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.