Opinion: Trump has embraced pseudoscience and its deceptive tactics in a post-truth world

Trump has embraced pseudoscience and its deceptive tactics in a post-truth world
Despite the long-term rise of sea levels, some media reporting emphasises temporary dips. Credit: CU Sea Level Research Group

As a scientist, I expect the Trump presidency to have a curious familiarity.

Why? Because the relentless stream of falsehoods and character attacks of Trump's campaign mainstreamed disinformation tactics that biologists, immunologists and climate have come to know and despise.

Trump has embraced pseudoscience and its accompanying conspiracy theories. He's tweeted that climate change is a hoax and vaccines cause autism.

Trump has met with Andrew Wakefield, whose fraudulent 1998 study kickstarted the modern anti-vaccine movement. And he has just appointed a climate change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

These pseudoscience communities are nothing new, and they haven't even bothered to rebadge themselves as "alt-science" (yet).

It's critical that the broader community learns from the grim experience of scientists when dealing with these attacks. Often scientists failed to appreciate that many public arguments about science are actually political battles, rather than evidence-based discussions. Raw political battle isn't about seeking truth and reasoned argument. It's about winning news cycles and elections.

Debate

Scientific argument is often methodical, technical and slow. Perhaps this is exemplified by the biggest scientific announcement of 2016, the detection of gravitational waves, which were predicted by Einstein a century ago.

I'm engaged in a scientific argument right now about how rapidly galaxies form stars. My key points are in a 10,000-word manuscript detailing the data, methods, comparison with prior studies, and conclusions. An anonymous astronomer is reviewing that manuscript, and I expect my article to be published in 2017.

So if commentators or politicians demand "an honest debate" about science, what are they doing?

First, don't ignore the adjective "honest", with its veiled implication of dishonesty. It can be the starting point for conspiracy theories, with scientists and organisations around the globe manipulating science for no good.

What kind of debate is being sought? Are both sides going to face off by undertaking years of research and submitting 10,000-word manuscripts to scientific journals? Not likely.

Political debating tricks and conspiracy theories sidestep the science of climate change.

Often a very literal debate is being sought, either on television, radio or stage. We find such debates, with their rhetorical flourishes, provocative and entertaining but they rarely advance science.

When Albert Einstein and Phillip Lenard debated relativity in 1920, Einstein wasn't the clear winner. Perhaps the audience and newspapers that dutifully reported the debate didn't appreciate that Lenard's arguments about fictitious gravitational fields were wrong.

Demands for debate – such as the recent call for one by Australian One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts – are often seeking formats where even Einstein couldn't win an argument about relativity.

They provide theatre and column inches. And critically, they provide equal billing for scientists and those who've never truly engaged in science. They embrace false equivalence.

Who am I?

I'm a scientist, but on Twitter people have some strange ideas about who I am. I've been accused of being a "warmist" and "alarmist" who is on the "gravy train" with a "bed wetting agenda". (For the record, I prefer people not to wet their beds.)

I've encountered these accusations when discussing evidence, and they're a means of derailing discussion. "Warmist" and "alarmist" are attempts to frame scientific findings as extreme political positions. Creationists can play this game too, preferring "evolutionism" to "evolutionary biology". This tactic falsely reframes the argument as a debate between competing and equivalent ideological positions.

It doesn't matter if the accusations have no factual basis, embrace or are insincere. That's not the point. I've been accused of using neo-fascist techniques and neo-Marxist attacks on the same day. Donald Trump has never provided evidence that is a "hoax", with its accompanying global conspiracy of scientists.

This isn't reasoned argument; it's disrupting discussion of evidence. It's about what needs to be true to reject scientists, not what is actually true about scientists.

Evidence

Scientists slowly accumulate evidence to test their hypotheses, but in political fights evidence only needs to survive the news cycle. Robust methodology, statistics and hypothesis testing be damned.

