Politicizing Science

The Trump Administration is doubling down on its efforts to silence politically inconvenient science.

We knew about the Administration’s disdain for scientific evidence from the beginning but the situation has only continued to deteriorate.  The campaign against objective science is now becoming embedded within the government.  Far more than its predecessors, the Administration has embarked on a campaign to impose political control on science within the government and in government funding, wherever the scientific evidence is at odds with Administration policy.

Here’s a list of recent actions, gleaned from news reports:

  1. Canceling an on-going study by the National Academies of the health risks of mountain-removal coal mining. There seemed to be no other reason than protecting the coal industry from potentially damaging scientific findings.
  2. Dismissal of scientists from advisory boards at EPA for the avowed purpose of replacing them with people more sympathetic to industry. Meanwhile, climate change deniers are under consideration as possible replacements.
  3. Discontinuing a climate advisory board at NOAA.
  4. Censorship of the term “climate change” from reports by the Agriculture Department.
  5. Appointment of a former talk radio host to head the Agriculture Department’s science programs.
  6. Nomination of a politician rather than a scientist or engineer to head NASA (for the first time).
  7. Removal of EPA’s climate science website.
  8. Requiring that a political appointee sign off on all EPA research grants.  He’s looking for any mention of the “double-C word” (climate change).
  9. Scrubbing of mentions of greenhouse gases, carbon, and climate change from EPA websites.

You can find more details about these developments here , here, here, and here.

These are not individually striking events.  For that very reason, they are all the more disturbing.  They show that the effort to politicize size is being institutionalized, percolating down to the myriad of low-level decisions that never get the attention of the President but constitute the day-to-day operation of the government.

Science isn’t perfect. Winston Churchill once said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. The same is true of science: it’s the best way we know to learn how the physical world works. It’s very hard to explain a deliberate decision to avoid using the best science available — or rather, the obvious explanations reflect very poorly on our current government. It seems especially apropos to recall the Biblical admonition that those who sow the wind shall inherit the whirlwind. Indeed, it seems literally true — by spewing carbon into the atmosphere, the Trump Administration is inviting more  serious hurricanes and tropical storms in the future.

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Reader Comments

6 Replies to “Politicizing Science”

  1. This is very troubling and a very well done synopsis. I think that this has to be seen as part of a broader assault on truth, which is part of the recipe for fascist government.

  2. USA TODAY just published “Earthquakes, North Korea, the Las Vegas massacre. Can we handle it?”
    http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/earthquakes-north-korea-the-las-vegas-massacre-can-we-handle-it/ar-AAsRjcc?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartandhp

    It is more of the overwhelming proof that the human race has no political or intellectual leadership to prevent the destruction of the human race in this century.

    Will and Ariel documented in their “The Story of Civilization” that politicians and intellectuals have failed to protect far too many civilizations in the past and we are failing to meet the challenges of change one last time.

    Can you scholars at Legal Planet, Berkeley, UCLA et al. refute that conclusion Dan?

  3. Dan said;
    “…..by spewing carbon into the atmosphere, the Trump Administration is inviting more serious hurricanes and tropical storms in the future…..”

    Dear Dan,
    That is a very lame allegation which is unsupported by fact and yet another indication that the great climate controversy has finally fizzled out and is no longer meaningful. We won. Old climate-mongers are left dangling in the wind with their funds depleted, unloved, irrelevant and forgotten.

    1. Actual scientists disagree with your assertions here, bqrq.
      https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3920195/Final-Draft-of-the-Climate-Science-Special-Report.pdf (from p. 378):

      In summary, despite new research that challenges one aspect of the AR5 consensus for late 21st century projected TC (Tropical Cyclone) activity, it remains likely that global mean tropical cyclone maximum wind speeds and precipitation rates will increase; and it is more likely than not that the global frequency of occurrence of TCs will either decrease or remain essentially the same. Confidence in projected global increases of intensity and tropical cyclone precipitation rates is medium and high, respectively, as there is better model consensus. Confidence is further heightened, particularly for projected increases in precipitation rates, by a robust physical understanding of the processes that lead to these increases. Confidence in projected increases in the frequency of very intense TCs is generally lower (medium in the eastern North Pacific and low in the western North Pacific and Atlantic) due to comparatively fewer studies available and due to the competing influences of projected reductions in overall storm frequency and increased mean intensity on the frequency of the most intense storms. Both the magnitude and sign of projected changes in individual ocean basins appears to depend on the large-scale pattern of changes to atmospheric circulation and ocean surface temperature (e.g., Knutson et al. 2015). Projections of these regional patterns of change—apparently critical for TC projections—are uncertain, leading to uncertainty in regional TC projections.

      1. Sean, Thank You for responding to BQRQ.

        UC scholars must start communicating with deniers instead of continually proving that Richard Hofstadter was right over 50 years ago when he stated “— so many intellectuals don’t want to take on the sort of complications and impurities that come with being public” because we are losing the battle to protect the human race because of that cultural failure.

        1. P.S. Sean, most recently Robert Reich said it best:

          “it is our responsibility as students, as professors, as teachers, as administrators to make, this a a robust and interesting intellectual experience, … to spend our lives reaching out to people who disagree with us”

          “Scholars debate: Does social media help or hurt free speech?”
          http://news.berkeley.edu/2017/10/05/scholars-debate-does-social-media-help-or-hurt-free-speech/

          We must do much, much better today to emphasize communication and cooperation between Us and Them or we shall most certainly fail to protect and perpetuate an acceptable quality of life.

          Legal Planet is as good a forum as any to produce role model two-way communications between scholars and the rest of us humans. Thanks again for communicating with BQRQ, it’s a great start.

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About Dan

Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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