This week hundreds of scientists rallied in Boston’s Copley Square to protest against the anti-science forces which have allegedly captured Washington. Nearby, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a talk titled “Defending Science and Scientific Integrity in the Age of Trump” attracted so many listeners that it had to be live-streamed into a spill-over room.
Although the organisers of the rally downplayed criticism of the President, stressed that reason and science were under threat. "It feels like there's been a breakdown of trust between science and the public, and so it's time for scientists to step up and start communicating directly to the public," an MIT post-graduate student said. Scepticism towards climate change is what most of the scientists had in mind.
Some medical professionals and scientists are more direct. The Union of Concerned Scientists published an article in the leading journal Science warning colleagues of the dangers that Trump’s Administration poses for them. “Early indications that the Administration plans to distort or disregard science and evidence, coupled with the chaos and confusion occurring within federal agencies, now imperil the effectiveness of our government.”
Psychologist John Gartner has gathered 25,000 signatures on a petition to US Senator Chuck Schmer to demand Trump’s impeachment. It states that “Donald Trump manifests a serious mental illness that renders him psychologically incapable of competently discharging the duties of President of the United States.” Needless to say, none of the signatories have examined Mr Trump.
While most scientists do seem uncomfortable with Trump, he does have some supporters. Richard Lindzen, a former meteorology professor at MIT, told The Atlantic: “I have the feeling that there is Trump derangement syndrome,” he said. “People are reacting to anything he does and going on a rampage.” He welcomes freedom from the oppression of political correctness.
Two names have been mentioned in the media as candidates for Trump’s science advisor – Princeton physicist William Happer and Yale computer scientist David Gelernter. Both of them are described as climate change sceptics. Without endorsing all of Trump’s policies, Gelernter was scornful of protests by scientists:
“Trump is not walking around pontificating on science. He has no science policy. The idea that he’s anti-science is bigoted. I think it’s the worst kind of bigotry. It’s the kind of bigotry that says, non-Ivy League–PhDs—ordinary human beings who haven’t won any science awards and don’t come from Harvard—are probably too stupid to be interested in science. I’ve seen that attitude all over. I think it’s disgusting, as bigotry generally is disgusting.”
We’ve often blamed the pharmaceutical industry for medicalising the normal ups and downs of life. But journalists are not above disease-mongering. I’ve just noticed a promising new ailment to which members of the Fourth Estate themselves are particularly susceptible: post-election stress disorder.
According to columnist in Psychology Today, “Countless Americans are reporting feeling triggered, traumatized, on edge, anxious, sleepless, angry, hopeless, avoidant of connection, alone, and suddenly haunted by past traumas they believed they had buried” because of the Trump election.
As of now, no pharmaceutical company is marketing a drug to cure these anxieties. Instead, therapists are recommending a range of behavioural strategies for dealing with the stress. “I advise my clients and friends affected by the election and its aftermath to reach out, connect, affiliate and show compassion for those similarly affected,” wrote Steven Stosny in the Washington Post.
Some people are indignant that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after battle is being compared to discouragement after an election loss. Republican Congressman Brian Mast lost both legs in Iraq because of a roadside bomb. Let him have the last word:
There was a big missed opportunity in naming it ‘Post-Election Stress Disorder,'” he says. “I would have preferred they name it ‘Post-Inauguration Stress Disorder,’ that way they could have called it ‘PISD.’ There’s a big difference between being pissed off about things and what happens on the battlefield.”
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BioEdge: Trump under fire from scientists