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FAREED ZAKARIA GPS
The President's First Overseas Trip;Discussion of U.S. Understanding of Africa.; A Look at Increasing Interest of U.S. Students in Science; Remembering the Victims in Manchester. Aired 10- 11a ET
Aired May 28, 2017 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[10:00:19] FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN HOST: This is GPS, the GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE. Welcome to all of you in the United States and around the world. I'm Fareed Zakaria.
Today on the show, we'll tackle the president's whirlwind trip. Saudi Arabia, Israel, Rome, Taormina, and Brussels. The highlights, the low lights and the swirling scandals that are awaiting him back home. I have a terrific panel.
Also, it's commencement season. And once again, there is a diversity that is absent on college campuses. The diversity of thought. I'll tell you about the silencing of conservative voices.
And deep into the heart of Africa with one of its great modern-day western chronicles. Pulitzer Prize-winning Jeff Gettleman has put the continent on the front page of "The New York Times." Why does he say he loves this much-misunderstood continent?
Then, is science under attack under the Trump administration? That's what many of the president's critics say. But super scientist Brian green just wants to make science cool again. And he's doing just that.
But first, here's my take. This week's bombing in Manchester was another gruesome reminder that the threat from radical Islamic terrorism is ongoing. And President Trump's journey to the Middle East illustrated yet again how the country central to the spread of this terrorism, Saudi Arabia, has managed to evade and deflect any responsibility for it.
The facts are well known. For five decades Saudi Arabia has spread its narrow puritanical and intolerant version of Islam, originally practiced almost nowhere else, across the Muslim world.
Osama bin Laden was Saudi as were 15 of the 19 terrorists of 9/11. And we know through a leaked e-mail by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in recent years, the Saudi government, along with Qatar, has been providing clandestine financial and logistical support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.
Saudi nationals make up the second-largest group of foreign fighters in the Islamic State. And by some accounts the largest in the terrorist group's Iraqi operations.
ISIS draws its beliefs from the Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi version of Islam, as the former imam of the kingdom's grand mosque said last year, ISIS, quote, "exploited our own principles that can be found in our books. We follow the same thought, but apply it in a refined way."
Saudi money is now transforming European Islam. Leaked German intelligence reports show that charities closely connected with government offices of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, are funding mosques, schools and imams to disseminate a fundamentalist, intolerant version of Islam throughout Germany.
In Kosovo the "New York Times'" Carlotta Gall describes the process by which a 500-year tradition of moderate Islam is being destroyed. "From their bases, the Saudi-trained imams have propagated the supremacy of Sharia law as well as ideas of violent jihad," she writes.
Saudi Arabia's government has begun to slow many of its most egregious practices. It is now being run de facto by a young intelligent reformer, Deputy Crow Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who appears to be refreshingly pragmatic. But so far the Saudi reforms have mostly translated into better economic policy for the kingdom, not a break with its powerful religious establishment.
Trump's speech on Islam seemed to zero in on the problem when he said --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three -- safe harbor, financial backing and the social standing needed for recruitment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAKARIA: But Trump, it turns out, was talking not about his host, Saudi Arabia, but rather, Iran. Now, to be clear, Iran is a destabilizing force in the Middle East and supports some very bad actors. But it is wildly inaccurate to describe it as the source of jihadi terror.
According to an analysis of the Global Terrorism Database by Leif Wenar of King's College, 94 percent of deaths caused by Islamic terrorism since 2001 were perpetrated by ISIS, al Qaeda and other Sunni jihadists.
Iran is fighting those groups, not fueling them. Almost every terror attack in the West has had some connection to Saudi Arabia.
[10:05:06] Virtually none has been directly linked to Iran. Trump has adopted the Saudi line on terrorism, which deflects any blame from the kingdom and redirects it towards Iran. The Saudis dazzled Trump's inexperienced negotiators with attention, arms deals, and donations to a World Bank Fund for women that Ivanka Trump is championing even though Trump demanded in 2016 that the Clinton Foundation return money from the Saudis who, quote, "want women as slaves and to kill gays," unquote.
In short, the Saudis played Donald Trump. America has now signed up for Saudi Arabia's Middle East policy, a relentless series of battles against Shiites and their allies throughout the region. That will enmesh Washington in a never-ending sectarian struggle, fuel instability, and complicated ties with countries like Iraq that want good relations with both sides. But most important, it will do nothing to address the direct and ongoing threat to Americans. Jihadi terrorism.
