April 23, 2017

The March for Science

Science-girl-with-ponytailThe March for Science took place in Washington DC yesterday, with other marches happening in many other cities around the world. It generated some controversy because - well, what isn't these days? It generated controversy primarily because some were worried that it would become politicized and turn into more of an anti-Trump demonstration than a pro-science demonstration. I can understand that concern. Some scientists and supporters of science undoubtedly voted for Trump. Some of those who did so probably still support him. I imagine they might not have felt particularly welcome at the march.

While I can understand the concerns about an overly politicized march and even empathize with those expressing them, that does not mean I agree with them. I really don't. As far as I'm concerned, any administration that denies climate science, puts creationists in positions of power, and proposes deep cuts to the budgets of federal agencies that fund scientific research is already politicizing science. I see nothing wrong with scientists, supporters of science, and members of the reality-based community at large pointing this out and demanding change. The march took place, at least in part, because many people believe that the scientific enterprise is being threatened by the Trump administration. They have a right to express their concerns and to rally public support for science. And frankly, I'm glad they are doing so.

Reasonable people can and will disagree about whether the March on Science was the best way to defend and/or promote science. It strikes me as a potentially valuable first step. To work, it will have to generate lasting effects in the form of increased willingness on the part of the public to engage in activism in defense/support of science. Scientists are not going to be able to win this fight on their own. Public support and activism will be needed.