Why I plan on attending the March for Science

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I wrote last time how I probably won’t be attending the People’s Climate March. The event seems more political than science based, plus it focuses on a ton of other issues that in my opinion have nothing to do with climate.

I’m pleased to say that from reading the stated goals of the March for Science, this event appears to be just the opposite. The organizers have focused on science itself and outreach to the general public. This is a far cry from a couple of months ago, when the stated goals of the March for Science included things like worker’s rights and immigration reform!

Not that those issues aren’t important, but they aren’t scientific issues. I make a point in my classes to tell people that as good as the scientific method is, it doesn’t always work for moral, ethical or political issues — for those, you need other ways of looking at things. I don’t see this as a bad thing, it just means scientists have an opportunity to work with people from other fields, including social sciences, humanities, law, religion, etc.

I covered some of these issues in my first blog post. I want to see scientists of all political stripes represented here.

I’m under no illusion that we won’t see leftist politics on display at the march itself. I see at least three reasons for this:

  1. The event was planned after Trump won and is at least partially in response to his administration;
  2. Many scientists, especially in the environmental field, which I expect to see prominently featured considering this takes place on Earth Day, depend on public financing and have a vested interest in big government;
  3. Perhaps paradoxically, the more educated someone is, the less likely they are to see the downsides to liberalism/socialism.

The first point doesn’t bother me at all. Although I still support president Trump, if his election manages to bring more attention to science that can only be a good thing. (Maybe I’ll do another post later on why an environmental scientist voted for Donald Trump).

The second part is a consequence of how science is funded in this country. I would love to see a discussion on the merits of public vs. private financing of science and the advantages to either approach. (One big advantage to private funding is that no politician can decide to delete your data or suppress your findings). Based on what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think this discussion is likely to take place at the March for Science. But that’s OK with me, I don’t expect to get everything I want at one event.

For the third part, I’m not sure what can be done about this — I don’t meet many scientists who have a strong interest in evaluating the pros and cons of socialism, at least not in my field. Most of my colleagues plan to work for universities, the government or NGOs anyway, so it’s easy to see private business as the enemy.

I don’t mind hearing liberal viewpoints so long as other opinions are not being silenced, and from what I’ve read so far it looks like the organizers have made an effort to make this event inclusive to everyone. I don’t think scientists have ever had their own day on Washington and I hope this can be a first step toward bigger and better things in the future.

There’s still a few things that seem out of place to me (for example, the United Auto Workers are listed under Partners, plus they’re still including 314 Action, which has a history of plagiarism I’ve documented here and here.) But, so far this seems to be about as good as I could have expected for a march designed to appeal to as many scientists as possible. I look forward to Marching for Science!

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