General · Media

March for science

Earth Day April 22, 2017

The March for Science is the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.

Here’s the page for locations in California. And the page for the Los Angeles event:

MARCH FOR SCIENCE LOS ANGELES CELEBRATES THE CRUCIAL ROLES SCIENCE PLAYS IN DRIVING OUR ECONOMIC GROWTH, PRESERVING OUR ENVIRONMENT, AND PROTECTING THE HEALTH OF OUR CITIZENS. WE UNITE AS A DIVERSE, NONPARTISAN GROUP TO CALL FOR POLICYMAKERS TO CHAMPION AND FUND SCIENCE THAT UPHOLDS THE COMMON GOOD AND TO ADVOCATE FOR EVIDENCE-BASED POLICIES IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST AT LOCAL, STATE AND NATIONAL LEVELS.

Sean Carroll is one of the speakers for the LA event. On his blog he writes:

It would certainly be bad if scientists tarnished their reputations as unbiased researchers by explicitly aligning “science” with any individual political party. And we can’t ignore the fact that various high-profile examples of denying scientific reality — Darwinian evolution comes to mind, or more recently the fact that human activity is dramatically affecting the Earth’s climate — are, in our current climate, largely associated with one political party more than the other one. But people of all political persuasions will occasionally find scientific truths to be a bit inconvenient. And more importantly, we can march in favor of science without having to point out that one party is working much harder than the other one to undermine it. That’s a separate kind of march.

… This particular March was, without question, created in part because people were shocked into fear by the prospect of power being concentrated in the hands of a political party that seems to happily reject scientific findings that it deems inconvenient. But it grew into something bigger and better: a way to rally in support of science, full stop.

That’s something everyone should be able to get behind. It’s a mistake to think that the best way to support science is to stay out of politics. Politics is there, whether we like it or not. (And if we don’t like it, we should at least respect it — as unappetizing as the process of politics may be at times, it’s a necessary part of how we make decisions in a representative democracy, and should be honored as such.) The question isn’t “should scientists play with politics, or rise above it?” The question is “should we exert our political will in favor of science, or just let other people make the decisions and hope for the best?”

Democracy can be difficult, exhausting, and heartbreaking. It’s a messy, chaotic process, a far cry from the beautiful regularities of the natural world that science works to uncover. But participating in democracy as actively as we can is one of the most straightforward ways available to us to make the world a better place. And there aren’t many causes more worth rallying behind than that of science itself.

His essay “Marching for the Right to Be Wrong – What it means to protest in the name of science” in The Atlantic is basically the content of his speech at the LA march.

Poster image
March for science poster 2017
Poster image
March for science LA speakers

7 thoughts on “March for science

  1. Science literacy matters! March for Science posted this video on Facebook:

    March for Science with Neil deGrasse Tyson.
    Neil deGrasse Tyson asked us to share this video with you all today. He describes his piece, “Science in America” as containing what may be the most important words he has ever spoken. Happy marching! #marchforscience
    (Thank you to Redglass Pictures and StarTalk for making this)

    Regarding the political optics toward science these days, as a friend says, “Never saw this era coming when I was young!”

  2. The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science for the benefit of all people. Here’s a recent story published on their site: Holdren Outlines Ways to ‘Restore Science to Its Rightful Place’.

    The scientific community needs to more effectively speak out about the necessity of evidence-based policies, scientific integrity protections and public access to research to defend the role of science, said John Holdren, former White House science adviser, in a speech on the eve of the April 22nd March for Science.

    … Holdren said, scientists are already an interest group, one that happens to be devoted to its interest in scientific inquiry; science is already politicized because federal funding decisions governing research programs take place in a political arena in which Congress, the executive branch and stakeholders from all sides play leading roles; and, finally, scientists are most worried about the results of their work being lost, not their jobs.

    “We should get better at explaining science to laypeople, not just what we know and why it matters, but how we know it … and the imprudence of ignoring science,” said Holdren, who served as an assistant to the president for science and technology, a title that afforded him direct access to the president, during both terms of the Obama administration and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the same period. He now holds a dual professorship at Harvard University and serves as a senior adviser to the director at the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Mass.

    AAAS is among some 240 scientific and academic organizations that partnered with the March for Science, a non-partisan movement that aims to promote the use of science for the common good, including science education and the use of scientific evidence to inform public policy. The event that grew from social media conversations among scientists into a global movement is now scheduled to unfold in Washington and at least 608 satellite locations around the world.

  3. This Washington Post article provides some background on AAAS’ position on the March for Science: Why scientists are marching on Washington and more than 600 other cities.

    Rush Holt, head of AAAS, said there was initial hesitation about whether this was the kind of event a scientist ought to be joining but that members of his association overwhelmingly support the decision to participate.

