by Kim Pederson…….

The September 2016 issue of Scientific American features an editorial titled “The Tweets We Hold to be Self-Evident.” The op-ed subtitle reads “The US presidential election shows how far the political conversation has degenerated from the nation’s founding principles of truth and evidence.” The editors go on to quote Huck Finn saying “It warn’t so. I tried it.” and call this “one of the most powerful lines in American literature because “a respect for evidence is not just part of the national character. It goes to the heart of the country’s particular brand of democratic government.” They then promise to catalog the presidential candidates’ policy views on science, technology, and public health on their website.

"Got the varmint. See?" Huck displays verifiable evidence of a successful hunting trip.*
“Got the varmint. See?” Huck displays verifiable evidence of a successful hunting trip.*

True to their word, on September 26, SA posted “Grading the Presidential Candidates on Science.” Here’s how their responses scored answering the following questions (5 best answer; 0 worst answer):

  • What policies will best ensure that America remains at the forefront of innovation? Clinton 4/5; Trump 1/5; Johnson 2/5; Stein 3/5.
  • In the current climate of budgetary constraints, what are your science and engineering research priorities and how will you balance short-term versus long-term funding? Clinton 2/5; Trump 1/5; Johnson 2/5; Stein 2/5.
  • What are your views on climate change, and how would your administration act on those views? Clinton 4/5; Trump 0/5; Johnson 2/5; Stein 3/5.
  • What steps will you take to protect biological diversity? Clinton 3/5; Trump 0/5; Johnson 2/5; Stein 3/5.
  • How do you see the energy landscape evolving over the next 4 to 8 years, and, as President, what will your energy strategy be? Clinton 5/5; Trump 0/5; Johnson 2/5; Stein 2/5

These are only five of the twenty questions but you can get an idea of where the trend is going. (You can read all the questions and the full responses on the website.) The other queries cover areas like vaccinations, opioids, ocean health, and immigration. In the end, out of a possible 100 points, Clinton scored 64, Trump 7, Johnson 30, and Stein 44. An encouraging performance for Clinton, perhaps, and for Trump, downright frightening. As one PhD in biology observed, “Trump’s answers demonstrate an almost complete ignorance of science or the importance of these imposing problems facing us in maintaining a livable world for everyone” [and everything he might have added]. Should you need evidence for this statement, take it from the man himself. Here’s one now infamous Trump quote on climate change: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing noncompetitive.”

Ironically, Huck Finn might have been a Trump follower. After all, Huck’s philosophy was “what’s the use you learning to do right, when it’s troublesome to do right and ain’t no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same?” Donald would likely agree, although he would probably say the wages are better, huge in fact.

* Huckleberry Finn, as depicted by E.W. Kemble in the original 1884 edition of the book. Public Domain.

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Visit Kim Pederson’s blog RatBlurt: Mostly Random Short-Attention-Span Musings.

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