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Rob Sheldon on science and the US election

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Rob Sheldon

Sheldon, our physics and physics colour commentator, responds based on his personal experiences to the news from Nature that many scientists “stunned” by the Trump win:

There’s been a lot of hyperventilating by the intelligentsia about the consequences of a Republican sweep of House, Senate and Presidency. Many fear that Republicans in general, and Trump in particular are “anti-science” and will put America back in the stone age. For those of you new to American politics, I’d like to dispel that myth and throw some cold water on the

First, universities and research scientists are by no means neutral politically. I’ve lost 3 jobs at universities both public and private, in part for being a Republican. Sociologists who measure these things had a nice paper in 1996 or thereabouts where registered Democrats outnumbered registered Republicans on the Stanford faculty by 4:1 (in economics) 8:1 (in physics) and 16:1 in humanities, but 99:1 among untenured faculty. And that was 1996, at a private school known for its conservatism. In the past 20 years things have only gotten worse. My own anecdotal experiences at 6 different universities and colleges only confirm that private Christian colleges are no exception to the general trend. Starting about 10 years ago, I even stopped getting interviews for academic jobs that I am eminently qualified for.

So if “scientists” are feeling threatened, there’s a very good reason for it, and it has nothing to do with being “anti-science”.

Second, science funding under Republican administrations always increases. Why? Because the economy is doing better, and the many social programs like universal healthcare, or minimum wage increases are not sapping the treasury of “discretionary” spending (that is, the shrinking portion of un-mandated spending).

Furthermore, under Republican administrations, agencies like NASA are less likely to be used for political gain, such as this administration’s boast that NASA increased the self-esteem of Muslims. Therefore the claim that Democratic administrations are “pro-science” doesn’t translate into more research dollars, it translates into more PR efforts to manipulate science agencies for political gain, which arguably is anti-science, and undeniably reduces funds for actual research.

Third, many in political establishment see the value of science as a discreet tool for political gain. (How many Republicans in past elections were characterized as unfit for office because they weren’t Darwinists?) As non-conservative scientists such as Richard Lindzen of MIT have pointed out, global warming is not about science, but about political power.

As everyone on this list knows, Darwinism is not about science but about religious ideology and power. The same is true in the arcana of physics modelling: of string theory, of inflationary “dark energy” cosmology, of WIMP dark matter, of planetary origins, of Mars planetary science, of in-space propulsion, to name a few that I know a little bit about. Each field is driven not so much by facts and science, but by turf battles for decreasing federal funding, which justifies the half-truths and unstated modeling adjustments.

In the US, “Science” has hitched its wagon to one particular political party, and declared all other politics “anti-science”, so the real meaning of the “anti-science” epithet is the “anti-politicization” of science.

Therefore, there is no “anti-science” tendency or desire in the Republican party or Trump in particular. There is a desire, however, to separate science from politics, which may nigh well be impossible now.

Tell your European colleagues not to flee America, but instead emigrate here, because there probably will be a lot of job openings available. This is potentially the most pro-science administration since Vannevar Bush wrote President Truman the report entitled “Science — the Endless Frontier”.

Time will tell.

See also: Nature: Scientists “stunned” by Trump win Why? Doesn’t that speak poorly of the powers of the scientific method?

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6 Replies to “Rob Sheldon on science and the US election

  1. 1
    bb says:

    Didn’t Eisenhower start NASA?

    The Soviets called their politics “Scientific Socialism” then torpedoed actual science in that country with Lysenkoism. An apt parallel of what has happened with Darwinian and AGW orthodoxy. What these fear mongers are worried about is dissent that may not be so easily stifled.

    In Oceania at the present day, Science, in the old sense, has almost ceased to exist. In Newspeak there is no word for ‘Science’. The empirical method of thought, on which all the scientific achievements of the past were founded, is opposed to the most fundamental principles of Ingsoc [English Socialism]. And even technological progress only happens when its products can in some way be used for the diminution of human liberty.

    -George Orwell, 1984

    Liberals [leftists (a)] claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.

    -William F. Buckley

    a) I don’t use the word “liberal” to describe these apparent Fascists on the left anymore.

