Donald Trump is one of the biggest threats facing humankind: 50 Nobel laureates on what keeps them up at night

Trump is a major threat to humanity, according to some of the smartest people in the world

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published August 31, 2017 4:58AM (EDT)

 (AP/Alex Brandon/Wikimedia)
(AP/Alex Brandon/Wikimedia)

In a survey that solicited the views of almost one-fourth of all living Nobel Prize winners, Times Higher Education discovered that many felt President Donald Trump was among the greatest existing threats to humanity.

The editor of Times Higher Education, John Gill, explained that "this survey offers a unique insight into the issues that keep the world’s greatest scientific minds awake at night." While Gill noted that "some of the threats they identify are predictable: nuclear war, antibiotic resistance and environmental degradation all feature," several respondents complained of “warmonger dictators” and specifically expressed concern over the escalation of tensions between Trump's administration and North Korea:

Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of respondents labelled nuclear war as the gravest threat to humankind, while six per cent cited ‘ignorance and the distortion of truth’ and another six per cent cited the ignorance of political leaders – with two laureates naming Donald Trump specifically among the greatest threats.

The Nobel laureates also listed how populism and political polarization are threatening necessary consensus on important scientific issues, particularly regarding man-made climate change. Trump has tweeted his skepticism about climate change more than 100 times.

One winner in the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, John Agre, told Times Higher Education that "Trump could play a villain in a Batman movie – everything he does is wicked or selfish." The professor at Johns Hopkins University added that it was a particular concern that Trump “flaunts his ignorance” to appeal to Americans who are happy to dismiss the opinions of scientists.

It has been evident prior to this survey that Trump is tremendously unpopular among Nobel Laureates. 51 signed a protest against Trump's attempted Muslim ban back in February, along with more than 20,000 verified American faculty members. By contrast, President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, a distinction shared by only three other presidents (Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter).

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. His diverse interests are reflected in his interview, including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), media entrepreneur Dan Abrams, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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Donald Trump Nobel Laureates Nuclear War Science