I was reminded of this recently when the US House Committee on Science, Space and Technology tweeted a link to a Breitbart article claiming that global temperatures are falling:

Breitbart wasn't reporting the findings of a new peer-reviewed study with new data and a compelling analysis, but rather was quoting the Daily Mail's David Rose.

While the accumulation of data, from satellites and weather stations, shows the globe warming over decades, Rose had a different focus. He highlighted a few months of data, from a deprecated dataset, that excluded polar regions and the oceans, to suggest the "run of record temperatures are at an end". This is misinformation, as there's no evidence to show an end to long-term global warming.

Of course scientists picked apart Rose's article, but by then the news cycle had moved on.

Such articles are a feature, not a bug, in the politicised climate debate. In 2008, Bjorn Lomborg in The Guardian noted "a slight drop" in sea levels, and concluded that we "urgently need balance." In 2012, the Australian's Graham Lloyd reported on sea level falls that supposedly "defied climate warnings." Of course, those were blips in the long-term trend of sea level rise, but those articles did effectively spread doubt about climate science.

Trump has embraced pseudoscience and its tactics, and will be bringing it to the White House. I expect the accusations and misinformation of Trump's campaign to continue, and like many scientists I will find it all too familiar. To argue with today's politically expedient statements as if they're evidence-based and carefully reasoned arguments embraces a false equivalence of fact and fiction. It is a time for true scepticism.


Explore further

Twitter: 17M-plus tweets sent about the debate, most ever

Provided by The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.The Conversation

Citation: Opinion: Trump has embraced pseudoscience and its deceptive tactics in a post-truth world (2016, December 12) retrieved 22 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-12-opinion-trump-embraced-pseudoscience-deceptive.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
43 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Dec 12, 2016
I don't understand where these ideas are coming from. Let's analyze Donald Trump. Has anyone of you matched his accomplishments?
1. Book on best seller list. Art Of THe Deal (World Class Negotiator) (War Monger? Does not sound like it)
2. Millionaire if not billionaire (Owns or has large interest in over 500 companies)
3. Famous entertainer
4. President Elect.

The man is smart and is surrounding himself with smart people. For example I believe in manmade global warming based on what I have read. But I am smart enough to know I have been wrong before and smart enough to know that a man with his credentials, intelligence and resources will ferret out the truth.

Dec 12, 2016
This is an opinion piece is only about what is or is not "pseudoscience", not a discussion of climate change.

The writer is simply a mouthpiece on a name calling rant using the charge of "pseudoscience" against anyone who has an opinion contrary to the one he holds. I think the writer is a reincarnated version of the Pope who placed Galileo under house arrest for declaring the Earth is not the center of the Universe.

Dec 13, 2016
he is not a religious man.


Just out of curiosity how do you know he is not a religious man?
Did the media say so? :-)
And the saying "a religious man" really says little. Relative to who(Jesus, The Pope, Hitler)?

Dec 13, 2016
The average IQ is 100.

I have been told this is an elitist statement.

Oh, well, someone has to keep it down there.

Dec 14, 2016
Whats the matter with you?
Mentioning IQ is not politically correct!
You might hurt someones feelings or worse yet be called a racest, bigot, sexest, pervert etc.
They might even deduce from that statement you love Vladímir Vladímirovich Putin and Russia.

Dec 15, 2016
Psuedo ... lol; cherry picking stuff just means you like fruit. The planet earth has been compared to a chicken egg. The earth's crust is similar to the thickness of an eggshell; and the core similar to the yoke. Though the core-yoke comparison is a bit off, the crust comparison is close. Now, let's take an average chicken egg: Each egg has pores on it. Now, let's say there are 8 billion people on the earth and each are 6 feet tall and weigh 250 pounds. Now condense that population into water and pour it (proportionally) into a pore. One pore on an egg can hole more than (x20) the earth's population. In short, humans can affect the environment, they cannot control it. Aside from that, the population of America is less than 400 million, less than 6% of the earth's population. 6% of nothing is less than nothing. Are humans affecting the environment? Yes. Have NASA and others altered data? Yes. Have a few made $$$ billions? Yes.