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:


    Sheldon’s key point here is grimly telling:

    Darwinism is not about science but about religious ideology and power. The same is true in the arcana of physics modelling: of string theory, of inflationary “dark energy” cosmology, of WIMP dark matter, of planetary origins, of Mars planetary science, of in-space propulsion, to name a few that I know a little bit about. Each field is driven not so much by facts and science, but by turf battles for decreasing federal funding, which justifies the half-truths and unstated modeling adjustments.

    In the US, “Science” has hitched its wagon to one particular political party, and declared all other politics “anti-science”, so the real meaning of the “anti-science” epithet is the “anti-politicization” of science.

    Therefore, there is no “anti-science” tendency or desire in the Republican party or Trump in particular. There is a desire, however, to separate science from politics, which may nigh well be impossible now.

    Ironically, just now, I took up in another thread, the anti-science, science stopper talking points addressed at ID. In so doing, I just for fun (and as an experienced curriculum developer in my own right) decided to rewrite US NAS on science:

    . . . let us rewrite the US NAS statement to better conform to the historic understanding of sciendce and its methods:

    In science, explanations must be based on accurate and reliable, confirmed observation, description and sound analysis. Reliably empirically observed causes meet Newton’s vera causa — actually observed cause — test and so are, in principle, reproducible and therefore can be checked independently by others. Any scientific explanation has to be directly or indirectly empirically testable — there must be possible observational consequences that could support the idea but also ones that could refute it. For, unless a proposed explanation is framed in a way that some observational evidence could potentially count against it, that explanation cannot be subjected to scientific testing. [revised from NAS pamphlet on teaching evolution vs Creationism, 2008, p.10]

    Notice, how different in force that becomes?

    Have blind chance and/or mechanical necessity ever been seen to account for origin of life, or for the FSCO/I required for such?

    For, the origin of body plans requiring 10 – 100+ million bases of fresh genetic information?

    Or just for FSCO/I in any form?

    (On trillions of cases FSCO/I reliably comes about by intelligently directed configuration, comments in this thread being trivial additional cases in point. The vera causa-plausible best so far explanation for OOL and OO Body plans, then — on the required FSCO/I — is, design. This does not then close off investigation, it invites reverse engineering and application, e.g. to molecular nanotech and to kinematic self replicator based rebooting of industrial civilisation, creation of an open source industrial “global village construction set” [Cf Marcin Jakubowski] and renewal of development thence solar system colonisation across the next 100 years. An accompanying technology to be researched and developed is manageable fusion. I suspect Bussard’s polywell technology is worth at least some further exploration. A successful Bussard drive could get us to the gas giant moons in 74 days. So much for the science stopper talking point, that is a considerable research programme with extensions to development transformation even if only partially successful. Given the energy sources and climate trend concerns context, I suggest a re-look at pebble bed modular fission reactor and molten salt thorium reactor technologies would be well worth exploring as ways forward on serious scale energy. I also like some of the approaches to digester based bio-fuels, cf Holtzapple. Algae oil may well be a significant source of oil deposits and algae fuel may be another potentially significant payoff. Butanol, today, is directly compatible with Otto cycle, 4-stroke engines, and FAME based biodiesel is a similar answer for trucks. Fuel cell technologies, esp. those capable of running on alcohols, are also worth a look for transformation of transportation and portable equipment generally. And much more.)

    I ask any reasonable objector to explain to me how the above is anti-science and/or a science stopper. In particular in the context of debates over climate trends and origins sciences.

    On medical ethics (note, a relevant guard rail for science), here is my comment: our generation are guilty of the worst holocaust in history, the ongoing (at 1 million abortions per week per Guttmacher Institute/ UN figures) mass slaughter of 800+ million unborn children since the early ’70s. In this war on our own posterity, we have distorted population studies, we have perverted medicine from defending and valuing life, we have warped law under false colour of rights, and therefore have twisted government in destructive ways. The major media and education centres have forgotten their ethical commitment to the truth and the right, and have become halls of indoctrination enabling the worst mass murder in history.

    If by “science” you mean further enabling of such mass slaughter, call me antiscience, I will bear that as a badge of honour.


