Trump Against the World

Donald Trump continues his blitz to fulfill all his campaign promises at once, leaving snowflakes aghast and deplorables cheering for the proto-fascism on parade at The White House. On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump issued a statement “in the name of the perished” without any reference to Jews or anti-semitism, and while his Chief of Staff spun this omission a sign of inclusivity, Mark Hoofnagle writes on Denialism Blog that “this is part of a long history of Holocaust denial, in which the experience, memory, and truth of Jewish survivors and victims is diminished and denied.” As Orac writes on Respectful Insolence, “whatever the source of Hitler’s antisemitism, it was one of the animating forces of Nazi-ism, arguably the animating force.”

Meanwhile, Greg Laden writes that the U.S. finds itself in a very dangerous situation, wherein income inequality has reached a breaking point and our elected officials no longer play by the rules. Greg says “we now have a man who by all indications intends to dictate, not lead, dictate not rule, dictate not represent.” Since his inauguration Trump has not only closed U.S. borders to many foreigners, he has also hobbled public health programs around the world by prohibiting foreign organizations that receive U.S. aid from performing or providing information about abortions. Ironically, as Liz Borkowski writes on The Pump Handle, this rule only serves to increase the rate of abortions worldwide, and also increases the risk posed by global threats such as Ebola. Trump’s actions reveal one promise he has failed to keep: that he would be a president for all Americans.


Trump Preps for War on Vaccines

In the latest of a series of appointments that are poised to contravene scientific and medical consensus, Donald Trump met with anti-vaccine advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for the purpose of forming a commission on “vaccine safety.” On The Pump Handle, Kim Krisberg says “Kennedy is a lawyer — not a scientist, doctor, child health expert or public health practitioner” yet Trump wants to charge him with “reviewing the safety of one of the greatest life-saving tools of the 20th century.” Like Kennedy, Trump says that vaccines can cause autism, and as Orac notes on Respectful Insolence, “compared to the flip-flops Trump has pulled off regarding beliefs in a variety of areas, Trump’s views on vaccines and autism have been remarkably consistent.” Meanwhile, on Confessions of a Science Librarian, John Dupuis picks up on an article that jokes Trump “will require all reviewers for all journals and grant agencies to end all reviews with the word ‘Sad!'” and may even “Make Astrophysics Great Again.” John says “One word peer review is going to be Huuuuugggggggeeeeee!”

See also:

Inauguration day: How President Trump could undermine trust in vaccines 
on Respectful Insolence

Science Communication FTW

Despite a greater percentage of people knowing about (and agreeing with) scientific issues, denialism remains a powerful political and psychological force that threatens to have its heyday under President Trump. As Peter Gleick writes on Significant Figures, “good policy without good science is difficult; good policy with bad science is impossible.” Peter asks: what is the best way for scientists to engage the republic? Through testimony? Social media? Pop star status like Sagan, Bill Nye, and Neil deGrasse Tyson? Or is the open letter an effective form of public outreach? Meanwhile, on Starts With a Bang, Ethan Siegel says “Scientific truths may not necessarily have a one-to-one correspondence with policy,” but until we can agree on some facts, “we’re going to have a very hard time moving forward together in this world.” Orac offers additional advice for battling conspiracy theories and denialism on Respectful Insolence: “It’s not enough to know the science (or history). You have to know the pseudoscience (or pseudohistory) inside and out.” Orac also considers a study on the best way to argue with conspiracy theorists, which suggests that showing empathy is not an effective approach. Instead, “a combination of rational argument and targeted ridicule can be effective.”

See also:

2016: The year bullshit was weaponized on Respectful Insolence

5 scientific myths you probably believe about the Universe on Starts With a Bang!

Spoiler Alert: Rogue One

Serving as an immediate prelude to the very first Star Wars film (A New Hope), Rogue One restores a measure of gravitas to the Star Wars canon that was seriously undermined by the goofiness of 2015’s The Force Awakens. Rogue One is still a remarkable nostalgia trip, thanks to the digital recreation of familiar Rebel and Imperial hardware along with the likenesses of actors who first appeared in the original 1977 film. But without the need to consider future franchise opportunities for its stars, Rogue One is free to kill off all of its major characters, marking a narrative structure that is unprecedented for blockbusters in general and Disney piffle in particular. Self-sacrifice inspires a strong emotional response from the audience—see, for example, Obi-Wan Kenobi posing peacefully in A New Hope before Darth Vader strikes him down. The several heroes in Rogue One sacrifice themselves one by one until all that’s left is a floppy disk in the hands of a princess. This is powerful plotting, and all credit to the film’s writers. Perhaps there is hope for the fictional far-far-away galaxy after all.