Dec 18, 2016
Face it, "science" uses the same tactics as Trump is accused of.
The "argument" that vaccines don't cause autism is, they didn't use to, "therefore", it's impossible that they could be being doped with different substances today.
The indicated reason many climate change deniers express doubt is the fraudulent connection between global warming and "fossil fuels". Chemtrails cause climate change, not "fossil fuels", but "science' won't admit it.
Note Phys Org even reported that many "scientist" produced "reports" promoting generically engineered food are lies paid for by the corporations.
Also, Brown complains about "veiled implications of dishonesty", but never complained about the Democrats implying Trump was the only individual ever to make the kind of remarks he did.

Dec 18, 2016
"THERE IS A FOOL BORN EVERY MINUTE!!", said the old circus magnate P.T. Barnum back in the 1800's. And strangely that is probably prophetic abouit the upcoming dictatorship. Think Boss Tweed and his Tammany Hall ring, and the old "Know Nothings", the Pendergast gang in Missouri, the old Ku Klux Klan of 1915. Do not forget Huey Long, "Da Kingfish" whose "Every Man a King!" motto in his short terminated by assassination campaign trail stimulated the politicians of the day to perhaps have him whacked. Did I say 'Dictatorship'? Well look at how closely Trumpf follows Hitler's teachings about propaganda in "Mein Kampf"! Trump follows Hitler's 'Big Lie' even more than the 'Paperhanger' did! And Trump knows the President is weak just like Von Papen et al whose gang of 'altzheimer thinkers' thought they could control him. Trumpf is gonna coat his opposition with slime and filth just like Hitler did Von Papen. Then comes the 'enabling act' or the ISA1950 martial law order..THE END!

Dec 18, 2016
Lot more to Trump than what he publicizes. In 1983, I was delivering trailers for a bad living on hot dogs and hi-frooooktose corn syrup. Took a unit to Atlantic City to put it on a ship for the Magic Kingdom....Saudi Arabia. Was told my by boss not to sleep in it 'cuz those Arabs want it to be a 'virgin'.....slept in it anyway with girl friend who left her calling card in the bed...heh...heh. Anyway, Trump Casino was in full swing so we went there before going home. Casino was Ope-yooo-Lent to the max, and the staff jumped to help like the very devil was after them...He Was! All the employees lived in fear of him, bowing and scraping when he arrived in his limo and strutted out on red carpet rolled out for him. Body guards like more beef than a stockyard. All bowed and curtsieed for him as his lordly self swwished by. Atlantic City was sucked dry by this gambling hell and looked it. Sad end for city that inspired game of Monopoly that it tawdrily emulated in hellish life.

Dec 18, 2016
All climate science is pseudoscience and AGW is a fraud.

There is no evidence to suggest that humans have any affect on climate. It is all just wild, unfounded speculations, fantasies and fraud.

Dec 18, 2016
The author is the typical disingenuous POS, makes a remark such as this;
I've encountered these accusations when discussing evidence, and they're a means of derailing discussion. "Warmist" and "alarmist" are attempts to frame scientific findings as extreme political positions...

Yet calls skeptics;
climate change denier

And he demands "an honest debate".
Laughable!

Dec 18, 2016
The author is the typical disingenuous POS, makes a remark such as this;

I've encountered these accusations when discussing evidence, and they're a means of derailing discussion. "Warmist" and "alarmist" are attempts to frame scientific findings as extreme political positions...


Yet calls skeptics;
climate change denier
And he demands "an honest debate".
Laughable!


Michael J. I. Brown, The Conversation.......Mike, can you as an Astronomer solve Differential Equations as found in Einstein's General Relativity? I can......I'm a Nuclear/Electrical Engineer & I'm just trying to find out why you imagine you're smarter than I am, I voted for Trump.....Go Trump.

Dec 18, 2016
Because the relentless stream of falsehoods and character attacks....