    Yes, in the moral sense, not some legalistic tomfoolery. Half the time (actually slightly more often) the unborn child is not even the same sex as his mother. S/he may be of very different race. S/he is indisputably alive and a distinct individual, albeit dependent on mother very directly for existence. The species of life is not rat, pig, fish or ape, it is human.

    Innocent human life must not be subjected to arbitrary liquidation, that is shedding innocent blood, aka murder, moral sense.

    And the right to life is the very first right of all.

    I submit, that what has happened is that mass abortion as a holocaust, has tainted our whole civilisation with blood guilt and en-darken-ment, benumbing conscience and corrupting institutions across the board.

    We need reformation, and I hope that we can wake up enough from our slumbers to be deeply ashamed.

    For, sorrow and shame for wrong are first steps to reform.

    Then, we can get back to restoring science, education, law, regulation and public policy to healthy form.

    If, our mad march of folly does not head over the cliff first.


  3. 3
    rvb8 says:

    I think the main fear is that so many Republicans are straight out Young Earth Creationists.

    With this mind set exploration of space, origins, and the limited nature of resources on this earth are areas of investigation that have already been solved; read the Bible!

    So, although I am not a US citizen I think it is a perfectly ligitimate fear of scientists to be wary, if not downright petrified of the upcomming four years of gloom.

    Still ID should be pleased. The upcomming administration does have your mindset, and if others don’t? Well, as another poster suggested Orwell is apt.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:


    “I think it is a perfectly legitimate fear of scientists to be wary, if not downright petrified of the upcoming four years of gloom.”

    Being an Atheistic Materialist with a college degree does not equate to being a ‘scientist’.

    In fact, it would be hard to imagine a more anti-scientific worldview than Atheistic Materialism has turned out to be.

    Contrary to popular belief, Darwinian evolution, and atheism/naturalism in general, far from being the supposedly ‘scientific’ worldviews, are, in fact, built entirely upon a foundation of quicksand that quickly engulfs our entire conception of reality itself into a quagmire of illusions and fantasy.

    Atheistic Materialism/Naturalism – Where All of Reality Becomes an Illusion – video

    Darwinian evolution, and atheism/naturalism in general, are built entirely upon a foundation of illusions and fantasy

    You, as an atheistic materialist, gripe that,,

    With this mind set exploration of space, origins, and the limited nature of resources on this earth are areas of investigation that have already been solved; read the Bible!

    As to exploration of space, it was not an atheistic materialist that spear-headed America’s exploration of space but was a Christian Theist:

    “Although I know of no reference to Christ ever commenting on scientific work, I do know that He said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Thus I am certain that, were He among us today, Christ would encourage scientific research as modern man’s most noble striving to comprehend and admire His Father’s handiwork. The universe as revealed through scientific inquiry is the living witness that God has indeed been at work.”
    Wernher von Braun, rocket pioneer, leader of Apollo program. 1976.

    ,,, it was von Braun who, in the morning hours of that fateful 16 July 1969, had to give the final answer to the question: “Are we ready to launch?”,,,,
    A week later, when the astronauts were safely back on Earth, a reporter wanted to know: “Dr. von Braun, what did you think after you had given your final ‘yes’ a week ago?”–“I quietly said the Lord’s prayer,” was his answer.

    In 1962, an engineer led Dr. von Braun to Christ using a Gideon Bible. Upon praying to repent of sin and receive Christ, the eminent rocket scientist confessed that he felt like a great burden had been lifted off him. He became a fervent Christian,

    Of related note:

    Yuri Gagarin, first human in space, was a devout Christian, says his close friend
    Excerpt: The first man in outer space 50 years ago believed fervently in the Almighty — even though the atheistic Soviet government put famous words in his mouth that he had looked around at the cosmos and did not see God.
    Mankind’s first space flight lasted 108 minutes on April 12, 1961.
    It was the height of the Cold War. Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was proclaimed by the Soviet leadership to have announced, “I went up to space, but I didn’t encounter God.”
    However, he never uttered those often-quoted words, says a close friend.,,,
    In fact, Gagarin should be remembered for completely different words, says his friend:
    ” I always remember that Yuri Gagarin said: “An astronaut cannot be suspended in space and not have God in his mind and his heart.”

