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06/09/2017

Trump’s Attack on Science

Some time ago I began to write a blog about support of
science, and the role of science in policy and decision making under the Trump
administration. While this would seem to be a straightforward task since all of
the evidence is amazingly consistent, in fact, it has been difficult. The
reason it has been difficult is that each time I compile the sources and
information necessary to write this blog something else happens which
illustrates starkly the abandonment of the use of science by this
administration. At this time, shortly after Trump’s announcement of the United
States withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, I am trying to start again. I
know it may be futile to expect to cover everything but I am writing anyway.
There is no shortage of material. For the purpose of this blog I will focus on
the message sent by Trump’s science budget proposals and not seek to be all
inclusive. After all, it is the budget proposal which best states the
administrations intent. I will also try to touch on the anti-science warriors
who have been appointed to high level government positions, including cabinet
positions.

While it is attractive to think of science as non-political,
science exists in the real world and is, in fact, subject in many ways to
political considerations. We have been fortunate that the politicians in
Washington including both congress and the executive branch have recognized
both the economic and humanitarian benefits of scientific research. They have,
with a few exceptions maintained and grown the government’s support of
scientific research in both basic and applied fields in both biomedical and
other areas of research. This seems now to have changed. Congress fortunately
has rescued the 2017 fiscal year science and technology budget from major cuts proposed
by the Trump administration. However the administration has proposed draconian
cuts for the 2018 fiscal year budget which starts in October 2017. It remains
to be seen what that budget looks like when it has been through the Congress.

Trump’s proposed budget includes massive cuts to all federal
agencies which support research. He proposes a 22% cut to the National
Institutes of Health.  Both the
Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration are slated
for 30% budget reductions. Other science supporting agencies are expecting cuts
of eleven to thirty two per cent. These are huge budget reductions which will
cripple labs and institutions conducting science.

Trump has appointed a series of individuals who are most
certainly not advocates of science to important science based government
positions. This includes climate change denier Scott Pruitt to head the
Environmental Protection Agency.  Rick
Perry also a climate change skeptic as well as fossil fuel fan is now the head
of the Department of Energy. Former CEO of the world’s largest fossil fuel
company, Rex Tillerson is now the Secretary of State. Trump consulted with
anti-vaccine crusader Robert Kennedy Jr. regarding the establishment of a
commission on autism. Eighty five percent of the top science jobs in the
federal government lack a Trump nominee.

The role of science as a driver, indeed the driver, of
innovation and economic and technological development has been nearly
universally acknowledged. We are now moving backward. Our hope lies in the fact
that Trump and his cronies cannot kill science. Science is truth and truth will
prevail. In the meantime things are pretty much a mess.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI’s online graduate programs, please visit our website.  

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