Stephen Hawking, the renowned cosmologist and author of A Brief History of Time, admitted to being stumped on the phenomenon of Donald Trump in an interview on “Good Morning Britain” Tuesday.
Hawking also firmly opposed Britain’s proposed exit from the European Union (EU), citing the importance of immigration as one of the reasons Britain should stay in. As opposition to immigration has formed a central plank in Donald Trump’s primary campaign platform, it seems this issue might have blinded one of the world’s foremost geniuses to political trends in America.
“You’re a man who knows the universe well. How do you explain the phenomenon of Donald Trump?” the interviewer asked. Hawking curtly replied, “I can’t.”
The cosmologist added that Trump “is a demagogue who appeals to the lowest common denominator.” While this claim is certainly defensible, it falls far short of explaining why The Donald has amassed the following that he has. In order to explain that, you have to understand the appeal of opposing unfettered immigration, which apparently even the brilliant Hawking does not.
In the same interview, the renowned cosmologist argued for Britain to remain in the European Union, opposing what has become known as “Brexit.” He first argued for economic and national security reasons, but then turned to a more scientific angle. One of his scientific arguments suggests a reason why this genius cannot fathom the success of Mr. Trump.
One reason is financial, the EU funding for science in the UK. “The European Research Council has given large grants to UK institutions, either to foster research or to promote exchanges,” Hawking explained. He added a subtle dig at conservative politicians who push for balanced budgets, adding that traditional UK research councils “seem to be becoming progressively starved of resources, by a government intent on short-term cuts without attention to the longer-term consequences.”
But the real nub of the issue came when Hawking discussed “the mobility of people” (Emphasis added):
The [European Union] promotes the mobility of people. Students can come here from EU countries to study, and our students can go to other EU universities. More importantly, at the level of research, the exchange of people enables skills to transfer more quickly and brings new people with different ideas. Without this exchange, we would become more culturally isolated and insular, and ultimately more remote from where progress is being made.
This argument seems rather pro-immigration. It is entirely possible Hawking is only talking about the European Union here, but the scientific argument for bringing “new people with different ideas” can also apply to those with vast cultural differences, such as displaced Muslims from the Middle East.
Next Page: Why this view on immigration explains Hawking’s inability to understand Donald Trump.
The majority of such immigrants would not be terrorists, but even admitting one or two could place British citizens at immense risk. Donald Trump’s support increased after the San Bernardino attacks, and polls in the primary showed that Republicans trusted The Donald over his competitors when it comes to terrorism.
A Fox News poll earlier this month showed more Americans trust Trump over Clinton on the economy and on terrorism by 12 points, while they trust Clinton over Trump on immigration by only 2 points. While this seems to suggest a Clinton lead on immigration, The Donald’s immigration stance is better known and ties in with his approach on terrorism and the economy — in ways that Hawking seems unable to see.
Trump claims that immigration is driving down wages for average Americans, and that terrorist attacks like the one in San Bernardino can be prevented with a more stringent immigration policy. Seeing immigration as a threat to peace and economic well-being is The Donald’s trump card, and it is exactly this connection Hawking either ignores or rejects.
Hawking’s claim that “the exchange of people enables skills to transfer more quickly and brings new people with different ideas,” thus connecting the British to places “where progress is being made,” would strike many American conservatives as anathema. The huge tide of migrants from the Middle East pouring into Europe reverberates with dread in the United States. While many Americans long to help the innocent displaced by war and terror in their home countries, they also fear that opening our doors may threaten our economy and security, as is already happening in Europe.
Scientifically, immigration can be a very good thing — especially among people who share the same values, the same pursuit of truth from different perspectives. So long as you agree on pursuing truth together, the more different your backgrounds, the better. This is what Hawking means when he praises “the mobility of people.” But in order for this to work, it has to be in an environment of shared goals, and the sort of mass immigration flowing into Europe often does not promote science, and might impede other valuable pursuits.
Next Page: Hawking goes crazy on climate change.
When asked about the gravest threat to the planet, Hawking first mentioned an asteroid collision, like the one that killed the dinosaurs. “An asteroid collision would be something against which we would have no defense,” the cosmologist said.
“A more immediate danger is runaway climate change,” Hawking added. Rather than just parrot the normal climate alarmism, however, the cosmologist went a step further (emphasis added): “A rise in ocean temperature would melt the ice caps, and cause the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide from the ocean floor. Both effects could make our climate like that of Venus, with a temperature of 250 degrees [Celsius, 482 degrees Fahrenheit].”
Technically, this is accurate — these effects could make our climate this bad, over a period of, say, one million years. In fact, assuming the Environmental Protection Agency’s worst-case scenario (8.6 degrees F warming between now and 2100), it would take 4,900 years to reach this temperature! At the more likely level (2.7 degrees F per century) it would take 15,666 years. This assumes a continual increase in world temperature, which is rather unlikely, even with continued fossil fuel use.
To compare the effects of climate change on Earth to the climate of Venus, a planet 25.72 million miles closer to the sun, is hyperbole in the extreme.
Finally, Hawking listed the six people (dead or alive) he would invite to a dinner party: Julius Caesar, Marilyn Monroe, Archimedes, Saint Augustine, Cleopatra, and Alexander the Great. Whether or not you agree with the cosmologist on Trump, immigration, or climate change, that’s a party we’d all like to watch!
Watch the video on the next page.