We're only in the first week of a reality TV star serving as president of the United States, and Donald Trump already disregarded science at least nine times — and it hasn't even been seven days since the inauguration.
Keep in mind he has yet to pass a law and only given one interview, and yet science and facts are already out the window. That could be just the beginning of a very scary pattern.
Trump's biggest obsession still seems to be the size of his inauguration crowd, and while photography may be more of an art than a science, it still gives you a pretty good idea as to how he feels about facts. Side-by-side comparisons show Barack Obama's 2008 crowd to win by a huge margin, but forget proof! Alternative facts for everyone, as Kellyanne Conway would have you believe.
In an interview with ABC's David Muir Wednesday night, Trump continued to obsess about it. "They say I had the biggest crowd in the history of inaugural speeches. I'm honored by that," Trump said in one of several asides about the numbers. Muir even asked him when he'd stop focusing on it. "When does all of that matter just a little less?" Muir asked. "When do you let it roll off your back now that you're the president?"
But of all the science and facts that Trump has ignored in these first days, that is probably the most harmless. Here are nine times that Trump has totally disregarded science since moving into the White House.
1Turning Anti-Abortion Rhetoric Into Policy Only Increases Abortions Overseas
After what was likely largest protest in US history .. Trump signs GLOBAL GAG RULE https://t.co/VphwvPn8sW— Maurielle Lue (@MaurielleFOX2) January 24, 2017
As you may have heard, Trump, surrounded by men, signed an order to reinstate the global gag rule, which is meant to curb abortions overseas. Healthcare NGOs that receive funding from USAID or other U.S. agencies can no longer perform or even mention abortions. It doesn't matter whether those programs are run with U.S. dollars.
That's clearly meant to curb abortions, but one study shows it will have the opposite effect. Stanford University researchers found that after the global gag rule was instituted when George W. Bush became president, abortions in Africa rose. That's because a lot of the programs that provided contraceptives were no longer receiving U.S. support, and so with less access to condoms and the pill, there were more pregnancies, and thus more abortions.
2Preventing Global Warming Won't Happen With Huge New Pipelines
On Tuesday, Trump brought back the Keystone XL pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline, both of which had been delayed or killed under the Obama Administration. "We’ll see if we can get that pipeline built," Trump said of the Keystone XL project. He invited the Canadian company to resubmit their proposal to the State Department; TransCanada said they would. Meanwhile Trump owns — or did as of November — stake in the company building DAPL. Conflict of interest much?
This may not be the environmental issue of the century, but there's no doubt that building more pipelines will increase greenhouse emissions. At first it was thought that the tar sands in Canada (where the pipelines come from) would be developed regardless of the construction, but with oil prices lower, that may no longer be the case. That place where a lot of environmental scientists work, the EPA, told the State Department in 2015 that greenhouse gases would rise:
3Creating Jobs With A Hiring Freeze?
On Monday Trump initiated a major hiring freeze across all non-military government agencies. The memorandum includes a call for plans to decrease the size of the government workforce by attrition. But wasn't he elected talking about jobs? Way more jobs? All the jobs? Yuge! It seems as though this may be more of a counting and arithmetic problem than science, but economists (who are social scientists) have a take on this, too.
Trump's team appears to think that government jobs aren't as good — and sure, our tax dollars pay for them. But they do spur growth. It's called the "multiplier effect," and any new job spurs more spending in the economy, which can then create other new jobs. NYU Stern School of Business economist Lawrence White told Politifact, "Spending is spending. There is no difference in multiplier effect from a private sector job or a public sector job."
4Getting Rid Of Efficiency Regulations Is Also Just What Global Warming Needs
Trump tells auto CEOs pollution regulations "out of control" & pledges easing. Hint of lower fuel efficiency rules? https://t.co/PAbbI1rev8— Mike Dorning (@MikeDorning) January 24, 2017
This could even be worse than the pipeline plans. Trump met with the leaders of Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler Tuesday to complain about how environmental regulations were "out of control." But fuel efficiency standards will be huge in reducing household emissions in the United States.
According to the scientists at the Department of Energy, vehicles account for 51 percent of a typical household's emissions. Of course the scientists also say that a carbon tax would be even better than fuel efficiency standards, but that wasn't mentioned in Trump's plans, either.