I thought that Trump's foreign policy was going to put America first, not Saudi Arabia.
For more, go to CNN.com/fareed and read my "Washington Post" column this week. And let's get started.
We are going to dig deeper into all of the president's trip this week with our all-star panel. Richard Haass is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of the terrific book "A World in Disarray." He and Anne-Marie Slaughter were both directors of policy planning at the State Department. She is now president and CEO of the think tank New America. Ian Bremmer is the president of the Eurasia Group, a global risk consultancy, and Matthew Kroenig is an associate professor of government at Georgetown and its School of Foreign Service.
Matthew, I'm going to start with you because I am guessing that you are going to be the most sympathetic to Donald Trump. And so I'm going to engage in a little bit of a throated action here. Tell me, in your view, how has Donald Trump's trip gone so far?
MATTHEW KROENIG, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, overall, I think it's been a real success. You know, early on, many people thought this was going to be an isolationist administration. And I think what this trip shows at the broadest level is that that's not the case. The administration is very much engaged in the Middle East, in Europe. Two of the most important geo-strategic regions for the United States, following important outreach to Asia early in the administration.
Second, we've seen that the administration has been able to stay on message. The trip was orchestrated and carried out very well. You know, even some critics early on -- I'm sorry, even supporters of the administration, including myself early on did criticize the administration for message discipline, having a hard time sticking to a core strategy. And I think here, we've seen the administration has stuck to its message on this trip. You might not like the message. But they've stuck to it.
And then third and finally, I think we've seen a real improvement over the previous administration in some areas including, most notably, in the Middle East, where Trump was welcomed by Israel, by Saudi Arabia. You know, the Obama administration left a lot of ambiguity as to where
it stood in the region. And the Trump administration has cleared that up. They're showing that they stand strongly with Israel, strongly with traditional partners in the Gulf, and against our common enemies like Iran and radical groups in the region.
ZAKARIA: Anne-Marie, I was struck by the fact that, you know, at one level, the optics were the president of the United States was palling around and supporting a bunch of Arab autocrats, including the Saudi monarchy, which is really a medieval monarchy, and when he got to Europe, to our traditional democratic, Western allies, he was awkward, he was hectoring them, he lecturing to them. It did seem almost like there was a kind of inversion.
ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NEW AMERICA: It did. It was a -- it was almost a flip of the way the United States normally thinks about its interests. It was also, I think, actually the first run of what I think will be his new national security strategy. He announced this was principled realism. And what he meant by that was we are not going to lecture you, you know, we want partners not perfection. But we are going to stand with you to pursue our common interests and values.
And then he talked about our common values, religious pluralism, upholding women. He is standing in Saudi Arabia, where if you convert from Islam, that's punishable by death, you can't practice any other religion.
[10:10:04] And it ranks 141st out of 144 countries on oppression of women. So he does that in the Middle East. Then he goes to Europe, where countries do share our values and he -- as you said, he hectors them. He essentially in many ways sews doubts still about whether we are firm NATO allies.
ZAKARIA: Richard Haass, you've long been considered a realist. But you have argued that realism has a limit in the Middle East because the problem is, many of these countries like Egypt, like Saudi Arabia, are breeding a certain kind of instability or terrorism in the long run.
RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Absolutely right. And the reason to talk about the quality or nature of these societies is not to make points in principle. These are societies that are generating the bulk of contemporary terrorism. If you had come in from Mars you could have been forgiven for thinking that Iran was somehow the principal originator of al Qaeda and ISIS and all these other groups. And the answer is it's not.
The Saudis -- it's come out of Saudi Arabia. A lot of the recruits. Saudi money has been behind it for years. Saudi preachers and religious schools have clearly had a terrible effect, not just in the Middle East, but essentially in the entire Islamic world, even in some cases in the United States. And that was missing.
So the reason to talk about those issues, again, is not simply to make points that we want to make Saudi Arabia Switzerland. Instead if we have a strategic concern about terrorism, unless you cut off the recruits, you will not get at the core of terrorism. So that's where I thought the president had a disconnect.
ZAKARIA: What was your reaction to this -- you know, the two parts of it, the Arab world and Europe?
IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Well, completely transactional. I mean, Trump is prepared to have good relations with people that are democrats that are going to make them look good, like with Japan's Prime Minister Abe. But when you talk about this trip, presidents usually go to Canada or Mexico first. Trump was absolutely right not to do that. There would have been big demonstrations. There are problems on climate, on immigration, on trade. Instead he went first to the two countries, the two American allies, whose leaders were happiest to see the back of President Obama.