    rvb8 next you mention ‘origins’ as being an area that will be negatively impacted by belief in God, yet the study of the origin of the universe and the origin of life highlights the unscientific nature of the Atheistic Mindset.
    That is to say, although all the scientific evidence we have strongly indicates that the ‘finely-tuned’ universe, contrary to atheistic presuppositions, did have a sudden origin 14 billion years ago, and that the origin of life also requires Intelligence, atheists absolutely refuse to accept this most reasonable of scientific conclusions,, (as if atheists had the free will to be reasonable).

    Big Bang Theory – An Overview of the main evidence
    Excerpt: Steven Hawking, George Ellis, and Roger Penrose turned their attention to the Theory of Relativity and its implications regarding our notions of time. In 1968 and 1970, they published papers in which they extended Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity to include measurements of time and space.1, 2 According to their calculations, time and space had a finite beginning that corresponded to the origin of matter and energy.”3
    Steven W. Hawking, George F.R. Ellis, “The Cosmic Black-Body Radiation and the Existence of Singularities in our Universe,” Astrophysical Journal, 152, (1968) pp. 25-36.
    Steven W. Hawking, Roger Penrose, “The Singularities of Gravitational Collapse and Cosmology,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, series A, 314 (1970) pp. 529-548.

    “The best data we have [concerning the Big Bang] are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the bible as a whole.”
    Dr. Arno Penzias, Nobel Laureate in Physics – co-discoverer of the Cosmic Background Radiation – as stated to the New York Times on March 12, 1978

    “Certainly there was something that set it all off,,, I can’t think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match Genesis”
    Robert Wilson – Nobel laureate – co-discover Cosmic Background Radiation

    “There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the big bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing.”
    George Smoot – Nobel laureate in 2006 for his work on COBE

    “Now we see how the astronomical evidence supports the biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.”
    Robert Jastrow – Founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute – Pg.15 ‘God and the Astronomers’

    ,,, ‘And if you’re curious about how Genesis 1, in particular, fairs. Hey, we look at the Days in Genesis as being long time periods, which is what they must be if you read the Bible consistently, and the Bible scores 4 for 4 in Initial Conditions and 10 for 10 on the Creation Events’
    Hugh Ross – Latest Scientific Evidence for God’s Existence – video 56:14 minute mark

    Origin of Life: An Inside Story – Professor James Tour – May 1, 2016
    Excerpt: “All right, now let’s assemble the Dream Team. We’ve got good professors here, so let’s assemble the Dream Team. Let’s further assume that the world’s top 100 synthetic chemists, top 100 biochemists and top 100 evolutionary biologists combined forces into a limitlessly funded Dream Team. The Dream Team has all the carbohydrates, lipids, amino acids and nucleic acids stored in freezers in their laboratories… All of them are in 100% enantiomer purity. [Let’s] even give the team all the reagents they wish, the most advanced laboratories, and the analytical facilities, and complete scientific literature, and synthetic and natural non-living coupling agents. Mobilize the Dream Team to assemble the building blocks into a living system – nothing complex, just a single cell. The members scratch their heads and walk away, frustrated…
    So let’s help the Dream Team out by providing the polymerized forms: polypeptides, all the enzymes they desire, the polysaccharides, DNA and RNA in any sequence they desire, cleanly assembled. The level of sophistication in even the simplest of possible living cells is so chemically complex that we are even more clueless now than with anything discussed regarding prebiotic chemistry or macroevolution. The Dream Team will not know where to start. Moving all this off Earth does not solve the problem, because our physical laws are universal.
    You see the problem for the chemists? Welcome to my world. This is what I’m confronted with, every day.“
    James Tour – leading Chemist

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    rvb8, you also mention ‘limited nature of resources on this earth’ as an area of concern. Yet, the ‘anthropic inequality’ is actually an argument for Theism.

