The Anti-Science Ticket

There are so many reasons to vote against the Trump-Pence ticket, it almost seems like piling on to point out that a vote for Trump-Pence is a vote against science and empirical evidence. As a recent article in the New Yorker pointed out:

In May, for instance, while speaking to an audience of West Virginia coal miners, Trump complained that regulations designed to protect the ozone layer had compromised the quality of his hair spray. Those regulations, he continued, were misguided, because hair spray is used mainly indoors, and so can have no effect on the atmosphere outside. No wonder Hillary Clinton felt the need to include, in her nomination speech, the phrase “I believe in science.”

Often, Trump is simply wrong about science, even though he should know better. Just as he was a persistent “birther” even after the evidence convincingly showed that President Obama was born in the United States, Trump now continues to propagate the notion that vaccines cause autism in spite of convincing and widely cited evidence to the contrary. (As he put it during a Republican debate, last September, “We’ve had so many instances. . . . A child went to have the vaccine, got very, very sick, and now is autistic.”) In other cases, Trump treats scientific facts the way he treats other facts—he ignores or distorts them whenever it’s convenient. He has denied that climate change is real, calling it pseudoscience and advancing a conspiracy theory that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing noncompetitive.”

Scientific American calls Trump’s lack of respect for science “alarming,” and worries that the U.S. presidential election “shows how far the political conversation has degenerated from the nation’s founding principles of truth and evidence.”

A respect for evidence is not just a part of the national character. It goes to the heart of the country’s particular brand of democratic government. When the founding fathers, including Benjamin Franklin, scientist and inventor, wrote arguably the most important line in the Declaration of Independence—“We hold these truths to be self-evident”—they were asserting the fledgling nation’s grounding in the primacy of reason based on evidence.

Lest Trump’s bizarre approach to what constitutes “fact” and “evidence” crowd out recognition of his running-mate’s preference for biblical, rather than scientific, explanations of the world, Slate has an article reminding us of Pence’s dismissal of “theories” like evolution and climate change.

You know anyone picked by Trump to be his running mate almost certainly will have a problem with established science, of course, but it turns out Pence is also a young Earth creationist. And one with a lot of conviction about it, too. In 2002, while a congressman from Indiana, he gave a short speech on the floor of Congress denying evolution, and used quite a few misleading, if not outright false, claims.

The Slate article has a video of Pence’s speech, and (assuming you can stomach it) it highlights–among other things– his misunderstanding of what constitutes a scientific theory.

Nonscientists use the word theory to mean speculation, or guess—“I have a theory about that.” Scientific illiterates like Pence fail to distinguish between that casual use of the term and its very different scientific meaning.

Development of a scientific theory is a part of the scientific method. It involves summarizing a group of hypotheses that have been successfully and repeatedly tested. Once enough evidence accumulates to support a hypothesis, a theory is developed, and that theory becomes accepted as a valid explanation of a particular phenomenon. Scientific theories are based on careful examination of facts.

Pence’s preference for biblical explanations of the world comes as no surprise to Hoosiers, who have watched him fund parochial schools with public dollars, shift funding from science-based medical services like Planned Parenthood to religiously-based anti-abortion organizations, and enact measures like RFRA to protect those engaging in religiously-based discrimination.

Media outlets tend to portray Pence as less deranged than Trump. It’s a low bar.


  1. Thanks,
    Who needs scientific theory?
    We all know who told Pence to run for VP.
    (and away from the political loss he faced in India)

  2. It’s okay for people to believe God created the heavens and the earth. It’s just not science. I believe that explanation goes back to a preliterate period when people asked basic questions and the oldest person told it the way he saw it…the way we explain to small children. Sometimes I think we’ve come to a post-literate period when people’s reading has deteriorated because of so much dependence on visuals. I still prefer reading. I can’t “watch” the news. I can listen to it or read it.

  3. Pence actually scares me more than Trump. The very thought of him being a part of the most powerful office in the world makes me shudder.

    Thanks for the laugh about Trump’s hair spray frustrations. No man in a position of power should have to worry about the quality of his hair spray. I hope a team of scientists is working feverishly to resolve this problem, since it is of grave concern to all of humanity.

    Today’s blog has convinced me that we need immigrants now more than ever before to bring sane and intelligent genetics that will hopefully wipe out the lack of intelligent genetics among us like Trump and Pence.