They were delighted to see Trump. Trump is not going to talk about human rights. He, you know, going to want personal relationship with Netanyahu and the family. And you know, sort of against Iran, which makes both of them happy. That was close to a homerun for Trump.
Then unfortunately he has to go to talk to some traditional U.S. allies in Europe, who actually support multilateral institutions that the United States has historically not only created but has engaged with because of shared values that Trump doesn't particularly care about.
So of course what would have been the easiest part of the trip for just about any president that any of us knows turns out to be the most problematic. And the body language, the emotions, with people like Macron, with Merkel, was absolutely disastrous.
But I will tell you, the hardest part of this trip for him, the hardest leg, is the next one when he's going back to the United States because ultimately that's where things are getting really nasty for him.
ZAKARIA: Matthew, let me ask you. Are you optimistic, as he seemed to be -- which seemed to me a little bizarre because I couldn't understand the basis for it, that there was going to be peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians?
KROENIG: Well, I'm not terribly optimistic. It's a very difficult situation as we know. I do think there may be an opportunity here, though. You know, one of the problems historically has been that the Palestinians have been unwilling, really, to engage directly with Israel. They've been trying to internationalize the problem to put pressure on Israel. And so I think if the Trump administration is able to work with traditional partners in the region, with Israel, and put pressure on the Palestinians with these regional partners, there may be an opportunity to bring the Palestinians to the negotiating table and restart a dialogue.
Again there are many other obstacles there so I wouldn't hold my breath. But I think there may be the opportunity to restart some kind of negotiations. ZAKARIA: OK. I'm going to get Richard Haass' take on that in a
moment. But we will be back. Also to talk about the president and the Pope when we come back.
[10:17:47] ZAKARIA: And we are back with Richard Haass, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Ian Bremmer and Matthew Kroenig.
Richard, before the break, we were just talking about how Trump seems -- and he's been continuously optimistic about peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Do you understand this? What is behind this strange optimism?
HAASS: From his mouth to God's ear. But I don't think God is listening on this one. I think for him, it's the deal par excellence and somehow if you can do it, it would reinforce his whole persona. But it's not going to happen. The parties are not ready and able to make significant compromises. This is true of Israel as is the Palestinians. And just in case I'm wrong, and I'm wrong all the time, glad to admit it, it wouldn't affect anything except Israelis and Palestinians.
The idea that the Israeli-Palestinian issue somehow unlocks the Middle East, that it's going to do a lot about Syria, or Libya, or Yemen, or what else, Saudi Arabia, or Lebanon, go around the region, it's not. So it's become a local dispute and I think essentially intractable for the foreseeable future.
ZAKARIA: Anne-Marie, what did you make of the optics and the substance between the president and the Pope? The exchange of those two gifts. The Pope giving him his letter on climate change.
SLAUGHTER: I thought it was interesting that the Pope really was playing a political role. I expected the Pope to talk about walls. They had fenced back and forth during the campaign. The Pope had really said, you know, walls are not Christian. He could have done that. But instead, he knows -- I think the Pope knows, as we all do, there's real debate in the White House about whether the U.S. should pull out of the Paris Climate agreement. And so the Pope focused on an issue where he, like many European leaders, thought he might have headway.
He gave Trump all the -- you know, the prestige and the good press of a meeting with the Pope. It mattered to him. And then he hands him this encyclical about the planet. So I thought it was deft politics on the Pope's part.
ZAKARIA: Matthew, quickly, did you think that the -- does the Vatican thing matter? Or is it just kind of, you know, trivia?
[10:20:02] KROENIG: Well, with all due respect to the Pope, I think it probably was the least important leg of the trip. But more than trivial, and you know, I think they basically agreed to disagree. But there may have been a meeting of the minds on one issue. You know, the Trump -- the Pope talked about peace. And when Trump was leaving the meeting, he referred seemingly to that point about peace, said, I listened to what you had to say. And Trump did talk a lot on the campaign about peace through strength. Maybe not what the Pope had in mind. But there may have been a meeting of the minds there on the importance of peace and stability in the world.
ZAKARIA: Net-net, Ian, does Trump come out of this looking more presidential when he comes back? You indicated he's coming back into some hot water.