5Renegotiate NAFTA By Ending Better Trade Deal
Progressives led fight to stop Obama's TPP. Trump will now deliver that goal. Politics is officially upside down. https://t.co/jkbwbeq1ZZ— David Sirota (@davidsirota) January 23, 2017
Trump has been dissing NAFTA and free trade since the beginning of campaign season. And after the primary with Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton was with him on ending TPP. Now Trump has officially pulled the U.S. out of the deal. But this totally ignores the facts — and some scientific studies — that show the trade deal would have grown the U.S. economy. Exports would have been up by 9 percent, and incomes by $131 million a year.
Add on top of that how TPP would have been an improvement on NAFTA (because Mexico and Canada were part of the deal). There were more protections for labor, the environment, and a healthy balance of trade. That's not to say it's perfect. But a better trade deal was already negotiated and Trump just threw it out.
6Building A Wall For Our Ecosystems
President Trump today signed orders directing the federal government to fund construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. pic.twitter.com/oNvmK0EO3b— ACLU National (@ACLU) January 26, 2017
On Wednesday Trump signed two executive orders to build a wall along the border between the U.S. and Mexico. And in selling it, he has focused his arguments on illegal immigration, drugs, and other bad stuff. "Beginning today, the United States of America gets back control of its borders," Trump told a crowd at the Department of Homeland Security. He insists that Mexico will pay, while the Mexican president assures us he won't.
But that's not the issue with science that I'm talking about (although there's little evidence the wall will stop immigration or drug trafficking). Instead it's the desert ecosystems that Trump's wall could destroy. Nature ran a piece on the matter in August pointing out the many species that it could threaten when herds are separated and water supplies disrupted. As Trump would say, it's a shame.
7Saving Chicago Can't Work By Attacking Sanctuary Cities
First, Trump tweeted about the city. "If Chicago doesn't fix the horrible "carnage" going on, 228 shootings in 2017 with 42 killings (up 24% from 2016), I will send in the Feds!" he wrote late Tuesday. Then in his interview with Muir on Wednesday, he repeated the call. "This year, which has just started, is worse than last year, which was a catastrophe," Trump told Muir. "They're not doing the job. Now if they want help, I would love to help them. I will send in what we have to send in."
But his help is unscientific. Trump is threatening sanctuary cities, and Wednesday he signed an executive order threatening such parts of the country by stripping grant money away — and that could just be the first of it. Well, Chicago is a sanctuary city, and the mayor, Rahm Emanuel has already promised that it will stay one.
That's actually good for the violence problem (even if Trump doesn't like it). Trump's hopes to fix Chicago's high shooting numbers would rely on its sanctuary city status for the police to be effective. Sanctuary cities are safer than the average city, and scientific studies show immigrants are more likely to work with the police and give tips on crimes when there is trust — and that comes in the form of a police department that won't deport you.
8Crackdown On Non-Existent Voter Fraud
That's how to write a headline— Trump Wants An Investigation Into Massive Voter Fraud, Which Experts Say Is Bullshit https://t.co/8h7KbeY2In— Dominic Holden (@dominicholden) January 26, 2017
If you're planning on voting against Trump in four years, this should be the most worrying. He continues to insist that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally — even with no proof. Experts have concluded that this is not the case. Perhaps this is more his disregard for facts than science per say, but there is lots of research done by NYU School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice that shows voter fraud just doesn't happen. And that report by Pew that Trump's team mentions repeatedly (probably written by political scientists) not once mentions voter fraud, just that our voter files are not up to date.
9Insisting On Using Torture Techniques That Scientists Already Debunked
Gen McCaffrey on Trump and Torture: I don't think he's got a clue of what he's talking about. https://t.co/FJW8vABSJr— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) January 26, 2017
Trump's argument on torture isn't much better than his analogy. We have to "fight fire with fire," he said in his interview with Muir. If the goal is putting out the fire, clearly that won't work. Nor will torture for extracting secrets from the enemy — at least according to scientists that study this sort of thing. But still, the president is all for tactics like waterboarding because "Isis is doing things that nobody has ever heard of since medieval times."
As for those scientists? They said that the severe stress that these prisoners are under could cause them to lose the memories interrogators want access to. A stress researcher at Ireland’s Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, Shane O’Mara, told Wired, "These techniques cause severe, repeated and prolonged stress, which compromises brain tissue supporting memory and executive function." Probably not the best plan.
These are just nine of his bad calls that are countered by scientists or scientific studies. But surely there are more to come. To try and help the White House and President Trump start off on the best possible footing, give them a call and ask that they consider science in their decision making.
Just in case they don't listen, you might want to consider calling your senators too — they might be the last hope for rational legislation and policy in Washington D.C., even with a Republican majority.
We're in an alternate science world, my friend, but at least we're in it together.