There are so many things I could write this evening about Donald Trump, the events unfolding in Cleveland, and what it all means for the future of humanity. I could write about last night’s seemingly accidental Nazi salute. [See Laura Ingrham above.] I could write about Congressman Steve King’s suggestion that minorities, which he referred to a “sub groups”, haven’t contributed anything of value to the world. I could write about the intense whiteness of the proceedings (from the elevators to the the interns). I could write about the plagiarised speech given by Melania Trump and the fact that the Trump employee who took the blame likely doesn’t exist. I could write about Cruz’s betrayal, Giuliani’s apoplectic hate screech, and the fact that, as Clint Eastwood wasn’t available to communicate with furniture this year, the RNC arranged to have the young man who exposed panties with his mind in the 1982 film “Zapped” take the stage and repeat the word “America” until everyone in the hall became damp with excitement. I could write about the alarming bigotry of the Republican platform. I could write about the hastily made campaign logo that appeared to fuck itself. I could write about the heavily armed men engaged in soldier role play outside the convention center. But, instead, I want to share this Facebook post that was written by veteran newsman Dan Rather a few days ago on the subject of science, and its conspicuous absence from the the conservative political discourse of today. Here, before we get to it, though, is a video clip of Donald Trump’s recently announced running mate Mike Pence refusing to say that he believes in evolution.
[It’s worth noting that Pence also believes “smoking doesn’t kill” and “global warming is a myth“… Oh, and, completely unrelated, Scott Baio had sex with one of the young girls he looked after on Charles in Charge.]
From Dan Rather:
I understand Donald Trump and Mike Pence are scheduled to appear in a joint interview on 60 Minutes tonight – their first. There are so many questions to ask them of course, but one that I want answered, perhaps more than any other, might surprise you – “do you believe in evolution?”
I can hear the cackles from the political establishment – such a niche topic, so trivial, so off topic. Some might consider it a “gotcha” question. Surely this couldn’t be as important as probing what Pence thinks about the multiple published reports that Trump almost dumped him at the last minute, or the very odd rally yesterday that officially announced Pence as the vice presidential choice. Serious-minded journalists will want to ask serious questions concerning the recent terror attacks, or the attempted coup in Turkey, or about Pence’s record on LGBT and women’s rights. And well they should.
But I also firmly believe it is long past time that we inject science into the national debate. Perhaps one of the reasons why we haven’t traditionally was that it never seemed so controversial. Now, sadly, it is. Pence has equivocated in the past on whether he believes in evolution, particularly in response to a tough, fair, and a bit incredulous line of questioning from my good friend Chris Matthews. We need to ask him again.
Science is central to so many of the issues facing this country, and when it comes to understanding life on earth everything begins with acknowledging evolution. We want leaders to come up with plans to fight diseases like Ebola and Zika, to protect us from bioterrorism, to promote agriculture, drug development, our biotech industries and so much more. We want to keep our place as the world leader in biomedical research – with all the economic advantages that has afforded us, not to mention the betterment of human life. The scientists who are going to help us do all this take evolution as a given. Much of their work doesn’t make sense without it.
And after bearing down on evolution, I would ask Trump and Pence about climate change. If the best minds in the Pentagon are thinking about how a changing climate might very well lead to conflict, shouldn’t we have a Commander in Chief who acknowledges reality?
If this was just about the specific scientific topics listed above, that would be sufficient. But asking about evolution also is a shorthand for exploring a person’s worldview. There are opinions and there are facts. On the first, fair minded people can disagree. On the latter, we undermine empiricism at our peril. A fidelity to reason, to impartial data, to the power of learning and observation is what led mankind out of the Dark Ages and onto a path towards enlightenment. It was this path that inspired our Founding Fathers in their vision for our nation. And much of the social progress we have made as a country since that time was due to reason winning out over ignorance.
I am not sure if I will have a chance this election season to sit down with any of the candidates for national office. But if I do, I intend to ask about their science policy. If it were up to me, we would dedicate part of one of the presidential debates to science. But I am not going to hold my breath…
And, given the story the broke yesterday about how Trump, if elected, may be planning to place his Vice President in charge of all policy, both foreign and domestic, while he focuses on “making America great again”, it becomes even more of an issue. We aren’t just being asked to vote for the least qualified Presidential candidate in American history, but we’re being asked to vote for a candidate who, upon being elected, would likely hand control over to a man who, it would seem, has less appreciation for science and facts than even George W Bush. [When Donald Trump Jr. reached out to John Katich on behalf of his father to offer the position of Vice President, Trump reportedly asked, “Do you want to be the most powerful Vice President in history? When asked what he meant, the younger Trump responded that his father had no interest in either domestic of foreign policy and would leave that to his Vice President.]
For what it’s worth, it’s not just Trump’s running mate that’s anti-science. I know it’s not exactly a scientific study, but, yesterday, when the band Third Eye Blind played at the Republican National Convention, they introduced their set by saying, “Raise your hand if you believe in science,” and no one raised their hand. They then proceeded to play none of their hits, pissing off the attending Republicans no end.