BREMMER: Sure. Look, he's not presidential. He is the president. This is by far the least capable, least coherent president we've ever had on foreign policy. He does have a lot of capable people around him on the team. But the thing that disturbs me perhaps going forward is that they weren't playing much of a role. The National Security Adviser McMaster wasn't in key meetings, for example. Tillerson in London, you know, wasn't attending key meetings with the president in Europe. Jared Kushner has been critical on foreign policy, now comes back a day early to an investigation which is active.
You know, in a year's time, we haven't -- all the crises that have happened so far since Trump has been president have been self- inflicted. Nothing big has happened yet in the world, thank God. That's not going to continue. Now if it does and those people are still there around him, I'd feel better. But if it does in a year's time, six months time, and people like McMaster and Mattis, and Jared Kushner are not there, are gone, are, you know, sort of really on the defensive, we're in a very different situation. Then I'm quite worried.
ZAKARIA: Ian Bremmer, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Richard Haass, Matthew Kroenig, pleasure to have you on.
We will be back. If you want to hear more insights and analysis from these smart people, go to CNN.com/fareed for a Web-only segment. Our version of overtime.
Next on GPS, why the students who walked out on Vice President Pence's speech at Notre Dame are part of a much larger and darker problem which is bad for America. The silencing of conservatives, next.
[10:56:13] ZAKARIA: Now for our "What in the World" segment. We're at the height of commencement season and across the nation people are imparting their words of wisdom to newly minted graduates. To name just a few, Joe Biden was at Harvard and Cornell, Oprah spoke at Skidmore and I was honored to give the commencement speech at Bucknell this year.
But at Notre Dame, where Vice President Mike Pence was giving the commencement address, the ceremonies were interrupted when about 100 students turned their backs on Pence and walked out in protest. A few weeks earlier, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was booed while giving the commencement address at Bethune-Cookman University.
I talked about this issue at Bucknell and I wanted to share those thoughts here. American universities these days seem committed to every kind of diversity except intellectual diversity. Conservative voices and views, already a besieged minority, are being silenced entirely.
The campus talk police have gone after serious conservative thinkers like Heather McDonald and Charles Murray, as well as firebrands like Milo Yiannopoulos and Anne Coulter. Some were disinvited, others booed, interrupted and intimidated. It's strange that this is happening on college campuses that promise to give their undergraduates a liberal education.
The world liberal in this context has nothing to do with partisan language but refers instead to the Latin root pertaining to liberty. And at the heart of the liberal tradition in the Western world has been freedom of speech.
From the beginning, people understood that this meant protecting and listening to speech with which you disagreed. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said that when we protect freedom of thought, we are protecting freedom for the thought that we hate. Freedom of speech and thought is not just for warm, fuzzy ideas that we find comfortable. It's for ideas that we find offensive.
There is, as we all know, a kind of anti-intellectualism on the right these days, the denial of facts, of reason, of science. But there is also an anti-intellectualism on the left. An attitude of self- righteousness that says we are so pure, we are so morally superior, we cannot bear to hear an idea with which we disagree.
Liberals think they are tolerant but often they aren't. In 2016, a Pew study found that Democrats were more likely to view Republicans as close-minded. But each side scores about the same in terms of close mindedness and hostility to hearing contrarian views. And large segments on both sides consider the other to be immoral, lazy, dishonest and unintelligent.
This is not just about tolerance for its own sake. The truth is, no one has a monopoly on right or virtue. Listening to other contradictory views will teach us all something and sharpen our own views. One of the greatest dangers in life whether it be in business or government, is to get trapped in a bubble of group think and never ask, what if I'm wrong? What is the best argument on the other side ?
As I said at Bucknell, there is also a broader benefit to society. Technology, capitalism and globalization are strong forces pulling us apart as a society. By talking to each other seriously and respectfully about agreements and disagreements, we can come together in a common conversation, recognizing that while we seem so far apart, we do actually have a common destiny.
Next on GPS, inside Africa with a man who has come to know it intimately.
[10:30:00] Jeff Gettleman, who has been the New York Times's East Africa bureau chief for over a decade, on what we get so wrong about this much maligned and much misunderstood continent. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ZAKARIA: This is a map of Africa. It shows just how big the continent really is. Into Africa you could fit China, India, the entire contiguous United States and much of Europe. Africa is home to 1.2 billion of the world's citizens. It's a resource-rich melting pot of religions, ethnicities, cultures and cuisines. It's a continent where natural beauty can literally take your breath away.