  4. The research, study, practice, application of medical advancements and medical treatment are a science. One of our most vital sciences which includes environmental science which reaches such conclusions that second hand smoke can kill us. The study of GMOs and effects on the human body are another part of scientific study along with the dumping of hazardous waste into dump sites and all of our waterways, the lack of protective equipment for workers in many industries must be included as part of the study of medical sciences. But…WTF does the medical report for Trump’s health being “astonishingly excellent” have to do with medicine or his ability to serve as president? His doctor has commented he meant that jokingly; making jokes about electing the president of the United States cannot be included in the science of medicine or within the reality of our current disasterous political situation. Millions of lives and survival of the United States and much of the world depends on the outcome of this election year.

    Pence’s biblical explanation for everything is not a science; of course, to Pence and his ilk, science is not part of their reality. They are members of the Flat Earth Society; disproved a few centuries ago by scientists. “Media outlets tend to portray Pence as less deranged than Trump. It’s a low bar.” We are NOT dancing the Limbo here. This statement can probably be proven scientifically via the medical research branch of the sciences. But, please do not seek this diagnosis on either or both from Trump’s gastroenterologist or Dr. Ben Carson.

  5. Pence is anti-science but that must be what Hoosiers demand of their commander-in-chief. Probably explains Trump’s selection of a running mate – no worries about an embarrassing intellectual challenge from Pence that might make King Donald look bad. Like peas in a pod.

  6. On a very disturbing note, here is the first sentence of an editorial in today’s Fort Wayne Journal Gazette about Indiana –

    “Freedom lovers will be delighted to learn the libertarian Cato Institute has declared Indiana the fourth freest state in the nation. That’s based mostly on its regulatory environment (little regulation), campaign finance laws (few limits on contributions) and high personal freedom (gun rights and plentiful school vouchers and gambling).”

    I wonder what states ranked above Indiana in this sad state of affairs. Sigh…..

    Here is a link to the editorial:

  7. It would be a very sad world if the Donald were to be elected, but keep in mind that Jill Stein, M.D. also doubts the efficacy of vaccines. In my mind that signals that Dr. Stein hasn’t read a medical journal in 10 years. It also shows that pandering isn’t just a far right thing, although the far right is without doubt the reigning champion of pandering.

    I fear for both the funding and the academic freedom of NIH, VA, and DoD medical researchers, in the event of a Trump victory. It’s hard enough under the best of circumstances to ward off those who are pushing an agenda. Investigator initiated, peer reviewed research is essential to the advancement of all science, but especially medical science.

  8. Sheila:
    “Lest Trump’s bizarre approach to what constitutes “fact” and “evidence” crowd out recognition of his running-mate’s preference for biblical, rather than scientific, explanations of the world…”

    Truth or fiction? From the beginning of the story in the late 60’s in Texas…….. Gordon McLendon to Bunker Hunt: Bunker, I have a great idea on how to create a Racist State. The Nazis were the best at that, but they didn’t look too good by the end of WW II. Now your dad, H. L. Hunt, controls much of the Southern Baptist Convention, so why don’t we just change it around a bit and call it a theocracy. That should work. 60% of the Christian churches in Germany voted in favor of being Nazified. Why don’t we re-start the racist movement in America, the other way around, within the evangelical Christian churches? Instead of Nazis on the street, we can start with the ministers on the pulpit. That way we can throw FACTand SCIENCE straight out the window. Bunker, what do you think? Great idea Gordon. We can do it. You did it with the Liberty Broadcasting System and you almost put CBS out of business. Let’s start here in Dallas and go all the way with it. [ As I mentioned before in the 60’s in Dallas, I was General Counsel of the Mclendon Corporation and earlier I had been one of three attorney’s for the Treasury Department who successfully fought against the powerful H.L. Hunt in the Tax Court of the U.S.]

    The following is from “UR-FASCISM” by Umberto Eco, New York: The New York Review of Books, June 22, 1995.

    “We are here to remember what happened and solemnly say that “They” must not do it again.”

    “But who are They?

    “If we think of the totalitarian governments that ruled Europe before the Second World War we can easily say that it would be difficult for them to reappear in the same form in different historical circumstances.”

    “Nevertheless, even though political regimes can be overthrown, and ideologies can be criticized and disowned, behind a regime and its ideology there is always a way of thinking and feeling, a group of cultural habits, of obscure instincts and unfathomable drives. Is there still another ghost stalking Europe (not to speak of other parts of the world?)”

    “So we come to my second point. There was only one Nazism. We cannot label Franco’s hyper-Catholic Falangism as Nazism, since Nazism is fundamentally pagan, polytheistic, and anti-Christian. But the fascist game can be played in many forms, and the name of the game does not change. The notion of fascism is not unlike Wittgenstein’s notion of a game. A game can be either competitive or not, it can require some special skill or none, it can or cannot involve money. Games are different activities that display only some “family resemblance,” as Wittgenstein put it.”

