Donald Trump’s administration is a lesson in how to appoint the least appropriate people for extremely important jobs.
You’ve got Rick Perry, who’s a generally clueless animal husbandry expert and someone allergic to the phrase “climate change”, in charge of the Department of Energy. Then you’ve got Scott Pruitt, a man who spent much of his career trying to take down the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in charge of the EPA. Of course, you’ve also got Donald “I Know Words” Trump as the President, so there’s that.
Enter, Mike Pence. This man is America’s Vice President, and he’s certainly a curious human being. Being a proponent of creationism and someone who until recently didn’t think smoking kills people, he’s not exactly a fan of science – which is why it’s so surprising he’s been tasked with heading the National Space Council (NSC).
Founded in 1958 under Eisenhower, the NSC was designed to be a policy-deciding committee – comprised of members of both public and private sector interests – that has authority over any of America’s federal agencies that deal with space in some way. This includes NASA and the Department of Defense.
Suffering from confusion, internal disputes with NASA, and general ineffectiveness, it was shut down by the Clinton administration in 1993, where its responsibilities were absorbed by the National Science and Technology Council. Trump, however, has plans to revive it, and it’s likely he’ll sign an executive order saying as much in the next week or so.
Call us crazy, but surely the person in charge of a potentially influential science and technology committee or agency should be a qualified scientist or someone who is a massive die-hard fan of the sciences.
Mike Pence is neither of these. This is a man who voted against recognizing the truly harmless Pi Day, which is irreverently celebrated by the sci-curious all over the world on March 14 (3.14, geddit?). Is he threatened by this famous irrational number for some reason?
Pence also, predictably, is a climate change denier. He thinks intelligent design should be taught in science classes. He, like almost every single politician in the US, supports space exploration, but a look at his Twitter feed shows that he’s only starting talking about “space” in that sense since the end of October last year.
It’s not encouraging. You might as well put an aardvark in charge of the NSC – it would be just as effective, and at least people like aardvarks.
Worse, it’s insulting: America has some of the most talented astrophysicists, planetary geologists, cosmologists, engineers, and astronauts in the world. This appointment is a complete waste of their potential.