    This is not simply a reaction to President Trump’s election, Holt said. Scientists have been worried for years that “evidence has been crowded out by ideology and opinion in public debate and policymaking.” Long before Trump’s election, people in the scientific and academic community raised concerns about the erosion of the value of expertise and the rise of pseudoscientific and anti-scientific notions. Science also found itself swept up into cultural and political battles; views on climate science, for example, increasingly reflect political ideology.

  4. Shawn Otto (author of The War on Science & Co-Founder and Producer of US Presidential Science Debates) just spoke on the live national feed.

    Winner of the MN Book Award for Nonfiction. “Wherever the people are well informed,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “they can be trusted with their own government.” But what happens when they are not? In every issue of modern society–from climate change to vaccinations, transportation to technology, health care to defense–we are in the midst of an unprecedented expansion of scientific progress and a simultaneous expansion of danger. At the very time we need them most, scientists and the idea of objective knowledge are being bombarded by a vast, well-funded, three-part war on science: the identity politics war on science, the ideological war on science, and the industrial war on science.

    The result is an unprecedented erosion of thought in Western democracies as voters, policymakers, and justices actively ignore the evidence from science, leaving major policy decisions to be based more on the demands of the most strident voices.

    Shawn Lawrence Otto’s provocative new book investigates the historical, social, philosophical, political, and emotional reasons for why and how evidence-based politics are in decline and authoritarian politics are once again on the rise, and offers a vision, an argument, and some compelling solutions to bring us to our collective senses, before it’s too late.

  5. Chapter 2 “The Politics of Science” of Sawn Otto’s book The War on Science discusses the interplay of science and politics. In particular, he addresses Sean Carroll’s point that “A favorite source of fretting and worrying is ‘getting science mixed up with politics.'”

    Otto talks about the disruptive nature of science as a source of knowledge and “the thorny intersection of science with traditional ideas, law, and politics.”

    At its core, science is a reliable method for creating knowledge, and thus power. To the extent that I have knowledge about the world, I can affect it, and that exercise of power is political. Because science pushes the boundaries of knowledge, it pushes us to constantly refine our ethics and morality to incorporate new knowledge, and that, too, is political. In these two realms — the socioeconomic and the moral-ethical-legal — science disrupts hierarchical power structures and vested interests (including those based on previous science) in a long drive to grant knowledge, and thus power, to the individual. That process is always and inherently political. — Otto, Shawn Lawrence (2016-06-07). The War on Science: Who’s Waging It, Why It Matters, What We Can Do About It (Kindle Locations 1005-1009). Milkweed Editions. Kindle Edition.

    I also like his point that “Politics … can be more accurately thought of as a box with four quadrants rather than as a linear continuum from left to right.” A diagram with Top/Bottom wings (vertical axes) ranging from Anti-authoritarian/Tolerant to Authoritarian/Intolerant and Left/Right wings (horizontal axes) ranging from Progressive to Conservative.

  6. While thinking about superstitious behavior, naïve realism, and hyper skepticism, I found this article on teaching critical thinking — Frontiers in Psychology, 29 March 2017.

    Sagan (1995) has promoted the tools necessary to recognize poor arguments, fallacies to avoid, and how to approach claims using the scientific method. The basic tenets of Sagan’s argument apply to most claims, and have the potential to be an effective teaching tool across a range of abilities and ages. Sagan discusses the idea of a baloney detection kit, … At a minimum, when students first learn about science, there should also be an introduction to the basics tenets of scientific thinking. — Redefining Critical Thinking: Teaching Students to Think like Scientists by Rodney M. Schmaltz, Erik Jansen and Nicole Wenckowski, Department of Psychology, MacEwan University, Edmonton, AB, Canada.

    Wiki:

    Science to Sagan is not just a body of knowledge but a way of thinking. Sagan claims that the scientific way of thinking is both imaginative and disciplined, bringing humans to an understanding of how the universe is, rather than how they wish to perceive it. He says that science works much better than any other system because it has a “built-in error-correcting machine.”

  7. This Scientific American blog post — “Evolution Is Still True, but …” (November 26, 2018), with subtitle “50 years after the infamous ‘monkey law’ was struck down, anti-evolution fanatics continue to fight it, in ever sneakier ways” — summarizes one of the challenges to the integrity of science education.

    November 12, 2018, was a date worth celebrating. It was the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Epperson v. Arkansas, which struck down a state law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in Arkansas’s public schools.

    In the wake of the Epperson decision, anti-evolution campaigners regrouped with efforts to “balance” the teaching of evolution in the public schools with various supposedly scientifically credible alternatives: biblical creation, creation science and intelligent design. None of these efforts survived constitutional scrutiny, with these various forms of creationism defeated in such cases as Daniel v. Waters (1975), McLean v. Arkansas (1982), Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) and Kitzmiller v. Dover (2005)—all citing the Epperson decision as a crucial precedent.

    That’s why the preferred strategy is now to belittle evolution, while remaining silent about any supposed alternatives.

    … in 2017, Gallup reported that acceptance of creationism is at its lowest point measured in 35 years, with only 38 percent of Americans believing that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.

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