  9. Looking beyond the Trump/Pence loss in November, there are many local sources who believe Mike Pence will be handed the presidential job at Ball State University.

    Think about Pence presiding over an academic institution.

  10. Todd,

    “Think about Pence presiding over an academic institution.”

    Pence’s close association with Trump and the Koch Brothers large donation should just about do it.

    Yesterday, I purchased a kindle edition of “Facts You May Not Know About Donald Trump” by J.D. Manchester.

    Under Awards and Honors were listed the following:

    2010- Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration from Robert Gordon University [Scotland]

    [They rescinded his Honorary Doctorate in December of 2015 after Trump’s derogatory statements about Muslims]

    2012- Honorary Doctor of Business from [Jerry Falwell’s]Liberty University

    It’s clear. Pence has just the RIGHTqualifications.

  11. The real problem, IMHO, is NOT that there is climate change, but rather that we have no real evidence what is happening and where it is going. Every so often someone compiles a list, from Nobel Prize Winners, Bill Gates, etc. asking what we should spend the worlds limited resources, etc. We hear finish the elimination of polio, eliminate malaria, bring fresh water, provide hurricane resistant and inexpensive housing designs, etc. Don’t see many people of value asking to spend gazillions of dollars on “climate change”, they all seem to pick practical, needful, useful spending that gets results. We may be heading into a new ice age, or a shift in magnetic fields. Watching the Gates Foundation figure out functional, economical, and replicable solutions to malaria is much better than coming up with fuzzy data that leads to speculative conclusions.

  12. The big question?…….is Donald Trump going to be America’s NERO. Right now, I believe he has a good shot at it. Anyone disagree?

    Off to lunch I go……

  13. I would have thought that the idea of a self-evident truth is very anti-reason, not evidence of its primacy.

  14. Todd – All Pence needed to do to lock up his chance at the Ball State job was to appoint his trustee picks and get that Koch donation. It will be the ruination of Ball State.

  15. j. england: I disagree with your statement that “Don’t see many people of value asking to spend gazillions of dollars on ‘climate change’.. There is a majority of informed scientists who understand where (to quote Pete) simple physics is taking the earth’s climate. The fact that to date there is not a political is hardly surprising considering some of the people we have elected to “represent” us. The elected officials have made a choice between working first to understand how complex the problem of climate change is and pandering to voters who have accepted that mantra that it’s fuzzy science and a hoax. The problem is not abating on its own; no action is no solution; and you are right nobody knows exactly where it’s going, but the earth is getting progressively warmer and the population keeps growing. What are some good options?

  16. ha ha ha, trump and his hairspray. OMG. he will ruin the America I know and love. And what will the world think of Americans? Good grief. This is what happens when you have Rush and Fox Spews brainwashing everyone that liberals are the problem. Or that schools are brainwashing kids to become liberals.

  17. One standard shared by both the legal and scientific professions is: “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. It’s shared for different reasons though.

    In the legal profession it’s to insure that witnesses reveal completely and accurately what they experienced. The whole story is then assembled from their individual parts.

    In the science profession it reflects the endless search for accurate revelations from and about the natural world; reality whatever it is: favorable, unfavorable, benign, terrifying, mystifying, contrary, inexplicable, whatever.

    The country and therefore the President must be fully immersed in both of those world’s and many many others. Impossible you say? Close, certainly, but doable with the help of the world’s largest organization but only to those who know how to question as lawyers do, and pay attention as scientists do.

    Trump and Pence are completely handicapped that way. Their egos prevent doing either in anything but rudimentary ways.

    The fact that they exist is merely a statement about human diversity. The fact that there exists people who think that they are capable of running the world’s largest organization should terrify us.

  18. Sharing a personal disclaimer before posting: Yes, I believe there is more than abundant scientific evidence supporting global climate change.

    With that said, I do grasp a bit of what an earlier poster, “j. england” noted. It’s not a matter of political talking heads assigning voters into one of two camps — believers or non-believers re: global climate change, but rather it’s the failure of the political talking heads to consider the innate intelligence of voters who acknowledge global climate change but who simultaneously privately question the urgency of implementing U.S. policies that may or may not generalize to the broader global community.

  19. BSH I personally can’t imagine anyone who understands what’s at stake who “privately question the urgency of implementing U.S. policies that may or may not generalize to the broader global community.”

