Over the few days leading up to November 8th, 2016, I took some time away from research to make 450 get-out-the-vote phone calls in support of the first female presidential candidate of a major American political party, Hillary Clinton, an experienced, progressive, pragmatic, nuanced, inclusive, kind, caring, and astute person, and one who has not just presented a rational, coherent and clever set of policies for the country but who has a long history of supporting science, education, mathematics, engineering, technology, and research.
I was honored and humbled to phone-bank for someone like Clinton. I made these calls with pride and conviction, and I made them as an expatriate in Switzerland, where I'm a particle physicist at CERN's Large Hadron Collider, the biggest science experiment ever mounted. Every day at CERN I work with hundreds of brilliant women and men of all races, languages, physical abilities and sexual orientations, around 12,000 scientists from over 70 countries and 120 different nationalities. A project like the LHC wouldn't be possible without this diversity. Big science is necessarily inclusive. The Higgs boson was not discovered by just one people-group.
A project like the Large Hadron Collider is as much a social experiment as it is a scientific one. Our ability to accelerate protons around a 27-km tunnel, smash them together at the highest energy humans have ever used in a collider experiment, and then analyze petabytes worth of data would be impossible if my fellow physicists and I couldn't trust each other. If we couldn't be patient and understanding. If we couldn't resolve conflicts peacefully. If we couldn't stop, pause, consider the perspective of a colleague from a completely different social system, and then work to bridge any and all apparent cultural divides because we are not just physicists, but humans.
To be a scientist at the LHC, searching for evidence of dark matter and miniature black holes, requires extensive experience with both quantum field theory and with the tools of multi-cultural empathy. Riding home on the tram after a long day at CERN one is as likely to see a colleague reading Leïla Slimani or James Baldwin as writing a research paper about supersymmetry on their laptop.
I made phone calls for Hillary Clinton because she understands that society can only succeed and thrive when we prioritize not just science education but the arts and humanities as well.
I also made these calls as a scientist working to prevent an anti-science, anti-logic, anti-intellectual, racist, misogynist, xenophobic, sexual assaulting, sociopathic proto-fascist—a person whose attitudes, statements and temperament are almost perfectly diametrically opposed to everything represented by scientific inquiry; a person who has called global warming a Chinese hoax, thinks light bulbs cause cancer and that vaccinations cause autism—from becoming president.
Science is openness. Science only works because we encourage and in fact require other scientists—of different races, classes, creeds, attitudes, perspectives; scientists who are *not* us—to look critically at our research, to ensure that it withstands scrutiny. Science stalls and fails when it's not allowed to pursue truth wherever it may be and when it's limited to a small number of like-minded voices working in a monocultural echo chamber. Science is diversity.
Donald Trump is the antithesis of science.
My 450 phone calls may have helped, however slightly, achieve the historic event of a woman winning the popular vote in a U.S. presidential election for the first time—an achievement no one can ever take away—but they did not prevent her bigoted, anti-science opponent from attaining the presidency.
And while there are many concessions and political politenesses being extended to this anti-intellectual misogynist this week—mostly from politicians, since that's their job—mine will not be one of them. I cannot and will not support Donald Trump, since he represents everything that science, at its core, is not.
To those who voted for Donald Trump, I urge you to consider that the greatest, proudest achievements of science—not just the discovery of the Higgs boson, but the Hubble Space Telescope, the sequencing of the human genome, the development of quantum mechanics, the International Space Station, the exploration of Mars, the verification of neutrino oscillations, and the discovery of gravitational waves—were only possible with the patient dedication and expertise of a multitude of people from all backgrounds and identities working together.
Science requires an eager embrace of diversity, inclusiveness and empathy to thrive and accomplish amazing things. Science requires curiosity, transparency, the candid admission of flaws and uncertainties, and the ability to correct a course of action when new information becomes available. Science is anti-authoritarian and is collaborative by nature. And the language used, attitudes expressed, and actions taken by Donald Trump are completely at odds with those necessary for science to soar and to ennoble humanity.
To those of you who did not vote for Donald Trump and who support the diversity, intellectual curiosity, openness and inclusiveness inherent to science and to a free society, our duty now is to work to counteract the upcoming situation in the U.S. Our duty now is to ensure that this is not, in any sense, a New Normal, but is the last, horrid flick of a dinosaur's tail before he and his poisonous ideas finally become extinct and we can continue the progress begun by our forebears who fought for universal suffrage, civil rights and rational inquiry.
But we will need to be extra vigilant. Extra careful. Organize harder than before. Remember that this was not a normal election. So we can't have a normal response. Words alone won't help. Actions will. As one, simple, almost trivial concrete example, one of the first things I did on Wednesday morning was to ensure that I have monthly donations going to NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and the ACLU. There are dozens of other organizations devoted to counteracting a Trump presidency that need help and money. I will redouble my efforts to recruit the next generation of particle physicists from all cultures, especially underrepresented or marginalized groups.
The GOP won't care that, due to the closeness of the race, there's no mandate. A mandate is what you can get away with. We must fight harder than them. We must pressure congress to ensure strong, comprehensive funding for basic science *and* the humanities. We must pressure the senate to block and fight retrograde Supreme Court nominees. We must celebrate down-ticket wins by legislators with new, fresh, inclusive perspectives who will be our watchpersons in government. Women of color in the U.S. Senate now number four: Kamala Harris, Mazie Hirono, Catherine Cortez Masto, and Tammy Duckworth, all strong, progressive voices. The next U.S. House of Representatives will contain even more Indian-American, Vietnamese-American, and LGBTQ women's voices, as well. And Ilhan Omar will be the first Somali-American Muslim woman in a state House of Representatives, in Minnesota. They will be the hands with which we dismantle this new, institutionalized bigotry and make it as temporary as possible. We must focus on carefully and incisively taking congress away from Republicans in the 2018 elections. And we must seriously open the discussion about getting rid of the Electoral College system.
Never forget that we are actually in the majority, since more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than voted for Donald Trump.
Never forget the 74-year-old woman in Arizona whom I talked to on the phone on Election Day who exclaimed, "Yes! I voted for Hillary first thing this morning!"
Never forget that more Americans voted for science, education, inclusiveness, openness, rights for all, compassion and optimism than voted for proud ignorance and bigotry.
Never forget that we actually had the historic experience of voting for a woman for president on Tuesday (although I sent in my absentee ballot weeks ago), as did 60 million people who have been anxiously and joyously waiting for this moment for decades.
And never forget that this historic event—a majority of Americans voting for a woman for president who has supported science, humanities, and education her entire career—will be nullified if we give up now.
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American, CERN, or the Ohio State University.