Scientists are divided over whether the March for Science in Washington, D.C. will help or hurt science. The US science crisis is further complicated by a reactive society that’s in a state of perpetual outrage, fed by sensational, misleading news headlines, and a culture of extreme political correctness. The April 22, 2017 March for Science is one of many bandwagon movements that tries to hide its far left-leaning political agenda behind the mask of science – and not too many people are actually looking into the deeper agenda. It’s a superficial good idea plagued with mixed messages, deeper misleading premises, and identity politics agendas. We need a discussion that focuses on sound science, what it actually is, and how we improve it. The highest-quality of science occurs when people clear themselves of the fog of identity politics and emotion.
The March for Science
Can we have an honest discussion about the March for Science? There are some things that need to be said from a perspective of teaching and promoting science to the public. My life is all about science and technology so it would be great to talk about this march. I’m actually in the college classroom teaching high-quality science lessons to our future doctors, engineers, teachers, and other professionals. I wanted to share some thoughts that I haven’t seen communicated regarding the March for Science DC on April 22, 2017.
I see myself as left-leaning, but even I can be consistently honest and point out when people are being unreasonable or unscientific.
I’ve been concerned about the March for Science, ever since the idea first appeared on social media. It was a little more than coincidental and suspicious that it quickly gained momentum after the politically-charged Women’s March in DC on January 21, 2017. The March for Science’s Facebook page quickly grew to over 250,000 likes, seemingly overnight, which is unheard of for a ground movement, unless it just drew from the same previous social media crowd as the Women’s March. The leadership and backers were also kept secret, until recently, which was another red flag. There is no reason that the public leadership of a public science march should be secret. Over the past few weeks, there has also been obvious evidence of its political agenda – including attempts to inject identity politics and unscientific remarks (often deleted minutes later).
Marches can fill the need to be a part of something. People want to feel a part of something and the bandwagon effect seems to be an easy train to jump on, especially with the continuous fuel from social media and anti-Trump news sources.
A huge bandwagon effect is probably going to draw in real fish – and it did. Many legitimate scientists, colleges, universities, and organizations are throwing in their support for the April 22 March for Science event. Again, not looking past the surface, a March for Science sounds pretty cool. But you have to dig deeper, always question, verify claims, and make an informed decision – which is what a true scientist should do.
The bandwagon effect is also dangerous, especially when such large groups of people fail to see deeper than the surface. There’s a momentum for marches and organizers are capitalizing on it. How long will it last? There’s a beehive mentality among people that gravitate towards popular movements. If you don’t think and act like them, you get attacked (ironically similar to cult behavior, often easily identifiable in comment sections). Sometimes the truth just isn’t popular with the general public. Sometimes you just can’t reason with unreasonable people. We should know the agenda and leadership of a group before participating or associating with it. It seems as if support was so blind and so fast that it didn’t have time to properly vett the movement and dig deeper into its agenda. At least, we should try to understand why injecting identity politics into science is so damaging (in the short and long-term).
It seems “activist” groups are hijacking the good name of science to further their own political agenda. Science is a great word to hide behind. Who can be against it? Talk about manipulative tactics. On the surface, the March for Science speaks of unity and science, but dig deeper to find the real outcome – confusion, division, identity politics, and a waste of time and money. Not only is this superficial, it’s dishonest.
Many others have been observing the disorganization and “leaking” of the real agenda behind the March for Science. The evidence is pretty clear that there is a very left-leaning agenda behind it. In fact, news sources have caught several Tweets from the Official March for Science Twitter account, which went as far as supporting ISIS terrorists, calling them “marginalized” because of science. Many of these Tweets were deleted shortly after they were posted.
This is misleading, unreasonable, hypocritical, and had nothing to do with the supposed promoting of science agenda it promised.
In February 2017, the March for Science leadership assured everyone this march wasn’t political (New York Times).
Suddenly, they announce it actually is political… and they don’t care who disagrees. The manipulative political tactic (when you have no basis for your opinion) is to call anyone that you disagree with: a racist, homophobe, deplorable, white supremacist, misogynist, etc. These are not scientific arguments at all, just baseless and illogical personal opinion derived from extreme political ideologies.
I’ve always wondered who has all the time in the world to nitpick at irrelevant things (or things that don’t exist). Meanwhile, most scientists continue to work, are too busy for identity politics, and you rarely even hear from them or know their names. The media doesn’t interview them and most people don’t care what they do in the lab. Most of these “movements” and ideologies are pushed by people that are not actually practicing sound science. In fact, many activists have such little understanding of science that they just replace science with their own political ideology of what it should involve — which is why we have a science education crisis today. Legitimate science issues deserve attention, effort, and time, but not desperate attempts to grasp at straws.
