2018-03-22

Trump and science: malice or indifference?

Pop quiz: who wrote "A second lesson is that scientists who are opposed to Trump (and please count me among them) should take care that their zeal does not backfire" and was then excoriated by luminaries such as Michael Mann for defending Trump? This is an easy question; the answer is of course everyone's favourite, Roger Pielke Jr.

MM points us to the DailyKos, which points us to a piece by "ClimateDenierRoundup" (shades of how readily Tillerson gets labelled a denier), which after some brief "scene-setting" refers us to a piece in the Graun, Donald Trump isn’t waging war on science. He just doesn’t care, by the said RP Jr. Apart from missing a nice potential reference to Hobbes, I can't see much to object to in RP's piece. It fails to condemn Trump as a Baby-Eating Evil-Doer, which won't get him many dinner party invites from the likes of MM or DK, but that's no offence.

RP does reference There Is No Ban on Words at the CDC, which ought to earn him plaudits for setting-the-record-straight, but it isn't part of the approved story line so it doesn't.

RP suggests "benign neglect of science policy" by Trump. That's probably not how many people would see it; but the same event can be viewed many ways. RP points out "President Trump has gone more than 400 days without appointing a director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy", which he interprets as indifference. But I've seen many on the Left interpret it as, effectively, an attack on Science.

RP can find some examples of Trump wrt science; for example "When Trump has voiced opinions on policy issues valued by the scientific community, such as the Paris climate agreement and Iran nuclear deal, he has been far out of step with the views of most scientists". Which doesn't look like defending Trump; quite the reverse, he notes that Trump is out of step.

RP's language on Pruitt is determinedly neutral, which I think I would fault him for, saying "Trump’s appointment of Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency has resulted in sweeping changes to how that agency does business, notably how it uses science advice". But the link is to sciencemag.

And "It is hard to sustain outrage when your opponent doesn’t care, the public overall supports science and technology, and Congress is increasing overall R&D budgets. In this context, Trump can do more outrageous things longer than the community can stay outraged" seems reasonable, and a reasonable warning. Unless, of course, your business-model is outrage.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

It just seems to be pretty standard Pielke Jr to me. There's no evidence that anything bad is actually happening, all these silly scientists are just getting worked up without really considering the actual evidence, scientists just don't understand politics/society, etc. At some level, it may well be a bunch of things that are true. However, there is a difference between it not necessarily being quite as much of a disaster as some are suggesting, and it being something to not be worried about at all.

William Connolley said...

> There's no evidence that anything bad is actually happening

It seems to me that you're being ungenerous to RP. Or maybe you're just not reading what he is writing? Why isn't "the Paris climate agreement and Iran nuclear deal, he has been far out of step with the views of most scientists" something bad happening? Why isn't "scientists who are opposed to Trump (and please count me among them)" ditto?

Is there some form of words, some loyalty oath, that you require him to use?

Is the DK's assertion that RP "defends Trump" true or false?

Anonymous said...

Ahh, I thought my exaggerating for effect would be understood. Seems not.

Is there some form of words, some loyalty oath, that you require him to use?

No, that would be remarkably silly.

Everett F Sargent said...

"Is the DK's assertion that RP "defends Trump" true or false?"

Who gives a fudge about DK. We already know that they are tree huggers, not tree muggers like DT.

Does RPJr care more about science than DT does?

Flip a coin. RPJr is still a tosser though.

MAGA!!! Make A$$holes (like DT and RPJr) Great Again!!!

Everett F Sargent said...

Trump blames all of the USA's 'so called' problems on, well actually anybody who is not named Trump. Trump is indifferent to, well actually (anybody who) (anything that) is not (named) (owned by) Trump.

Trump does what he wants ...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLPM-P7mNQw

I really pity the janitor who has to clean up The White House after Trump leaves, deuces gone wild. USA stands for United Stains of America. MAGA!!!

Tom said...

Trump's an evile baby killer (slight exaggeration). Pielke is correct in his analysis and his recommendations seem well-considered.

Trump is not anti-science. He is a-science. Meaning without. He doesn't understand it, he doesn't use it in considering his policy options and it is not part of his agenda. And my country is the worse for it.

Pielke has been consistently correct in the broad sweep of his findings throughout his career. He is also ambitious and thin-skinned and has made the (difficult, but probably correct) choice to not admit error in some parts of the climate conversation.

Life is complicated.

Michael Hauber said...

Trump claimed that climate change was a Chinese conspiracy. I guess the difference between him and someone like Anthony Watts is that Watts pretends to be scientific.