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.

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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!

Et tu, Exxon?

New reporting by Inside Climate News shows that petroleum giant Exxon knew, more than thirty years ago, that burning too much fossil fuel would cause catastrophic climate change. Comparing Exxon’s subsequent emphasis on profits over planetary health to the efforts of Big Tobacco hiding the dangers of cigarettes, PZ Myers writes “the future is going to look back on rabid capitalism as one of the damning pathologies of our history.” Now that the wider public is accepting the fact that anthropogenic global warming will transform and could destroy our way of life, Exxon is very much on the hook. Greg Laden, conducting data analysis to prove the accuracy of Exxon’s early research, asks “How surprised should we be that a major corporation would both look into and ignore, possibly even repress, the science associated with their primary activity?” While a conspiracy comes to mind, William M. Connolley is a bit more circumspect on Stoat, noting that Exxon’s research, building on well-known science, appeared in the peer-reviewed literature. Connolley writes, “confirming publically available information with other publically information available is hardly the stuff of deep dark secrets.” But with the public face of Exxon obfuscating the truth since 1989, it’s hard not to look at them as evildoers. See also: Exxon speaks.

Denialists are Doomed

It’s been a frigid winter in much of the United States, but Greg Laden notes that the country covers only 1.5% of the Earth’s surface, and overall the planet just experienced the fourth-warmest January on record.  Meanwhile global warming denialists are resorting to every rhetorical trick in the book, such as comparing their increasingly outnumbered position to that of Galileo.  While it’s tempting to recount the history of science as that of a few brilliant mavericks overthrowing established consensus, Greg writes “Science hardly ever gets Galileoed, and even Galileo did not Galileo science; he Galileoed religion.”  Meanwhile, on Stoat, William M. Connolley offers some explanations for denialist behavior.  For many, denialism is a political position amenable to any scientific veneer.  But the consequences of denying global warming are more than political: they could make life harder for generations to come.  And denialists, far from being vindicated, can only look forward to being reviled, ridiculed, and forgotten.