    Lucky Us: Turning the Copernican Principle on Its Head – Daniel Bakken – January 26, 2015
    Excerpt: What if intelligence and technology hadn’t arisen in Earth’s habitability time window? Waltham in Lucky Planet asks “So, how do we explain the remarkable coincidence that the timescale for the emergence of intelligence is almost the same as the timescale for habitability?” Researchers Carter and Watson have dubbed this idea the anthropic inequality and it seems surprising, if it is not for some purpose.,,,

    Anthropic Principle: A Precise Plan for Humanity By Hugh Ross
    Excerpt: Brandon Carter, the British mathematician who coined the term “anthropic principle” (1974), noted the strange inequity of a universe that spends about 15 billion years “preparing” for the existence of a creature that has the potential to survive no more than 10 million years (optimistically).,, Carter and (later) astrophysicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler demonstrated that the inequality exists for virtually any conceivable intelligent species under any conceivable life-support conditions. Roughly 15 billion years represents a minimum preparation time for advanced life: 11 billion toward formation of a stable planetary system, one with the right chemical and physical conditions for primitive life, and four billion more years toward preparation of a planet within that system, one richly layered with the biodeposits necessary for civilized intelligent life. Even this long time and convergence of “just right” conditions reflect miraculous efficiency.
    Moreover the physical and biological conditions necessary to support an intelligent civilized species do not last indefinitely. They are subject to continuous change: the Sun continues to brighten, Earth’s rotation period lengthens, Earth’s plate tectonic activity declines, and Earth’s atmospheric composition varies. In just 10 million years or less, Earth will lose its ability to sustain human life. In fact, this estimate of the human habitability time window may be grossly optimistic. In all likelihood, a nearby supernova eruption, a climatic perturbation, a social or environmental upheaval, or the genetic accumulation of negative mutations will doom the species to extinction sometime sooner than twenty thousand years from now.

    Life and Earth History Reveal God’s Miraculous Preparation for Humans – Hugh Ross, PhD – video

    Thus, like everything else within the atheistic worldview, all of your supposed fears of Theists doing science are in fact based on nothing but imagination. i.e. Your fear that Theists are ‘anti-science’ is devoid of any actual substance. Whereas, on the other hand, the Theist’s belief that atheists are actually the ones who are being ‘anti-science’ is a well founded. A fact which is backed up from numerous examples from the real world in which Atheist staunchly refuse to accept the results of science simply because it clashes with their anti-theistic worldview. As I stated before, it would hard to fathom a more anti-scientific worldview than Atheistic Materialism has turned out to be!

    Of supplemental note: Christianity, not Atheism, gave birth to modern science:

    Jerry Coyne on the Scientific Method and Religion – Michael Egnor – June 2011
    Excerpt: The scientific method — the empirical systematic theory-based study of nature — has nothing to so with some religious inspirations — Animism, Paganism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shintoism, Islam, and, well, atheism. The scientific method has everything to do with Christian (and Jewish) inspiration. Judeo-Christian culture is the only culture that has given rise to organized theoretical science. Many cultures (e.g. China) have produced excellent technology and engineering, but only Christian culture has given rise to a conceptual understanding of nature.

    “Did Christianity (and Other Religions) Promote the Rise Of Science?” – Michael Egnor October 24, 2013
    Excerpt: Neither the Greeks nor Islam produced modern theoretical science. The Greeks produced sublime philosophy and mathematics, but no theoretical science. They excelled in mathematics but never applied mathematical models to the systematic study of nature.
    Islam produced no real theoretical science. It invaded the Christian Middle East, Christian North Africa and Christian Spain, and expropriated the culture and work of Christians and Jews and pagans in the conquered lands. Centralized government and fresh availability of booty fostered a modest bit of science produced by the conquered locals — the vast majority of whom were not Muslim for centuries.
    It took several centuries before most of the conquered peoples under the Islamic boot converted to Islam — Islamic rulers coveted the dhimmi taxes and were not quick to force conversion — and when Islamic lands became wholly Islamic, science became wholly dead.

    podcast – Dr. Michael Egnor: Judeo-Christianity and the Rise of Modern Science – March 2014

