Trump's war on science, a chronology (Week 1)


Originally published at:


Jerry Falwell (the younger) is being put in charge of a “higher-ed policy” task force.

That will not end well.


While, as a scientist, I can strongly relate to every point on that list, I think that the damage to humanities and arts is not just a sidenote.

(I assume this is a cultural thing? Especially for German-speaking countries the sharp distinction between sciences and humanities is not completely understandable. Even though the gap between scientific cultures widens more and more under the influence of the Bologna system, the Humboldtian ideal still resonates in Europe.)


is that so? I did not work in academia after finishing my studies, but imo there’s a gap between Naturwissenschaften and Geisteswissenschaften, with a mutual disdain or at least different backgrounds and approaches


Because trying to force science to adhere to your political notions has worked out so well in the past…


Compared to the US, and in parts also the UK, I think the distinction is still less pronounced. Both Natur- and Geisteswissenschaften are Wissenschaften, and talking about “Wissenschaft” and “Wissensgesellschaft” is including both branches.

An article in any larger German-speaking newspaper or magazine about how the Trump admin affects Die Wissenschaft® would, I boldly assume, include the effects on humanities as well.

But you are, of course, correct about the cultural gap in background, approaches, and methods. And even about a mutual disdain, which has something to do with the former - but more with vanity, and funding.

However, there are quite a few interdisciplinary mutual ‘Befruchtungen’, still. Even if they are not widely visible.


We’re being reduced to a Nation of f’ing morons right before our eyes.


I think anti-science should be reserved for people like James Inhofe, who actively target science. It seems to me Trump simply doesn’t understand science, or want to. If the EPA, for example, has a policy at odds with trumpism, well they’re government, so they better toe the line. Questions about data simply don’t enter his little head.


I was going to post that a lot of the people who laugh over the Soviet Union’s support for Lysenko on political grounds may not be laughing now.
In the long rung, canning the EPA may be equally deleterious.


Tune in next week when the revised EPA FAQ will contain helpful information like:

Why does the water make me sick?
God is punishing you for not supporting Trump enough.


Psychology is an interesting example of a discipline which covers everything from the effects of neuropathy on behaviour at one end to introspective self-analysis at the other. I’ve come across a number of “hard” scientists who are only aware of “pop” psychology and use this to denigrate the entire field, whereas they manage to ignore the scientifically illiterate articles about physics research which on their logic would downgrade physics (the ones on the Southampton report on the “holographic universe” are causing me to tear metaphorical hair out.)
With some honourable exceptions, I can’t help feeling that one of the issues is that on mainland Europe journalists tend to be more serious and less sensationalist than in the US or the UK. Poor journalism - especially politically motivated like that of people like Delingpole - has a lot to answer for on why Trump can get away with it.


That started long before the Dump came along; like right after WWII ended.

We’re only now seeing just how well such a nefarious plot has worked, and this clusterfuck that we’re currently in is the result.


Trump, no; Bannon, yes. Bannon is really the one in charge. Think Bush / Cheny = Trump / Bannon.




“anything else” covers a LOT. politics is only one of many examples. sigh.


Psychology is an interesting mixed bag, and personally, whenever I look more closely at studies (not the discipline as a whole, mind!) I am close to pulling my hair out. Sometimes not even just metaphorically, especially when evolutionary psychology is concerned.) Incidentally, it is also the field which I immediately thought of when talking about disciplines which inspire and influence other fields. Notably statistical methods are often furthered or developed in psychology, as far as I am aware, and later used in other branches of science and humanities.

I don’t know if psychology is also under attack by the Trump admin. I also don’t how it will help to deal with the current situation. But I am pretty sure it is one source of expertise we will have to rely on during the next years… sighs
(However: mixed bag. As mentioned.)


My academic studies have been a very mixed bag, but it’s fair to say that the approach to statistics I learned from my psychology supervisor is one of the most useful things I acquired for my first degree.
Basically it comes down to, in analysing studies it is essential to be an overly suspicious cynical bastard who has been exposed to at least two cultures.

Evolutionary psychology though…park on the same shelf as cold fusion and String theory.

One thing I am sure of, though. At some point someone in the Trump administration will attack psychology. This is simply because so many studies end up giving negative attributes to authoritarianism, like a propensity to be led by psychopaths, tendency to xenophobia and propensity to accept the views of echo chambers.

Too true. I used to say to my kids that you needed to learn maths so your bridges wouldn’t fall down (at the time we lived close to where Sir Benjamin Baker was born, hence the slight relevance.) But the number of people killed in the Tay disaster was as nothing to the number killed in WW1 and WW2, both of which were ignited by fact-resistant politicians.


does anyone remember anne gorsuch burford? she was reagen’s epa administrator who basically tried to destroy the agency. her son is named neil gorsuch . . . you know the guy trump has nominated for the supreme court. i wonder what his attitude towards science is?


Tenure for none, bibles and dress codes for all!