cancer research, computer science and cybersecurity, astrophysics and space travel, renewable energy and climate change.

So let’s pivot from the “Sweet Science” to plain-old science.

That Trump and his administration is and will be “anti-science” is almost axiomatic among certain segments of “the elite.” As it is with just about everything in life, the reality is nuanced.

There’s really no proper comparison or analogy here. There are serious consequences that come with presidential elections. We’ve already referenced several in recent issues.

So let’s take a broad-based look at how President Donald Trump will impact science, drawn from the many resources we consult over the course of our regularly scheduled innovation-focused programming.

That Trump and his administration is and will be “anti-science” is almost axiomatic among certain segments of “the elite.” As it is with just about everything in life, the reality is nuanced.

Here’s The New Scientist on biotech in this new presidential era:

The biotech industry, which was worried about Hillary Clinton’s promises of regulation, seems relieved about Trump’s win — stock prices were up all over the world on 9 November. Trump has also promised to remove the ban on importing medicines, and speed up the approval of generic drugs. This could make such drugs cheaper and easier to access, but might mean pharmaceutical companies have fewer incentives to develop new drugs.

Another kind of drug had a great night on Tuesday. Recreational marijuana was legalized in California, Massachusetts and Nevada, and several other states passed medical marijuana provisions. It’s impossible to tell how a Trump administration will react to this development, but the man himself seems indifferent to it, so the measures stand a chance of sticking around.

But here’s STAT with a more populist take:

And yet.

Trump broke with conservative orthodoxy when he said he wants Medicare to directly negotiate the prices it pays for prescription drugs. He endorses price transparency for the entire health care system. He supports allowing drugs to be imported from other countries. All of those policies are vigorously opposed by drugmakers.

And he’s vowed to take on the powerful pharma lobby.

Drug costs weren’t a priority for Trump on the campaign trail, and his populist tendencies may be tempered by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

But that’s the thing. It’s impossible to be sure.

Trump hasn’t said much about pure biomedical research. What he has said has chilled scientists.

As the journal Nature noted: “Although he has offered few details on policies for biomedical research, Trump said last year that he has heard ‘terrible’ things about the U.S. National Institutes of Health.”

The overriding theme of post-election stories about Trump and cybersecurity is the fear of the new president’s control of the National Security Agency and its surveillance powers.

But we can thank Obama for that, as he oversaw the perpetuation of an ever-expanding national security state and a massive extension of the NSA’s brief.

Silicon Valley is also trembling at this hour. Writes Wired:

Tech firms now fear Trump’s DOJ would make even more intrusive demands that they hand over users’ private data. Two tech companies told Buzzfeed, for instance, that they were considering moving their servers and even headquarters out of the U.S. to place them beyond the legal reach of a Trump administration. Trump, after all, called for a boycott against Apple when it refused to write software to help the FBI crack its iPhone encryption earlier this year.

As for Trump himself, from a homeland security perspective, here’s what he has to say about immediate priorities:

Order an immediate review of all U.S. cyberdefenses and vulnerabilities, including critical infrastructure, by a Cyber Review Team of individuals from the military, law enforcement, and the private sector.

The Cyber Review Team will provide specific recommendations for safeguarding different entities with the best defense technologies tailored to the likely threats, and will [be] followed up regularly at various federal agencies and departments.

The Cyber Review Team will establish detailed protocols and mandatory cyber awareness training for all government employees while remaining current on evolving methods of cyberattack.

Instruct the U.S. Department of Justice to create Joint Task Forces throughout the U.S. to coordinate federal, state, and local law enforcement responses to cyberthreats.

Trump, says Nature, “derided NASA as a ‘logistics agency for low-Earth orbit activity,'” but promised to support the U.S. commercial space industry in the alternative.

According to Robert Walker, a former chairman of the House Science Committee who represented Pennsylvania’s 16th district in Congress for 20 years and is now Trump’s space policy adviser, the new administration’s plan is “visionary,” “disruptive,” “coordinating,” and “resilient.”

One among nine goals constituting the Trump space policy framework is “human exploration of the solar system by the end of the century.” The idea is to “drive technology developments to a stronger degree than simply a goal of humans to Mars,” says SpaceNews.

SpaceNews adds that the new administration will also shift “NASA budgets to ‘deep space achievements’ rather than Earth science and climate research.”

We’re talking about a guy who, after all was said and done on Election Night, struck an incredibly New Deal-esque tone with his very first statement on policy.

Trump’s victory has been widely interpreted as the death knell for U.S. efforts to combat climate change.

That he will move to roll back the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan is a certainty: Well-known climate change skeptic Myron Ebell is in charge of the transition process at the Environmental Protection Agency.

But according to a report in Utility Dive, “Energy is not one of the top five agenda items.” That’s the word of “a major Trump financial contributor who said he is a member of the transition team.”

And the Trump administration will leave untouched investment tax and production tax credits for solar and wind energy projects.

Trump will boost the natural gas revolution by removing barriers to hydraulic fracturing and by encouraging more pipeline construction.

And there’s a very good possibility that the Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act could be amended to include renewables, energy storage, and carbon capture and storage projects.

Immediately after the election, Michael Lubell, the director of public affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based American Physical Society, told Nature that “Trump will be the first anti-science president we have ever had.”

Lubell added, “The consequences are going to be very, very severe.”

That’s pretty apocalyptic, almost campaign-trail-Trumpian in its hyperbole.

We’re talking about a guy who, after all was said and done on Election Night, struck an incredibly New Deal-esque tone with his very first statement on policy.

“We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals,” he said. “We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none.”

Lots of details to fill in there, sure, but there’s as much reason to believe Donald Trump didn’t really believe the things he said to get elected.

Well, those who favor science can — and must — hold out hope.


This Week In…

Sloth.

See: “Google Joins Facebook in Promoting Bad, Fake Election News“:

Following Donald J. Trump’s unfathomable electoral victory last week, Facebook found itself spastically and fruitlessly defending itself from claims it helped produce the outcome with its feed full of fake news. But it’s not the only one — Google is guilty, too.

And see: “Welcome to the New Era of Easy Media Manipulation“:

The videos we watch and podcasts we listen to may themselves soon be seamlessly manipulated, distorting the truth in new ways. Photoshop was just the beginning. Advanced media creation tools today are cheaper than ever, and innovative tech is accelerating the bleeding edge, further blurring the line between fantasy and reality.

Smart Investing,

David Dittman
Editorial Director, Wall Street Daily

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