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Eclipse of Science

Eclipse of the sun
(Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center) 2017 Solar Eclipse

An eclipse of the sun is impressive but fleeting. On the other hand, the eclipse of science under the Trump administration is subtle and far more consequential.

Monday’s solar eclipse fascinated millions. One estimate forecast a $700 million loss in productivity due to people watching the event.

In the larger scheme of things, any economic losses from the solar eclipse will be negligible. Indeed, some people may even benefit economically from the occasion. And it is good when people become aware about science.

Unfortunately, fewer people are watching and raising the alarm about the Trump attack on science. To some extent, it is because we are distracted by his daily outbursts. This has given cover to those who benefit from the attack on science.

For some businesses, Trump’s rise to power was the perfect opportunity to assail science that blocks profits. Religious fundamentalists — another key part of the Trump coalition – oppose science that challenges their religious teachings.

A July report from the Union of Concerned Scientists paints a deeply disturbing picture of Trump’s onslaught on science. This assault is eclipsing science past, present, and future.

Eclipse of Science: Past and Present

Every week, Congress, Trump, and the agencies are rolling back regulations issued by federal agencies that protect our health. Scientists toiled for decades to come up with ways in which our air, water, food, and medicines would be safe. Now the rules and the scientists are under threat.

The Trump administration’s hostility to expertise is endangering the careers of many experienced scientists, especially if they work in the federal government. Scientists in federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are particularly under threat.

Scientists spend a lot of time collecting data. This is because reliable and valid data are the foundation for successful science. Under Trump, pages of data –particularly on the environment — have been removed from federal websites.

Eclipse of our scientific past and present is bad enough. However, what is even more worrisome is the eclipse of science for a better future.

Eclipse of Future Science

Trump and his Republican coalition worship on the altar of budget-cutting and tax cuts. The Trump team has proposed severe budget cuts. For example, the EPA faces a budget cut of about 31 percent, and plans to cut about a quarter of its staff.

These budget cuts have led agencies to be cautious about hiring replacements. Usually, as baby boomer scientists retire, they will be replaced by younger compatriots.

Keep in mind that there are not too many people in the US who study science subjects. Many US students who study science would rather work in the private sector where they can get more pay. However, patriotism, a sense of service, and job security could at least draw some into government

As a result of the budget cuts and hiring freezes, people will theoretically do more with less. Realistically, people will do less with less.

The eclipse of science will have real and permanent effects. It will impact our innovation, internal and external security, and our health.