I read that and wondered where have I seen that before....oh yes...CLIMATEGATE emails.
Michael J. I. Brown is at it again, this time channeling Einstein to support his lame AGW agenda. Take a gander at yourself Mike and you'll soon realize you and Trump have more in common. Just two ignorant pretentious blowhards, who do more harm than good for your cause.

Dec 18, 2016
All climate science is pseudoscience and AGW is a fraud.

Care to back that up with...anything?

Just making baseless statements (read: the Trump-style of 'arguing') ain't gonna cut it with anyone who has half a brain cell. Much less with anyone on a science site.

Dec 18, 2016
We have it here: Political prejudice controls the posts of many who assume climate scientists lie for the money as do businessmen, bankers, televangelists, and casino owners.

Dec 18, 2016
".I'm a Nuclear/Electrical Engineer & I'm just trying to find out why you imagine you're smarter than I am, I voted for Trump.....Go Trump."
----------------------------

No, you go, benni, . . to Fukushima. Go clean up the disaster your kind inflicted on us.

You just proved you are not smarter than us.

Dec 18, 2016
We have it here: Political prejudice controls the posts of many who assume climate scientists lie for the money as do businessmen, bankers, televangelists, and casino owners.


Yeah geek, this is exactly what you do, but if you didn't you'd have all your neighbors in that dismal Blue state you live in who would be dumping their trash on your front yard if your politics were any different than what you loudly proclaim.

And by the way, cease it with the prejudice of impuning Native Americans (casino owners). I'm sending your address to the reservation closest to you so they can know where to start dumping their trash.

Dec 18, 2016
Why would PHYS.ORG put this piece in its headlines with start of the title: "Opinion:"?

Are the science editors really going that low because of politics? Shame on them!

President-elect Trump is not my ideal presidential candidate, but I am thankful he is stirring real debate on a host of issues that have mostly off limits due to the rank PC culture in the world today.


Dec 18, 2016
"you'd have all your neighbors in that dismal Blue state you live in who would be dumping their trash on your front yard if your politics were any different than what you loudly proclaim"
-----------------------------------

We are more careful and cleaner than you red state folk.

Which one are you in? I want to look up how much of your state budget you get from the feds as parasites.

This thread is put up as opinion, but it looks pretty valid to me.

Dec 18, 2016
Why would PHYS.ORG put this piece in its headlines with start of the title: "Opinion:"?
I can answer that one for you Skippy. It's because the original source for the article had it in their title. It is the op-ed piece from a place called "The Conversation".

Are the science editors really going that low because of politics? Shame on them!
Non, not shame on them. Shame on you for not seeing the source of the article. It's from "The Conversation" and they named it "Opinion: Trump has embraced pseudoscience and its deceptive tactics in a post-truth world",,,,, Mike Brown is an astrophysical-Skippy, he wrote an editorial, he writes a lot of editorial things for them.

Would you like a silly looking pointy cap to wear for the rest of the evening?

Dec 18, 2016
The cheato jebus crowd shows up to whine.

Go kiss Putin's rosy red, cheato jebus freaks.

The majority of Americans hate you. They hate your racism, they hate your science denial, they hate your imaginary news, and they're out to get you. We are coming for you.

The revolution begins on January 20th. It will be televised, it will be on the Internets, and it will be bloody, nasty, and vicious. Now go hide.

Dec 18, 2016
Let me put this another way: the majority of US citizens voted against your Putin love, your racism, your science denial, your imaginary news, your hate, your denial, and your xenophobia. The next thing that came after the last President you elected was the Great Depression. You are the ones who will suffer the Depression that will come when the rich people and Russians you voted for get what they think they wanted. And this time, we will have no pity on you. Let the flyover states pay for their stupidity. You are the ones who will pay the most. You have chosen it, and you will suffer it.

The US will rise and it will rise against you. As ye sow so shall ye reap and those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.

Dec 18, 2016
The cheato jebus crowd shows up to whine.