It is also home to some of the world's most dangerous places, most intractable conflicts and longest wars. Yet Africa still struggles to get time on the evening news or placement on the front pages of newspapers.
When my next guest, Jeff Gettleman, became the New York Times's East Africa bureau chief, he changed that at least as much as one reporter at one paper could. The Pulitzer Prize-winner, Gettleman, has held that post for the Times for 11 years. But he's been in love with the continent for many more. His new book is fittingly called "Love, Africa."
Welcome back to the show.
GETTLEMAN: Thank you, Fareed.
ZAKARIA: So when people think of Africa, they think -- the images, I think, are mostly still poverty and conflict. What do you think of when you think of Africa?
GETTLEMAN: I think of some of that, too. Unfortunately, the states in Africa are among the weakest, poorest states in the world, and that breeds all sorts of problems that we don't see anywhere else, like famines, for instance. Where else in the world do we have a problem of famine in the 21st century? In Africa, unfortunately, that's happening right now.
One of the bigger stories I covered was the Somali pirates. Everybody loved the pirates. They, kind of, represented modern-day outlaws. Where else do you have modern-day pirates to that extent like in Africa?
But there's -- there's so much more. And you, kind of, laid it out in your introduction. It is one of the most physically blessed parts of the world I've ever seen. There are so many places that look like nowhere else on earth, the pristine environment, the thick jungle, clear lakes and rivers, untouched.
And at the same time, I think a lot of people don't appreciate what -- the -- the spirit in Africa. And that's what really moved me as a young man and totally changed my life, was this idea that you could have some of the poorest people in the world, who have so much less than most of us, and they still had -- they were still so warm and open-hearted and connected with each other. And that was one of the things I took away from these early trips was a sense of empathy. I showed up as, like, a clueless 18-year-old, and I wasn't really, you know -- I wasn't connected to other people. And I left different. And you feel like that spirit of optimism in the face of
extraordinary, you know, kind of, material hardship has actually increased, right, in the last 10 or 15 years? Africa is on the move in some ways?
GETTLEMAN: It is. It's changed a lot. When I went there for the first time, it was incredibly different. I grew up -- from life at home -- I grew up in suburban Chicago. And when I stepped off the plane in 1990 in Nairobi, it was -- it was unrecognizable to anything I had experienced. That gap is closing.
So, for instance, there's now Domino's Pizza and Burger King and lots of big American brands. And in a way, that's -- that's diluting the character. And some of the things we're exporting aren't necessarily the best aspects of our culture. But that gap between Africa and the rest of the world is closing. But it's still huge. If you look at lifespan and the number of kids who die from preventable diseases, I mean, it's something like almost 1 million African kids die every year from malaria, which is essentially a mosquito bite. And that doesn't happen anywhere else.
ZAKARIA: Let's look at one of the places you've covered really well because it's a kind of intersection of many of these trends and it's a way of getting, I think, the world interested, which is Somalia.
Somalia is a place that is very poor, often very weak government, as you say, even has pirates. But it also has radical Islam. And, you know, explain to -- you know, did you understand why radical Islam was able to spread into Somalia, spending time there?
GETTLEMAN: That's a good question. Because we have this knee-jerk reaction to these places. And we see them as a threat. But in Somalia -- the world abandoned Somalia for many years. The U.S. tried to go in and help in the early 1990s; then there was the Black Hawk down incident. And then that left such a bad taste in our mouths that we didn't want to have anything to do with Somalia. And in that -- in those intervening years, this radical Islamic group came to power because they were the only ones, kind of, offering a vision. And people were starving for something, for some structure.
ZAKARIA: And they were offering stability, right? Al-Shabaab was able to actually, in some ways, stabilize the place?
GETTLEMAN: Very much so. And they used Islam -- it was some of these -- I met some of these Islamists in the early days. An they were -- they were quite open to meeting with American journalists, even to negotiating with the American government, and the U.S. government slammed the door in their face. But they were using -- they were turning to Islam for a very practical reason, which was Somalia is divided between clans. And these clans have been tearing up the country and fighting with each other. And the Islamists said, "Let's figure out something that unifies us. And that's our religion."
ZAKARIA: What gives you hope about Africa?