    The War against the War Between Science and Faith Revisited – July 2010
    Excerpt: …as Whitehead pointed out, it is no coincidence that science sprang, not from Ionian metaphysics, not from the Brahmin-Buddhist-Taoist East, not from the Egyptian-Mayan astrological South, but from the heart of the Christian West, that although Galileo fell out with the Church, he would hardly have taken so much trouble studying Jupiter and dropping objects from towers if the reality and value and order of things had not first been conferred by belief in the Incarnation. (Walker Percy, Lost in the Cosmos),,,
    Jaki notes that before Christ the Jews never formed a very large community (priv. comm.). In later times, the Jews lacked the Christian notion that Jesus was the monogenes or unigenitus, the only-begotten of God. Pantheists like the Greeks tended to identify the monogenes or unigenitus with the universe itself, or with the heavens. Jaki writes: Herein lies the tremendous difference between Christian monotheism on the one hand and Jewish and Muslim monotheism on the other. This explains also the fact that it is almost natural for a Jewish or Muslim intellectual to become a pa(n)theist. About the former Spinoza and Einstein are well-known examples. As to the Muslims, it should be enough to think of the Averroists. With this in mind one can also hope to understand why the Muslims, who for five hundred years had studied Aristotle’s works and produced many commentaries on them failed to make a breakthrough. The latter came in medieval Christian context and just about within a hundred years from the availability of Aristotle’s works in Latin,,
    If science suffered only stillbirths in ancient cultures, how did it come to its unique viable birth? The beginning of science as a fully fledged enterprise took place in relation to two important definitions of the Magisterium of the Church. The first was the definition at the Fourth Lateran Council in the year 1215, that the universe was created out of nothing at the beginning of time. The second magisterial statement was at the local level, enunciated by Bishop Stephen Tempier of Paris who, on March 7, 1277, condemned 219 Aristotelian propositions, so outlawing the deterministic and necessitarian views of creation.
    These statements of the teaching authority of the Church expressed an atmosphere in which faith in God had penetrated the medieval culture and given rise to philosophical consequences. The cosmos was seen as contingent in its existence and thus dependent on a divine choice which called it into being; the universe is also contingent in its nature and so God was free to create this particular form of world among an infinity of other possibilities. Thus the cosmos cannot be a necessary form of existence; and so it has to be approached by a posteriori investigation. The universe is also rational and so a coherent discourse can be made about it. Indeed the contingency and rationality of the cosmos are like two pillars supporting the Christian vision of the cosmos.

    The Threat to the Scientific Method that Explains the Spate of Fraudulent Science Publications – Calvin Beisner | Jul 23, 2014
    Excerpt: It is precisely because modern science has abandoned its foundations in the Biblical worldview (which holds, among other things, that a personal, rational God designed a rational universe to be understood and controlled by rational persons made in His image) and the Biblical ethic (which holds, among other things, that we are obligated to tell the truth even when it inconveniences us) that science is collapsing.
    As such diverse historians and philosophers of science as Alfred North Whitehead, Pierre Duhem, Loren Eiseley, Rodney Stark, and many others have observed,, science—not an occasional flash of insight here and there, but a systematic, programmatic, ongoing way of studying and controlling the world—arose only once in history, and only in one place: medieval Europe, once known as “Christendom,” where that Biblical worldview reigned supreme. That is no accident. Science could not have arisen without that worldview.
    Several other resources backing up this claim are available, such as Thomas Woods, Stanley Jaki, David Linberg, Edward Grant, J.L. Heilbron, and Christopher Dawson.

    The truth about science and religion By Terry Scambray – August 14, 2014
    Excerpt: In 1925 the renowned philosopher and mathematician, Alfred North Whitehead speaking to scholars at Harvard said that science originated in Christian Europe in the 13th century. Whitehead pointed out that science arose from “the medieval insistence on the rationality of God, conceived as with the personal energy of Jehovah and with the rationality of a Greek philosopher”, from which it follows that human minds created in that image are capable of understanding nature.
    The audience, assuming that science and Christianity are enemies, was astonished.

  6. 6
    JDH says:

    It is really telling that the APS (American Physical Society) has already been chastised by the anti-Trump bullies by actually congratulating the President-Elect on his win. How sad that something as non-political as promoting excellence in the teaching of science should be greeted with the tyrannical censorship of the intolerant left.

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