Many on social media have expressed concern about the agenda behind the March for Science.
Some say people could have spent money on taking a class, buying science books, joining a science organization, or cleaning up their local community, not buying t-shirts, pins, and other stuff that requires a huge carbon footprint and gives no long-term return on investment.
People are being misled by some of the “movements” claiming to be pro-science. There are many false premises suggested by the people leading and those blindly supporting these “marches” for science.
Before we even discuss false premises, let’s discuss what science actually is…. Ironically, I don’t see any explanation for what science is and involves during the whole time the March for Science was promoted.
What Is Science?
What kind of pro-science movement forgets to discuss what it actually means? There is no other process on Earth that has resulted in such utility as that of modern science. Science is currently the only proven way (method) we can learn about our past, present, and future. We call it “sound science” when something is consistently scientific. A major part of sound science is that legitimate research must be reproducible. This also means that just because something appears in an academic journal doesn’t automatically make it science (fact).
This what science actually is… a process (or method) with these key elements: In order to be considered “science” or “scientific” research must have: (1) observable evidence/data, (2) a testable theory with the ability to verify/reproduce results/confirm on it a consistent basis, (3) predictability, (4) quantifiability, and (5) clearly defined terminology. These are the key elements of modern science – they must all be present together. You’re not doing science, if you’re operating without all of them together.
Sound science is why there was a right/wrong answer on your high school physics test. It’s not about how you feel (subjectivity), it’s about the scientific method, evidence, facts, empirical data, demonstrable results, verification, consistent replication, etc. (objectivity). There’s no in between, “hard” or “soft” or “sort of” science. Either you’re practicing science or not – it is or it isn’t. There is only one science. Sound science is best preformed absent of political, religious, financial, and other personal biases (unscientific things that can unevenly sway you), which could manipulate data and the results.
People can’t recognize pseudoscience, especially if they don’t know what science is. Knowing what’s involved in sound science will help you filter through garbage political agendas and the false premise they’re often built on.
The False Premises of March for Science
1. The notion that the state of science was just perfect until Donald Trump came along in January 2017 is just false. If you read the Twitter account of March for Science, it’s mostly anti-Trump statements, which seem to more than suggest that science was perfect until Donald Trump became president.
The truth is science is facing difficulties, as a result of identity politics, biases, and other junk coming from both Democrats and Republicans. Science wasn’t in a perfect state during the previous administrations, frankly decades – especially the medication and psychiatry industry. Look at the overwhelming evidence of rampant junk science, overprescription, largest cases of pharmaceutical industry fraud, fraudulent journal articles, amount of people hooked on legally prescribed drugs, etc.
Some sources estimate 60-80% of the American public are scientifically illiterate – a problem that goes back decades before Trump became president.
It’s disingenuous and misleading to act as if science was just perfect until Trump came along or that it’s only under threat from Republicans.
2. “Science, not silence.” Since when were a majority of practicing scientists silenced? This is a very misleading premise and makes ignorant people think we’re operating in 1930s Nazi Germany. Trump may be far from scientific, but he’s not Hitler and scientists don’t have to be silent.
As someone that has studied 1930-1940s history, and has actually toured death camps in Poland in-person, I can assure everyone that the American science community today is absolutely not like Nazi Germany in the 1930s. In general, scientists are free to speak – and they often do.
The idea that we are in a state of silence is actually is a slap in the face to millions of practicing scientists, such as myself. We spend extra time doing free public events to communicate science with the public. We spend extra time writing blog articles to share science and our findings to the public for free. We spend extra time answering questions on forums for free. If people care so much about speaking about science – beyond a superficial popular movement, such as the March for Science – why not support us before/after? Where were they in 2012, 2007, 2016, or 2015?
People march for one day and act like they care, but how did you support or care about science before today? Did they volunteer regularly for science? Did they take a science course? Did they donate to science? Did they regularly like or share a scientist’s website or social media? Did you regularly tell a scientist thanks? If they agree with us on climate change, did they turn off lights, use energy efficient appliances, get a smaller car/travel less, recycle, and support those of us sharing climatology knowledge?