GETTLEMAN: I think the fact that people work really hard. I think the fact that that gap is closing with the rest of the world. And I think the world is more interconnected now than it's ever been. And the resources that -- you know, there are special elements in our cell phones that come from -- from Congo. And we're all connected now. Those guys are digging in these ditches, you know, for a few bucks a week. And they're producing something that we all need. And so I think that, as time goes on, we will feel more connected and
we'll have a little more empathy. And that's -- and Africa will become less of an "Other." And I think that's key because, for so many years, there's been all these stereotypes, going back to "Heart of Darkness" and so much that has been written. And that's what I -- that's what I, kind of, overcame. I was like, no; these are just -- this is just a part of the world that's -- that I can feel close to and feel accepted in, even though I'm very different from it.
ZAKARIA: Jeffrey Gettleman, pleasure to have you on.
GETTLEMAN: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Up next, from the mysteries of Africa to the magic of science. Brian Greene will actually make you understand what dark matter is. You'll want to hear this. It surrounds us, after all.
ZAKARIA: It's graduation season. And I would guess, if you polled kids coming out of college today, somewhere nearing 100 percent of them would tell you that their dream is to be Mark Zuckerberg. They all seem to want to start the next Facebook. But who wants to do the science that's going to make the next great advance in computing possible?
Who is able to do the science that propels Elon Musk's rockets or his cars? It's tough to get Americans interested in basic science past high school. I wanted to talk about this problem with Brian Greene. He is one of today's foremost scientists, a master of super-string theory, the host of Nova shows and the co-founder of the World Science Festival, which kicks off this week in New York City.
Brian Greene, pleasure to have you on.
GREENE: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: So what is behind this festival that you put on is the idea of getting people not just interested in science but actually excited about it. And it seems to me, just watching my own kids and their educational cohorts, it happens naturally when they're young. But then there's a point at which it starts to -- they start to lose the interest, partly because it seems hard.
ZAKARIA: You know, the physics starts to require calculus.
GREENE: Yeah, yeah.
ZAKARIA: So what do you do about that? GREENE: Well, I think the main thing is you want to have kids
experience the excitement of science, as opposed to what often happens in the classroom -- and look, there are many great science teachers around the country. But the experience of so many kids is science is about learning some facts, solving some equations, learning parts of the cell, having to spit it back on an exam, and then after you leave the science classroom, it's irrelevant to the rest of your life.
So the point of the festival is to change the experience of science to show that this is a dramatic story of discovery that we have been on for thousands of years. And it is a privilege and an exciting honor to be part of that journey, whether you're doing it on the sidelines or if you're actually pushing the boundary of understanding.
ZAKARIA: Do you think that people in America are, kind of, dangerously illiterate about science, that when we have public policy discussions that involve science, for example, on climate change, do you feel -- do you cringe when you hear the level of scientific discourse?
GREENE: Sometimes. And sometimes when I hear the level of scientific discourse coming out of this administration, it's shocking. But at the same time, studies have shown -- and this is hopeful -- that a wide spectrum of the public does have great respect for scientists. So what we scientists need to do is not beat people over the head with science, not say, "Hey, you don't get that; therefore you're daft or silly or stupid." The important thing is to bring these ideas out in a way that meets people where their head is at, where their heart is at, so they can take in these ideas and integrate them into a full world- view.
ZAKARIA: And again, it seems to me like the stumbling block is, as you say, not a lack of respect but just a sense that it's mystifying. You know, so, for example, I'll give you one that even I struggle with, dark matter.
ZAKARIA: I just don't understand it. It's one of these things where you're told, "OK, most of the universe is actually made up of dark matter, and we can't see it; we can't touch it; we can't feel it; we don't know, kind of, know what it does and we don't know why it exists."
ZAKARIA: So what am I to make of that?
GREENE: Well, that's actually a thrilling idea, if you can wrap your mind around it. So you mind spending 30 seconds on dark matter, just for the heck of it?
ZAKARIA: Yeah. GREENE: So when we observe galaxies, we find that they're spinning around at such a rate that stars on the edge should be flung outward, sort of, like water droplets on a bicycle wheel that's spinning fast. The water gets flung out. But the stars aren't getting flung out. Something must be holding them in. We don't see anything that can do that. But we know gravity has the power to hold things together. So we imagine that maybe there's some matter out there that we don't see, dark matter -- that's why we don't see it; it doesn't give off light -- and that matter is exerting a gravitational pull, holding those stars together in these spinning galaxies.
