Donald Trump’s first month in office has been a pretty turbulent one. Indeed, the new President has come under fire for pretty much everything from his public discussions with the Japanese Prime Minister to his controversial travel ban. Aside from many media outlets – which Trump dismisses as being peddlers of “fake news” – one group that’s been particularly vocal in its critique of him is the scientific community.
Indeed, in Boston, scientists held a public protest against the President, gathering together under the “Make America Smart Again” banner. But what’s their problem with the new Prez? It could be something to do with the fact that he’s a bit of a science skeptic. Forget “fake news.” According to Trump, some aspects of these six areas of study constitute “fake science.”
6. Man-made climate change
The main theory behind the idea of man-made climate change is that human activity is causing the planet’s temperature to rise faster than it would otherwise. The Earth’s atmosphere naturally traps energy from the sun, keeping the planet warm. But scientists believe that the burning of fossil fuels is enhancing the effect, causing the planet to grow warmer. Scientists predict that this could have disastrous consequences, causing flooding in some areas and drought in others.
Trump’s history as a climate-change denier goes back way further than his Presidential campaign. The mogul has held the view for years, in fact. He has claimed that it’s all a big conspiracy created by the Chinese to destroy the competitiveness of American manufacturing. Of course.
At the end of January, the Trump administration apparently told the Environmental Protection Agency to delete its page on climate change. Trump has also filled his cabinet with climate-change deniers and put Rick Perry in charge of the Department of Energy. Notably, Perry once said he’d like to dismantle the department altogether.
Vaccines have eliminated smallpox from the face of the Earth and have come very close to destroying measles. But a backlash against them gathered pace when in the late 1990s a now discredited paper written by British medical researcher Andrew Wakefield suggested there was a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. However, no scientists have since been able to replicate the results of the study.
Donald Trump is a high-profile follower of the so-called anti-vax movement. In 2014, for example, he tweeted, “Healthy young child goes to doctor, gets pumped with massive shot of many vaccines, doesn’t feel good and changes – AUTISM. Many such cases!” Recently, at an education round table, he asked the principal of a special education centre in Virginia if she’d noticed an increase in autism. When she indicated that she had, he said, “well, maybe we can do something.”
Recently, Trump was spotted schmoozing with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a prominent anti-vaxxer who often speaks about the supposed link between vaccines and autism. Kennedy later told press that Trump had asked him to head up a proposed commission on vaccine safety, with Trump’s team stating that nothing is set in stone but the idea of such a commission is being considered.
4. The environment
Environmental science is all about conserving the natural world. As part of its role, the EPA keeps the country’s air safe to breathe and the water safe to drink. However, this doesn’t seem to impress the President. In fact, during his campaign, Trump said he’d like to eliminate the department completely, telling Fox News “the DEP is killing us… environmentally. It’s just killing our businesses.”
Furthermore, while campaigning Trump also claimed that he would open up federal lands for oil and natural-gas exploration. He said of shale energy, “[this] revolution will unleash massive wealth for American workers and families.” The process of getting energy from shale is known as fracking, and it can cause environmental issues such as earth tremors. In some cases, chemicals can escape and poison groundwater.
In another move, Trump has placed Ryan Zinke at the helm of the Department of the Interior. The climate-change denier is now in charge of America’s national parks and waterways. This has some scientists worried because the congressman is known for speaking out against environmental-protection measures. Like Trump, he’s a big fan of fossil fuels, particularly coal.
3. Space exploration
America has been paving the way for space exploration since well before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969. As well as firing up the dreams of people everywhere, America’s space program has also resulted in various practical inventions. These include the likes of velcro, cordless vacuum cleaners and the thermal blankets used by marathon runners. Microgravity research has also led to new breakthroughs in the field of medicine, too.
Although Trump has called space “terrific” and NASA “wonderful,” his actions speak louder than his words. The Trump administration is set to reduce spending on NASA, removing funding for its Earth Science program. Indeed, Bob Walker, the man at the helm of Trump’s NASA transition team, has dismissed the program as “politically-correct science.”
Defending this position on space exploration, Trump explained, “right now, we have bigger problems – you understand that? We’ve got to fix our potholes. You know, we don’t exactly have a lot of money.” Notably, the Federal budget for NASA sits at just 0.4 percent (compared to Defense on 12.6 percent). Meanwhile, it is claimed that the space agency makes $10 for the American economy for every dollar invested in it. As a businessman, Trump should surely appreciate what looks to be a great return on investment.
2. Education and research
Although funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation usually increases under Republican governments, Trump isn’t a “usual” president. Most scientific researchers rely on government grants to carry out their important work. They are concerned by Trump’s pledges to cut the federal budget — especially as he said last year, “I hear so much about the NIH, and it’s terrible.”
While Hillary Clinton planned to boost investment in disease-prevention research, as well as increasing investment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, Trump doesn’t seem to think that it’s necessary. Although he didn’t mention funding, he has noted that he doesn’t trust the Department of Education and feels that “there are a host of STEM programs already in existence.”
Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, feels that this could be a disaster for America’s education system. He told Scientific American in 2016, “Donald Trump has shown a contempt for science, a willingness to play fast and loose with the very idea of truth, and an absence of intellectual curiosity.”
Studies have shown that sleep is really important for our physical and mental health. This is great news for nap fans but bad news for President Trump. The 70-year-old billionaire doesn’t quite believe in it, boasting about his ability to get by on around half the recommended sleep a healthy adult needs to function.
Trump spoke out about it during his campaign, famously telling crowds in Springfield, Illinois, in 2015 that, “You know, I’m not a big sleeper. I like three hours, four hours, I toss, I turn, I beep-de-beep, I want to find out what’s going on.” This isn’t a new thing, either. In his 2004 book Think Like a Billionaire, Trump wrote, “I usually sleep about four hours per night.”
Studies, however, have shown that after 17 to 19 hours without sleep our bodies act the same way as if we were drunk. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), sleep can affect “how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.” Maybe that explains why The Donald’s first month as President has been so, um… lively.