Image via

Never Mind About that Paper…

A few scientific papers are retracted after they’re published, such as this analysis of nuclear energy that appears to have been nixed for poor methodology and bad numbers on Stoat. William M. Connolley adds that because of the politics surrounding nuclear power in Europe, “this crude level of analysis would be unlikely to be useful.” But on Respectful Insolence, Orac looks at an anti-vaccine abstract that was so awful the publisher decided to take it down before the paper could be published. Orac writes, “basically, this paper is crap, so much so that even a predatory open access publisher pulled it, at least temporarily.” And on Pharyngula, PZ Myers has fun deconstructing the “balloon animal biology” of Stuart Pivar et. al. which despite being well-illustrated “is all entirely fanciful, not based on observations of real animals at all.” PZ, who knows how a fetus actually develops, says: “I just…I just…I don’t know what to say. This is madness.” As published by Elsevier.

Bracing for President Trump

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the U.S. caught nearly everyone by surprise, and fingers were immediately pointed in all directions as the election’s losers looked to lay blame. Chad Orzel offers one relevant narrative: “There are a lot of people who feel like they’re being screwed by a system run for the benefit of people in big cities on the coasts who sneer at them as ignorant, racist hicks.” Ethan Siegel extends an olive branch on Starts With a Bang, saying “we all have our biases, even if we ourselves are scientists,” and encourages EVERYONE to accept the responsibility of becoming more informed in a political climate that drips with misinformation and emotional spin.

On Denialism Blog, Mark Hoofnagle examines the conspiracist worldview and what we might expect from a conspiracist White House, noting “we now have a president and vice president elect who have conspiratorial views on vaccines, evolution and climate change, rejecting, effectively, the most important public health intervention of all time, the underpinning of all modern biology, and arguably the greatest threat to human survival on Earth.” Meanwhile, on The Pump Handle, Kim Krisberg sounds a scientific battle cry, writing “public health has plenty of practice confronting and overcoming powerfully entrenched interests for the greater good. Just ask Big Tobacco.”

Finally, John DuPuis has started to document the damage done by Trump to important scientific issues, such as vaccination. On Respectful Insolence, Orac writes “it’s no surprise that antivaxers are very happy about the election of Donald Trump, and they hope to get something out of it.” The true consequences of Trump’s presidency remain to be seen, but his win is a wake-up call to advocates of science and social justice. We must remain vigilant, and we must remember that without effective outreach and communication, we will lose. As Chad Orzel notes, the fight going forward “involves working to treat everyone with respect and decency and empathy,” and not merely casting stones at those who think differently.

See also:

Myron Ebell, Evil Arch Climate Uber Villain on Stoat

Clinton-Trump Gap in Key States on Greg Laden’s Blog

Thanksgiving Gratitude and #NoDAPL

Today is about American tradition, and feeling grateful for all that we have been given. The first Thanksgiving represented the gratitude of American settlers towards the indigenous peoples who originally inhabited this country. It is about the men and women who came to North America on the Mayflower giving back to the men and women who helped them to survive in the ‘new’ world. It is about Tisquantum, a Patuxet enslaved by a Briton, sold in Spain, liberated by monks, and steeped in the English language before returning to his homeland and teaching the colonists to “catch eel and grow corn.” It is about Massasoit, sachem of the Wampanoag, who “had given food to the colonists during the first winter when supplies brought from England were insufficient.” It is about coming to understanding with your adversaries and beginning life anew.

Although Thanksgiving is literally about gratitude toward Native Americans, many today will be content to stuff themselves with industrial meat and processed foods, purchased for the least price from the most socially and environmentally irresponsible corporation, all while whooping about football games on television and waxing philosophical about the acceptability of the Cleveland ‘Indians’ logo, Chief Wahoo. Not to mention Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, in the Dakotas, the bloody history of our republic repeats itself. Time and again we have appeased Native Americans with treaties only to turn around and break them violently for the sake of our ‘progress’ and ‘manifest destiny.’ While your Uncle Bob cheers on his favorite team today, many Americans in the heartland are literally at war. I imagine the diverse community at Standing Rock has much to be thankful for: their own resilience, the aid and sympathy of people from around the world, and their mighty river, the Missouri, which they are trying to protect from harm. What the peaceful warriors at Standing Rock will NOT be thankful for are the mercenaries assaulting them with pepper spray, rubber bullets, water hoses, and concussion grenades. #NoDAPL is not just a native issue: it is relevant to all individuals concerned that climate change is a moral and existential threat to humanity. Scientists should be on the front lines among the water protectors demanding that the new 1172-mile-long oil pipeline, the ‘great black snake’ connecting the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to an oil tank farm in Illinois, should not be made whole. We must ALL demand that the Dakota Access Pipeline remains unliving. Because President Obama, in his usual modus operandi, is not about to lift a finger.

See also: Hundreds Of Veterans “Self-Deploy” To Standing Rock To Defend Protesters