  20. I am sad to observe that this country’s voters are becoming more anti science and more anti intellectual than they ever were in the first 200 years of our existence. Here is an article from Scientific American from 2012:

    Part of it is the perceived strength of the religious right in swing states and gerrymandered states with strong republican state governments, so candidates are stressing their anti science beliefs. The worst of the bunch are those who know the truth, like Bobby Jindal, but have the state’s schools teach non scientific Creationism to please the anti science base. You can bet that his children were not exposed to such teachings.

  21. Pete – another confluence of legal/political and scientific thought –

    The Preamble to our constitution contains the phrase “in order to form a more perfect union”. The founders were implying that they were improving upon the original Articles of Confederation, but allowing that the future might bring further refinements, which history has shown to be true.

    Similarly, this is the way of science. We investigate, we learn, and then we go back and refine our knowledge. There isn’t a final answer. We are always looking for more details, a better explanation or a more all-encompassing theory. Sometimes those revisions mean we totally change our mind, but that is real science.

    For the climate change deniers, I repeat (sadly often to deaf ears) one true example of this. A real scientist who was a climate change denier did what real scientists do. He re-examined the evidence and conducted his own study. University of California – Berkeley Professor Richard Muller (also a MacArthur Fellow) was a strong denier of climate change. With part of his funding coming from Charles Koch, he conducted his own examination of the data and reached the conclusion that global warming is real, worse than we thought, and caused by humans. If the climate change deniers would have listened to him, we could have gotten on to the real work of trying to figure out what, if anything, we should do – try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build sea walls, or even (if j. england is correct) do nothing and just abandon the coastal areas, instead spending our limited resources to deal with other problems.

  22. So how many science deniers would turn down doses of penicillin or one of its derivatives if they were victims of leprosy or gonorrhea? To be consistent, all of them should but I suspect few would, and why not? Because they believe in science but are lying about it in the service of some political or religious end. They are thus worse than deniers; they are liars to boot. Pence and Trump are even worse than such lying deniers in that they endorse such bologna for perceived personal gain, but they will be disappointed come fall – very disappointed – and for good reason.

  23. I do not get the local lingo for “believing in Science,” as a word — not an analytical one for K-12 BEGINNING workers in military force, for example seniors this year only. Members of American Chemical Society used to publish new word spellings, for example, and may still. However, those are made of old sound cues like 900 without that mph daily Earth speed of revolutions — child’s play arithmetic spellings.

  24. If God is is in the Heavens, Trump has absolutely nothing to worry about. Religion has functioned without science for ages and still controlls much of the world with a non science agenda. However, this election is different. Most of the voters believe in science. Although the majority of science voters will easily take the election, fundamental voters illegally urged by there pastors from the pulpit will illegally interfere with election law and get away with it. Nevertheless, Trump will lose big and claim the election was rigged. Republicans will take a sigh of relief and immediately disclaim all support they gave to trump as best they can. Nevertheless, Republicans will vow to isolate the democrat president as they did the prior one and not cooperate a on any legislation that comes from her desk. Nothing new here of course. Every battle will be hard fought on capital hill and victories will be few due to Republican opposition. Yet, Democrates will struggle forward and serve the nation in crisis as they have the last eight years, with what some will say, without God. So what else is new?

  25. Full disclosure, not a Trump, Pence, or Hillary fan.

    Thou doth protest too much.

    While no one is arguing that taking care of our planet is a bad thing, there is a vast disagreement about the effect our efforts will have, and the cost our country should bear. To call it anti-science is over the top.

    Just as saying anti-ILLEGAL immigration is anti- immigration.
    Just as saying pro-life is anti-women.
    Just as All Lives Matter is Racist.

    Not believing the evidence? The acquittal of several police officers in the death’s of several black men? Who is anti-evidence?

    Not one life has been lost due to pot use? Really?
    Disarm the cops? Until you need a cop with a gun.
    Don’t stand for the National Anthem because America has been oppressive to people of color? Really?

    Conspiracy theory? How many of your tribe believe that 9/11 was an inside job?


  26. Thirty-five years ago I arrived in Hoosierworld from the East as a 55-year-old liberal, university-educated career transferee where I met with a stone wall of self-righteous certainty. I have met some cautiously like-minded people who now, at my age, have pre-deceased me.
    Now my virtual friends are Pete, Marv, and others whose writings instruct.
    Then there is the presence of pusillanimous Mike Pence who promises what? More nonsense social behavior control? Does he really think morality can be legislated?

Comments are closed.