Strong editorials from Scientific American and NEJM

This election and the extreme nature of the Trump presidency has resulted in the breaking of all manner of precedents. In particular, scientific organization which normally stay out of explicit involvement have decided to make endorsements. Scientific American magazine, for the first time in its history, weighed in with extremely strong language on why it was important to vote for Joe Biden.

Scientific American has never endorsed a presidential candidate in its 175-year history. This year we are compelled to do so. We do not do this lightly.

The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges.

Although Trump and his allies have tried to create obstacles that prevent people from casting ballots safely in November, either by mail or in person, it is crucial that we surmount them and vote. It’s time to move Trump out and elect Biden, who has a record of following the data and being guided by science.

Then the New England Journal of Medicine, without explicitly naming Trump or Biden, issued a strong editorial clearly showing where their sympathies lie by totally trashing the way that the coronavirus has been responded to by this administration and their trashing of scientific expertise and scientific organizations.

Covid-19 has created a crisis throughout the world. This crisis has produced a test of leadership. With no good options to combat a novel pathogen, countries were forced to make hard choices about how to respond. Here in the United States, our leaders have failed that test. They have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy.

The magnitude of this failure is astonishing.

The United States came into this crisis with enormous advantages. Along with tremendous manufacturing capacity, we have a biomedical research system that is the envy of the world. We have enormous expertise in public health, health policy, and basic biology and have consistently been able to turn that expertise into new therapies and preventive measures. And much of that national expertise resides in government institutions. Yet our leaders have largely chosen to ignore and even denigrate experts.

The response of our nation’s leaders has been consistently inadequate. The federal government has largely abandoned disease control to the states. Governors have varied in their responses, not so much by party as by competence. But whatever their competence, governors do not have the tools that Washington controls. Instead of using those tools, the federal government has undermined them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was the world’s leading disease response organization, has been eviscerated and has suffered dramatic testing and policy failures. The National Institutes of Health have played a key role in vaccine development but have been excluded from much crucial government decision making. And the Food and Drug Administration has been shamefully politicized, appearing to respond to pressure from the administration rather than scientific evidence. Our current leaders have undercut trust in science and in government,4 causing damage that will certainly outlast them. Instead of relying on expertise, the administration has turned to uninformed “opinion leaders” and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies.

Anyone else who recklessly squandered lives and money in this way would be suffering legal consequences. Our leaders have largely claimed immunity for their actions. But this election gives us the power to render judgment. Reasonable people will certainly disagree about the many political positions taken by candidates. But truth is neither liberal nor conservative. When it comes to the response to the largest public health crisis of our time, our current political leaders have demonstrated that they are dangerously incompetent. We should not abet them and enable the deaths of thousands more Americans by allowing them to keep their jobs.

I doubt that these two editorials will change many minds. The kinds of people who read these two publications are supporters of science who would have long ago abandoned any support for Trump. But it does reveal the depth of feeling that we are now experiencing.


  1. mnb0 says

    “totally trashing the way that the coronavirus has been responded to by this administration”
    Fun fact (except for my native country and its inhabitants): The Netherlands at the moment do worse than the USA when dealing with COVID-19. The Dutch government consults two experts every day:



    Just saying.

  2. Ridana says

    The Netherlands at the moment do worse than the USA when dealing with COVID-19.

    By what metric?

  3. Who Cares says

    I’d hazard a guess that mnbo is talking about new cases per million per day, which is twice the number reported in the USA.
    There are several counters for this.
    The Netherlands seems to be running enough tests to catch the majority of new cases. The USA has problems with getting tests back the next day, in some cases having test result be processed a week or two after being taken.
    The Netherlands does not have provinces (which I would guess are the equivalent of the states in the US) trying to hide the number of new cases.

    And another major difference is the reaction to the “mine, mine, fuck you since I want mine”-crowd. Was a bunch of artists that got fed up that they couldn’t perform, egged on by a bunch of deniers, and tried to start some form of anti-measures league. I think the different social media venues still show damage from the speed that most of them tried to get out once they noticed how ‘well’ that that was received generally.

  4. anonymous coward says

    The Netherlands have slightly more than half of the deaths per population, compared to the USA. It’s also worth mentioning that the Dutch leadership hesitated a long time before putting measures in place. Strangely, the more to the right a government is, the least inclination it seems to have to act decisively in this crisis.

  5. Who Cares says

    Had a discussion about this. Learned why mnbo dislikes Jaap van Dissel. Seems the guy has been promoting a no face mask policy based on a single study that wasn’t looking at face mask efficiency and that basically had a throwaway conclusion along the lines of: for what we have studied face masks aren’t useful.
    Even better said study (or any mention or link to it) has been removed from the website of the institute (second link by mnbo) JvD is director of.

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