Go kiss Putin's rosy red, cheato jebus freaks.

The majority of Americans hate you. They hate your racism, they hate your science denial, they hate your imaginary news, and they're out to get you. We are coming for you.

The revolution begins on January 20th. It will be televised, it will be on the Internets, and it will be bloody, nasty, and vicious. Now go hide.


Fake News

And that you have pictures of Black Holes is also Fake News.

Dec 18, 2016
"Certainly Mr. Trump, we'll bring it right over and put it right on your desk. Shall we attempt to decontaminate it first?"

"Decontaminate it? For what?"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Trump, I'm not at liberty to discuss that. I'll just bring it over right now, as you have commanded. May we attempt to turn it off first?"

Dec 19, 2016
To put it even more succinctly, the correct way to deal with an azzhole boss starts with the phrase, "Here, hold this."

Dec 19, 2016
Trump supporters get so emotional when they imagine someone is picking on them about how they voted.

--what is it you decided to be OK with to support a candidate/cabinet who wants to open up beautiful national parks to mining and fossil fuel companies (so they can taint nearby water like in Corpus Christi right?), lessening regulations on emissions (known to cause adverse cognitive affects on children choking the air) and allowing enemies like Russia and corporations to set our economic agendas (what happens if net neutrality is dropped because corporations can make more money?)

If all this comes to pass, is this what you were supporting? Would you tell your kids 'yeah, that's what I voted for'?

Dec 19, 2016
If this winter continues on it's present path we will have a severe natural gas shortage and most likely blackouts due to the premature closing of our coal fired generating capacity. Of course it will all be Trump's fault. That is how our progressive system works.

Dec 19, 2016
We do not have a progressive system.

We are entering Trumpistan, awaiting the privatization of the US government.

Dec 20, 2016
The progressives have done one heck of a job managing the British power grid. They closed many coal powered plants and now are building massive diesel generating farms to fill the resulting power gap. Yet another victory for those who want to destroy the western nations.

Dec 20, 2016
Lots of opinions and here is one more: Trump offers a different angle and Boy! do we need it.
Ever wonder how many people are driving on suspended or revoked license? Ever wonder how many people owe fines that are over the age of the USSR break up that keep them from driving? Ever wonder why the we mediaize issues that have just thousands of people affected while ignoring an issue like civil forfeiture that affects hundreds of thousands? Ever wonder why the slow creep toward privatizing education? Ever wonder why the police are being squeezed between town that demand ticketing income and their law profession? Ever wonder why we claim 'global heating' when we build more and more concrete dams, roads, bridges, towers? Ever wonder why we claim to wage war on drugs when pharma is the biggest drug kingpin in the world? Ever wonder why we see pictures of Libya's bombed out cities, Iraq's bombed out cities, Syria's bombed out cites, Afghanistan's bombed out cities?

Dec 20, 2016
The consolidation of power by the ultra rich under Obama and the Democrats has proceeded at an unprecedented pace. Yet, Hillary was portrayed by the media as the candidate of the people and Trump was portrayed as a danger all of us. The only danger that he presents is to the existing point one percent like Soros and Buffet.

Dec 20, 2016
"Ever wonder how many people are driving on suspended or revoked license?"
---------------------------------

Do we need The Narcissist to help with that?

Dec 20, 2016
Yeah, but they, really, really CARE about wildlife!

http://www.ecowat...85916837

Dec 20, 2016
The world economic system is at the point of total collapse due to huge unpayable debts. Western culture and values are being attacked by the Progressive movement and are also collapsing.

Trump is facing the greatest challenge of any president since WWII !

Dec 20, 2016
Yeah, since Hitler, huh?

We do not need ego-maniacs.

Dec 20, 2016
"We do not need ego-maniacs."

No we don't!!!! But we DO need to alter our course before we hit the looming icebergs. Can Trump do this? I can't really say for sure. One thing is certain and that is the fact that Hillary would continue down the same path as Obama.

