Accountability

Gordon Wilder: What Leading Scientists Say about the Election Results

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Faithful reader Gordon Wilder left the following comment:

I just posted the following on facebook if anyone is interested.

I understand that scientists are not to be taken seriously, that to be among the elite is to be elitist, thus to be denigrated. But, if anyone should be interested this is part of what some scientists are saying.

Richard Dawkins and Other Prominent Scientists React to Trump’s Win

What the election results mean for science, in gut responses from Scientific American’s Board of Advisers

To get an idea of what top minds in science, health and research are thinking, we reached out to Scientific American’s Board of Advisers to get their quick-fire reactions to the election outcome.

The excerpts, some of them edited for length, appear below.

President-elect Trump’s upset election caught many by surprise. We have not heard very much from him or his colleagues on his views on science and basic research, so I can only say that I hope that he recognizes the long-term value of basic research investment and will support the agencies of the U.S. government that support and pursue it, including the National Science Foundation.

—Vint Cerf, chief internet evangelist, Google

Fundamental research, dealing with climate change and the environment, nuclear weapons treaties, international relations, women’s rights, health and welfare, and more generally, public policy based on empirical reality, all have been dealt a blow.

The president-elect has expressed disinterest or disdain for the results of scientific analyses relevant for public policy, and the vice president–elect has been an open enemy of science.

It remains to be seen how this will play out, but a Republican congress seems unlikely to put many checks on this.

—Lawrence Krauss, director, Origins Project, Arizona State University

America’s prominence and international influence is largely based on the prestige and trust the U.S. enjoys, in part a result of the last century’s contributions to advancing science, medicine, technology and the pursuit of social justice. Our position as trusted members of the global community must be maintained and improved if we are to positively impact global development for the benefit of our own citizens as well as those of the world.

—Robert E. Palazzo, dean, University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and Sciences

At this moment, November 9, 2016, I am sick in heart and spirit, bereft of even a shred of optimism.
All the ideals of the enlightenment on which our country was founded, all the principles of reason and open-mindedness that undergird the practice of science that we so fervently cherish, and to which we can rightfully attribute our progress in improving the welfare of humankind, have been effectively and thoroughly repudiated. The significance of the result of the election—that those opposing these beliefs will now either control or greatly influence every branch of the U.S. government—cannot be overemphasized.

It’s a shutout.

In such a moment it’s natural to search the past for lessons. All successful civilizations throughout history have ultimately perished. Further, the evolution of our country’s democracy is following an ancient script: the seeds of Trump’s philosophical victory can be found in the very multicultural, multi-viewpoint, open-armed inclusiveness of the democratic ideal America has pursued since its beginnings.

In his article in New York Magazine, Andrew Sullivan finds in Plato’s Republic, written 2,400 years ago, the view that a “rainbow-flag polity” is the most inherently unstable, and that “tyranny is probably established out of no other regime than democracy.” It does indeed make you wonder if last night wasn’t inevitable.

My deepest worry is that this transition really could signal the end of the American Republic and the light it tried for 240 years, at least on paper, to shine on all the world.

What it means for the practice of science in this country, the rights of women and minorities, the future of our planet’s health, the survival of all the creatures with whom we share the Earth and for our relationships with other nations, I have no stomach to predict. But it does very much seem right now that the winning faction of the U.S. populace has decided that the Earth really is flat, and that will be the guiding principle for governance from this moment on.

—Carolyn Porco, Cassini Imaging Team leader; visiting scholar, University of California, Berkeley; director, CICLOPS, Space Science Institute

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