In order to be a good president, a candidate has to be able to evaluate data as part of the process of making good decisions. I scored six likely Republican presidential candidates on seven different science policy areas last March. Since the notion that reality-TV star and real estate mogul Donald Trump would actually run for president would have seemed, well, farfetched only a year ago, I didn't evaluate his views in that article. Also, Trump didn't actually announce his run until June of last year.
In my March analysis, I selected seven topics including a proposed ban on commercial travel from West African countries during the recent Ebola outbreak, climate change, genetically modified crops, the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste facility, vaccination, fetal pain legislation, and biological evolution. The candidates I covered in my earlier article were Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida.
I chose those topics because there is widely accepted data for each of them. Specifically, a major Ebola outbreak in the U.S. was unlikely and banning travel is counterproductive; the trend toward higher global average temperature over the past 50 years is at least partially the result of human activity; genetically modified crops are safe; Yucca Mountain in Nevada can safely store nuclear waste for tens of thousands of years; vaccinations do not cause autism; fetuses do not feel pain before 24 weeks of gestation; and biological evolution explains the diversity of life.
The candidates were scored as follows: Pass(able) equals 1 point; Incomplete earns ½ point; anything else is 0. The maximum score obtainable is 7 points.
So what how does Donald Trump fare with regard to these seven scientific policy topics?
Ebola: On October 24, 2014 Trump tweeted: "Ebola has been confirmed in N.Y.C., with officials frantically trying to find all of the people and things he had contact with. Obama's fault."—"I have been saying for weeks for President Obama to stop the flights from West Africa. So simple, but he refused. A TOTAL incompetent!" FAIL
Climate Change: On November 6, 2012 Trump tweeted: "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive." Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders called Trump out on this tweet. A day later during a "Fox & Friends" interview Trump responded: "I think that climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change," Trump said. "I've received many environmental awards. And I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China — obviously I joke — but this done for the benefit of China."
More broadly, The Hill reported that Trump said last September: "And I think it's very low on the list. So I am not a believer, and I will, unless somebody can prove something to me, I believe there's weather. I believe there's change, and I believe it goes up and it goes down, and it goes up again. And it changes depending on years and centuries, but I am not a believer, and we have much bigger problems." Bigger problems notwithstanding, it's a FAIL.
Biotech Crops: In October, when Ben Carson was beating him in the Iowa polls, Trump seemingly scorned voters by retweeting a GMO truther: "@mygreenhippo #BenCarson is now leading in the #polls in #Iowa. Too much #Monsanto in the #corn creates issues in the brain? #Trump #GOP"
However, Trump quite quickly retracted the retweet as an error, and tweeted: "The young intern who accidentally did a Retweet apologizes." INCOMPLETE
Yucca Mountain: On March 11, 2011 after the tsunami-caused Fukushima nuclear disaster Trump told Fox News: "I am in favor of nuclear energy –very strongly in favor of nuclear energy. … You have to look very carefully – have the best people in terms of safeguards for nuclear energy, but we do need nuclear energy." On the other hand, during the December 15 Republican candidate debate, Trump apparently did not know what the nuclear triad is. It will be interesting to see if Yucca Mountain comes up as an issue during the lead up to the Nevada Republican caucuses on February 23. PASS (able)
Vaccination: Trump has evidently long been a proponent of the theory that vaccination can cause autism. Consider this tweet on September 3, 2014: "I am being proven right about massive vaccinations—the doctors lied. Save our children & their future." During the September CNN presidential candidate debate Trump declared: "I've seen it … You take this little beautiful baby, and you pump — it looks just like it's meant for a horse. … We've had so many instances … a child went to have the vaccine, got very, very sick, and now is autistic." FAIL
Fetal Pain: In July, Trump evidently sent this statement to the Christian Broadcasting Network: "I support the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and urge Congress to pass this bill. A ban on elective abortions after 20 weeks will protect unborn children. We should not be one of seven countries that allows elective abortions after 20 weeks. It goes against our core values." FAIL
Evolution: No Information. But during his speech at Liberty University he did modestly rank his book The Art of the Deal as "a deep, deep second to the Bible. The Bible is the best. The Bible blows it away." Let's generously give him PASS.
Total Trump score: A generous 2½ out of 7 possible points. The scores of the three remaining candidates evaluated back in March are: Ted Cruz at 3; Marco Rubio at 3; and Jeb Bush at 2 points.