Dec 20, 2016
"Let me put this another way: the majority of US citizens voted against your Putin love...."

Yes Da, you are correct. Some of them were so moved by Hillary that they voted 2 or 3 times, some actually awoke from the dead and voted and some forgot that only citizens are legally allowed to register to vote but did so anyway.

Dec 20, 2016
Almost 3,000,000 more votes went to Hillary than Captain Ego, aka Mister Me and Ha-ha-It-Ain't-You.

But his champions own him and vice-versa. Already he has taken us into dangerous territory with other nations, and he isn't even in office yet. This Republican asks why we can't use our nuclear weapons. He clicks out ridiculous tweets at all hours showing nothing but an unstable and shallow personality.

"Baited With A Tweet"

Our epitaph?

Dec 20, 2016
"Hillary would continue down the same path as Obama."
-----------------------------------

Do you mean like taking us from the wreckage of the Great Republican Economic Meltdown to today's record low unemployment stats? You mean like getting Osama BushLaden?

"WMD!" - Just to remind you.

Dec 20, 2016
They could not even recount the votes in much of Detroit because there were more votes cast than registered voters.

Dec 20, 2016
Republicans run that state.

Remember Flint?

Dec 22, 2016
The cheato jebus crowd shows up to whine.

Go kiss Putin's rosy red, cheato jebus freaks.

The majority of Americans hate you. They hate your racism, they hate your science denial, they hate your imaginary news, and they're out to get you. We are coming for you.

The revolution begins on January 20th. It will be televised, it will be on the Internets, and it will be bloody, nasty, and vicious. Now go hide.

The US will rise and it will rise against you. As ye sow so shall ye reap and those who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind.

Wow, Schneib...:-) Aren't YOU more than a little riled up...:-)


Dec 23, 2016
Republicans run that state.

Remember Flint?

Actually, George, I believe it was democrats (allied with auto trade unions) who did...
Republicans are just trying to do a takeover....

Dec 23, 2016
Who is governor, and appointed those guys? They face decades in prison now for what they did, "saving money".

Conservatives do not get it.There are vast differences between government and business, the primary one being focus. The People are most important in government, not money!

How did we get the penny-obsessed goobers? Is their selfishness so overwhelming they can do that stuff to real people?

Dec 23, 2016
Trump likes to sue people. But others can, too:

http://www.ecowat...99.html?

Dec 23, 2016
Who is governor, and appointed those guys? They face decades in prison now for what they did, "saving money".

Conservatives do not get it.There are vast differences between government and business, the primary one being focus. The People are most important in government, not money!

How did we get the penny-obsessed goobers? Is their selfishness so overwhelming they can do that stuff to real people?

here's a timeline -
http://www.cnn.co...t-facts/
The decision to switch was made at the city level. Given Flint's demographics, they were probably Democrat...
The penny pinching started there.

Dec 23, 2016
@ WG - You are correct sir.

Dec 23, 2016
Nope. That says nothing of the sort. The Republican governor essentially made someone a Gauliter of that area, taking away the right of the voters to determine their own futures.

It was the Republican governor's lackeys who put money first.

Get ready for some more government misconduct and agency looting on a scale not seen since the Kleptocracy of Leonid Brezhnev.

Dec 23, 2016
Nope. That says nothing of the sort. The Republican governor essentially made someone a Gauliter of that area, taking away the right of the voters to determine their own futures.

It was the Republican governor's lackeys who put money first.

Get ready for some more government misconduct and agency looting on a scale not seen since the Kleptocracy of Leonid Brezhnev.

Brezhnev was an amateur when you consider our own government.
You don't really think they're charged 4000 dollars for a hammer, do you?
Either the government is criminal or the contract provider- or both in complicity...
Republicans AND Democrats, both...

Dec 23, 2016
"You don't really think they're charged 4000 dollars for a hammer, do you?"
-----------------------------------

Wasn't that the toilet seat?

Entire industries were stolen in Russia.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more