Trump’s science job nominees are missing something: Advanced science degrees. Surprised? Rush Holt & Christie Todd Whitman weigh in

Against all scientific advice, the kind of thing first-graders know not to do, Donald Trump looks directly at the Solar Eclipse, August 21, 2017, White House

As impaired as the Trump administration is, they keep surprising me with new lows. Associated Press has a story today that of 43 Trump administration nominees in science-related positions – including two for Health and Human Services secretary – almost 60% didn’t have a master’s degree or doctorate in a science or health field. The opposite of the Obama era: more than 60% had advanced science degrees. And Trump’s been slow to fill these positions, as though he doesn’t think they’re too important.

I wanted to flag this story for you, not only because it’s infuriating, but also because New Jersey (especially its biotech/pharma corridor, where 14 of the world’s 20 largest pharma companies are HQ’d) – is full of people with precisely that education. And some of them are or readers. We’d all be better off if Trump used his vacay weekends at his Bedminster golf club to interview some of our smart people here, instead of promoting from the Republican pool of science-deniers.

Plus, the reporter talked to 2 New Jerseyans; Christie Todd Whitman & Rush Holt. Another reason to flag this.

Gov. Whitman, George W. Bush’s EPA administrator, didn’t have an advanced degree, but says she surrounded herself with those who did. In fact, her tenure was marked by a serious mistake, reassuring the public the air around the World Trade Center 9/11 collapse was safe, when it was full of lead, asbestos and other toxins which sickened hundreds of workers and first responders, and led to deaths. Bush’s White House played politics with public health and possibly scientific information, which should be no surprise. (Whitman admitted she was wrong in 2016).

To her credit, Whitman’s written about Trump EPA man Scott Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick “Smart Glasses” Perry and their attempts to obfuscate science itself, with “red teams” of scientists ready to dispute more responsible scientists’ conclusions on climate change. Here’s Whitman on what she calls the Trump administration’s “disdain for science”:

“When you’re talking about science, issues about protecting human health … it’s very, very complicated and sophisticated work. You need the background and experience to handle these things.”

Yup. And here is Rush Holt, physicist with precisely those advanced degrees, former NJ congressman, my old boss, and now CEO at AAAS, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, world’s largest general scientific society. He says it’s not about making jobs for science, but providing the best advice for government leaders making tough decisions:

“It’s the policy-makers themselves who need it. If they want to develop policies that are most likely to succeed, they should make those policies with the understanding available of how things are. We do this with the age-old, time-tested procedure of determining how things are. We call that science.”

Sad thing is, in the Trump era there aren’t too many of those government leaders left making those tough decisions who actually care about the outcome of those decisions. It’s mind-numbing to think what the risks of that are to every one of us, every day. Disaster looms. And so it goes.


For further demoralizing news, see: Donald Trump’s science office is a ghost town (CBS)

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