Watching the inauguration and subsequent protest (#WomensMarch) unfold over the weekend, I came across #USofScience. The hashtag was used by scientist to protest. More importantly it also highlighted why science is important and should have the full support of politicians and the public. In the USA this support is questionable, at best, for the next four years. We live in a time where one of the most powerful people in the world believes more in opinions and feelings than in actual facts. In fact he lives in a world of “alternative facts” – also known as lies.
The post-truth world is hard to navigate and a mind-set that dismisses scientific facts in favour of unfounded opinions is never good. But coming from the president of the USA – this behaviour is outright dangerous for global health.
As scientist we have to change – in addition to research, we have an obligation to be advocates as well. We need to speak up for science and scientific findings. Now more than ever, we have to stand against “alternative facts” and explain the truth and scientific findings to the public. Science communication is more important than ever.
So here today, I want to look at two science facts Trump has been ignoring.
Donald Trump does not believe in climate change.
Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee - I'm in Los Angeles and it's freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!—
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 06, 2013
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.—
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 06, 2012
Both statements are without basis. Without proof. LA having cold days does not contradict the global rise in temperatures. The research proving global warming is man-made is not only widely accepted in the science community (97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree), it also has predicted catastrophic consequences if we do not limit greenhouse gases emissions.
In an effort to limit emission, 194 states signed the Paris agreement on the 22nd of April 2016. Problem is: Trump has, on the campaign trail, vouched to exit the agreement once he is president. And within hours of him taking charge, the climate action plan disappeared from the White House website. For those out there hoping, he will employ the right advisers: sorry to disappoint you, but his pick for energy secretary is an oil mogul that has not only doubted climate change is man-made but also that it is a problem. The future of our planet looks bleak if Trump gets his way.
For me, as an Immunologist, the fact that Trump still believes that autism and vaccinations are linked is shocking.
I am being proven right about massive vaccinations—the doctors lied. Save our children & their future.—
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 03, 2014
Lots of autism and vaccine response. Stop these massive doses immediately. Go back to single, spread out shots! What do we have to lose.—
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2012
While these tweets are old – he has met with Vaccine-sceptics recently and is possibly starting a commission to study “vaccine safety and scientific integrity”. This is a waste of time and money. The fateful and fraudulent 1998 paper by disgraced medic Andrew Wakefield has long been disproven. As stated in a Nature editorial earlier month:
“A 2015 study of more than 95,000 children found no association between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and an increased risk of autism — even among children with a family history of the disorder.”
How can a large-scale study like that, and so many others, be ignored?
The worst thing about this is, that it puts the life of the most vulnerable in danger. Children. Children, whose parents believe the president of the USA, when he links vaccinations with autism and fuels the anti-vaxxer movement. In Germany vaccination rates are dropping and the elimination of diseases like measles is moving further out of reach. And while the Americas are officially considered measles free since last September (nonetheless 70 people contracted the disease in 2016), the last epidemic was only in 2014. Given dropping vaccination rates and air travel – the next outbreak is only one sick person on a plane away. So as long as the disease is only a 6 hour plane journey away- vaccinations, which are free and save(!!), are a must!
We do not need a world leader doubting vaccine safety – but clear statements pro-vaccinations! Or people will die.
The Trump administration not only disbelieves science, it is also likely going to make it harder to actually do science. While stands on science funding remain elusive, it has been suggested that the possible new head the US Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price will cut science funding. Limitations on the use of human embryonic stem cells are also likely to hinder research.
If all of this has been hard to swallow- throw some science at Trump! While this game is fun for a minute or two – remember: only protesting Trump and his absurd standpoints, and communicating the truth, will result in change!
Picture credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com. From flickr. Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0