And when we make that hypothesis, it explains observations so spectacularly well that we begin to gain confidence that maybe the stuff that we haven't yet seen and we haven't yet touched or smelled yet, maybe it's real. So we build big detectors and we try to capture one of the dark matter particles. We haven't succeed yet, but I think that we will.
So this is a beautiful example of how observations drive rational thinking to explain the facts and ultimately verify it through observation and experiment that can be replicated. That is what science is. And that is what can get your heart pounding, when you realize that the human intellect can figure out things about the universe that you wouldn't expect, based on casual observation.
ZAKARIA: And when you think about the practical applications, sometimes they're huge and profound. But there's a long time lag, right?
ZAKARIA: I mean, you have quantum physics essentially leading to computing power. You have Einstein's theories leading to nuclear energy. But at first, the scientist is just trying to figure out, you know, what is happening in the world.
GREENE: Yes. But if people can grasp exactly what you just put your finger on, they can recognize why it is that basic fundamental science is the engine of innovation. Your example is perfect. Quantum mechanics was developed in the 1920s, right? If you would have asked one of the practitioners then "What's this going to be good for; why should we fund this," they would have said, "Well, this is curiosity- driven research; we want to understand how matter is put together, but I don't know that it's going to actually affect your life in any way."
But then you fast-forward 80 years, and the fact that you have a cell phone or a personal computer or any gadget that has an integrated circuit, which is just about everything, it all relies on quantum physics. Something like 35 percent of the gross national product ultimately emerged from quantum mechanics. So it shows you that basic fundamental science, over time, is what will drive innovation.
ZAKARIA: Just to explain that, so the reason it is, is because quantum is about sub-atomic. It's about stuff below the level of the atom.
ZAKARIA: And that's really what the -- a computer chip is.
GREENE: That's right. So your phone is working because electrons are going through tiny microscopic circuits. And we wouldn't be able to harness the motion of those electrons if we didn't understand the fundamental mathematics that describes how they behave. And that's what quantum physics provides us.
So, you know, when you hear an example like that and then you see the budget that's been put forward by the administration, where we're proposing apparently to cut fundamental basic science research by something like 15 percent or 20 percent, you realize how incredibly short-sighted that is. Because you are cutting out the legs of the future if you're not going to invest in basic, fundamental, curiosity- driven research today.
ZAKARIA: Brian Greene, pleasure to have you on.
GREENE: Thank you.
ZAKARIA: Next on "GPS," we were all saddened by the terrible terror attack in Manchester. But something very special lifted the spirits of many Mancunians. And I think it will lift yours, as well.
ZAKARIA: We don't have time for a question this week. We'll work on a really tough one for next week, but this week's book of the week is "Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?" by Jonathan Haidt. It's drawn from Haidt's seminal book "The Righteous Mind," and it zeros in on a crucial problem in America today. Liberals and conservatives don't talk to each other, don't listen to each other, and they don't understand each other.
He explains why and he explains how to get out of this polarized trap. It's a Kindle book.
And now for the last look.
ZAKARIA (voice over): That was the British national anthem, "God Save the Queen," ringing out at a Yankee baseball game in New York City this week. Following this week's bombing and loss of life at a concert in Manchester, England, messages of condolence and solidarity poured in from around the world. The Union Jack colors were projected on famous buildings. World leaders expressed their shock and outrage. But it was one Mancunian -- that's the word for a person from Manchester -- who perhaps best expressed the resilience of this northern city.
Take a listen to poet Tony Walsh reading his poem entitled "This Is the Place." TONY WALSH, BRITISH POET: Because this is a place that has been
through some hard times, oppressions, recessions, depressions and dark times. But we keep fighting back with greater Manchester spirit, northern grit, northern wit, and greater Manchester lyrics. And there's hard times again.
And there's hard times again. There's hard times again in these streets of our city. But we won't take defeat. And we don't want your pity because this is the place where we stand strong together with a smile on our face, Mancunians forever, because this is the place, in our hearts, in our homes. Because this is the place that's a part of our bones. Because Manchester gives us such strength from the fact that this is the place we should give something back.
Always remember, never forget. Forever Manchester.
ZAKARIA (on camera): Following the senseless bombing of a venue that celebrates creativity and the arts, it is a reminder that it is often these exact things that can help us lift our souls in moments of despair. Go to cnn.com/fareed and watch this expertly read poem in full.
Thanks to all of you for being part of my program. I will see you next week.