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Science & Tech

Scientific American Wades into the Presidential Election

If you thought 2020 couldn’t get any stupider, you should know that a nearly 200-year-old scientific publication has decided it needs to make its first endorsement of a presidential candidate.

If you want to get a sense of the level of thought and effort that went into it, you need to read but one line: “The most devastating example [of Trump rejecting science and evidence] 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.” This is the piece’s key allegation, and a variation of the line was featured on the publication’s Twitter feed, but it’s not even clear what’s being said: Does “cost” refer back to “response” — in which case the (absurd) claim is that every COVID-19 death is the president’s fault? Or does it refer to “pandemic,” in which case it’s merely stating the overall death toll? The piece later admits that the “pandemic would strain any nation and system,” so I guess the authors are fully aware you can’t really pin the whole thing on Trump.

Anyhow, as Ross Douthat recently explained, it’s not at all clear how many lives a different presidential response could have saved, as “when you compare deaths as a share of population [among the U.S. and its peer countries], the U.S. starts to look more mediocre and less uniquely catastrophic.”


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