The funny thing about the US elections is that so many people outside the country pay attention to it. There is, on second look, a good reason for this: decisions the United States takes on several issues will not only affect other countries, but will soon be mimicked by other governments as well — especially in infrequently trodden legal areas like technology. But one universal effect the US presidency has on the world is in science. Being as networked as it is, and having come far from the isolated, individual–driven field that it once was, developments in science are bound to be deeply affected by the decisions of whoever is calling shots at the White House.
Donald Trump, may have a lot to say about his business acumen, but his knowledge of science is not flaunted as often. What the reason behind this is, is best left to the imagination. In fact, Mr Trump’s biggest argument for his tryst with science is ludicrous. He has often spoken about how his family has stellar genes that somehow impart genius. “It’s in my blood. I’m smart. Great marks. Like really smart.” The man in question is John G. Trump, a former MIT professor who was undoubtedly smart. Donald Trump is his nephew, but, as the GOP frontrunner says, his own father was “the same level as [his] uncle”. And this intelligence, Mr Trump assumes, simply extends to all members of the Trump family. “Good genes,” he declares, “very good genes.” Science, for what it is worth, is yet to establish any credible relationship between genes and genius.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
All said an done, Mr Trump’s grasp on issues like global warming — which he calls a “very expensive form of tax” — leave much to be desired. He once even labelled the Environmental Protection Agency as the “laughing stock of the world”. It would not be far–fetched to expect him to undo everything done towards climate change, during his term as president. And education is not far off: his uncle, John G. Trump’s, alma mater, MIT, which receives1 considerable federal government funding, will see severe cuts if Mr Trump becomes president. As will all other educational institutions who have been advised by the billionaire to “be local and locally managed”. So much for global learning.
If one expects it to stop at that, they would be disappointed: on national television last year, Mr Trump went on to claim that vaccines are related to autism. (Also, “autism has become epidemic… it has gotten totally out of control”, he says and goes on to compare vaccines meant for babies to those meant for horses.) He once also had to be taught, by fellow republican, Marco Rubio, (once again on national television) the meaning of a nuclear triad, because, to Mr Trump, “nuclear, is just the power, the devastation is very important”. If the quotable, billionaire presidential candidate has a poor handle on biology, genealogy and the life sciences, his grasp of physics is infinitely more slippery. He has been known to use it as little more than a synonym for “clever thing beyond my comprehension”. Consider, for instance, his fuzzy speech involving the word fifty-three and four republican candidates while there were, in fact, only three: “when I don’t get over fifty, we have four people. Right? We have four people. Do you understand that? So when I get fifty-three. As an example, I get fifty-three, and that’s an amazing achievement when you can get over fifty percent”.
Said the good Mr Trump, “I have to explain to these people… They don’t understand basic physics, basic mathematics, basic — whatever you want to call it.”[[/perfectpullquote]]
Earlier this year a group of coders released libraries on Github for a new scripting language they called TrumpScript, which even comes with a toupeé adorning its logo. In short, the language is designed to behave like Donald Trump. It is a nerdy and satirical take at the Republican frontrunner, with such things as no floating point numbers being allowed and only integers, because “America never does anything halfway”, and the entire language being case insensitive, and disallowing numbers lesser than a million because “the small stuff is inconsequential to us”. If this seems entirely like a joke, it is not: back in 2009, Mr Trump spent a while suing journalist Timothy L. O’Brien for $5bn for calling him a millionaire instead of a billionaire. (The judge dismissed the case.) At other times, Mr Trump is busy labelling people either as a “loser” or a “winner” on his Twitter stream. But this is not the only brush the presidential hopeful has had with technology, and his campaign has not been on the good side of technology companies, magazines and enthusiasts alike. For example, even as he was calling a boycott of Apple products and some time later got caught tweeting from his iPhone, the hacktivist collective, Anonymous, was busy releasing his social security number to the public and then setting the stage for a larger attack on 1st April when they promised to “dismantle his campaign” for all its inconsistencies and intolerances.
If Donald Trump is good at one thing, it is the science of selling, of convincing people to buy something (or buy into it) and he is convincing America to make him president. This is not unlike the BJP’s victory in the last national election in India. Mr Trump uses simple language that everyone can grasp, something that was recently picked apart with great care by the founder of Nerd Writer, Evan Paschal. However, the importance of having a president who can understand science cannot be underestimated: if social science attempts to keep societies in order, science is what ensures their advancement and helps them survive. So here is a man who has said, done and intends to do numerous things other politicians would not even dream of, including, but not limited to, elaborate plans to expel Muslims from the US, build walls to put out Mexicans (the Chinese did that around 200BC, remember?)2, spurt flippant racist outbursts, oversell his own alleged attractiveness, and display a remarkable lack of scientific knowledge. In that light, I doubt Mr Trump is a candidate even his late uncle, John, would consider supporting. ❖