I spend thousands of dollars per year, out of my own pocket, to add to enhancing the learning experience for my students. I want my students to get the best education, to demonstrate science in action, and to practice what I preach. Where is the effort – beyond superficial – for people that are so suddenly vocal about “science, not silence”?
More scientists need to speak out against pseudoscience and superficial political hijackings of science, regardless of which side of the political isle it comes from.
The notion that there is a gag order on science is total garbage.
For example, I was recently asked a question by a friend that follows a very anti-Trump news source that told him Donald Trump “banned American science” and that he ended “climate change” and that the “world was coming to an end because of him.” This is all sensational political garbage that people should stop eating up, regardless of who tries to feed it to you. There sure is a strange wave of mass hysteria going around.
Donald Trump does indeed seem to have many unscientific opinions, but that does not mean science stops and the end of the world is here.
Donald Trump didn’t (and can’t) ban science or ideas. Donald Trump isn’t going to “stop” climate change. Science will continue forward, regardless of whether Trump supports it or not. Nature will continue, regardless of a president, leader, person on TV, or what a news source says. People need to calm down and separate fact from blind emotion and hysteria.
You know how you can help promote science? Vote for scientifically literate leaders at all levels of government. Support scientific blogs, news sources, organizations, and podcasts. You don’t have to wait for a march to do your part – and your part should be more than just one day of pretending to care. Note: Many people do legitimately care about science (and are sincere), but far too many are just pretending on a superficial level. Many people will have good intentions with this march, but the problem is the overall agenda of its leadership and attempts to inject identity politics into science.
If you really believe science is our future, you should put a hefty investment into it. You can also help by enhancing your own knowledge of science. Take classes, read, and listen to different opinions. Let your political biases go and just focus on science itself.
Stop spreading pseudoscience on social media. Check facts before you spread misinformation and hysterical claims. Embracing science is something individuals must do. Remember, a country is just a large group of individuals. True change starts with you! America will be better off when it fully embraces science.
3. True diversity should be natural, dynamic, and not forced or driven by quotas. A good scientist isn’t determined by the color of their skin or their gender identity. Science could care less about subjective things. Candidates for school and graduate scientists should be judged by the content of their character, and their knowledge, skills, and abilities, not skin color, political affiliation, or gender identity.
Further, the idea that science should “get rid of white males” is blatantly racist – and this regressive thinking needs to be called out for the racist and sexist ideology that it represents. There is no place for identity politics in sound science.
4. Objective scientific thinking is NOT compatible with social subjective thinking and norms (don’t pretend that it is). Historically, since people were rooted in ignorance, emotion, religion, and tradition, they were often outraged by true science discoveries. Imagine the outrage when early scientists let the cat out of the bag that Earth wasn’t the center of the universe in the heliocentric model.
Identity politics, religion, tradition, ignorance, blind outrage, knee-jerk reactions, digital lynch mobs, and willful ignorance are all dangers to the sound science community. These biases can manipulate research findings and distract the public – damaging the trust of science and scientists – further dividing an already divided nation.
If you think objectively and embrace science, it means you should be willing to change your mind on important issues. You should make informed decisions centered on evidence-based science, not whether your favorite Democrat or Republican figure told you to think that way.
5. The notion that scientists are being blocked from the public is false. The people just aren’t interested, which means it’s the public’s own fault. The general public should demand and support actual competent scientists to be regularly booked on news media shows, TV shows, appear in movies, on talk radio, your favorite websites, etc.
The truth is, the bulk of the American public is interested in who’s winning American Idol, football, or what’s going on with the Kardashians, instead of anything about science. Science is more than a trendy 140 character Tweet, t-shirt, or catchphrase. How many shows involve actual credentialed scientists? How many movies focus on sound science? How many journalists or news anchors are scientists? How many talk show figures are scientists? How many members of Congress are scientists?
Imagine how accurate news stories about science topics would be… if there was an actual scientist writing or discussing it with the public.
Change starts with the individual. The American public has demonstrated its power before, primarily by contacting advertisers and with their money. Stop supporting pseudoscience. Turn off news media that doesn’t bother using actual scientists to discuss science matters and don’t support their advertisers. Imagine how much more informed our public would be… if this happened.
Support science by demanding that it be given adequate attention on TV, websites, podcasts, blogs, and radio.
It’s strange to see a huge double standard among the public. They will get outraged by random things on YouTube, even willing to drop what they are doing, drive hundreds or thousands of miles away, and even give up a weekend for this march. Meanwhile, their local community is crumbling, there are homeless veterans in their backyard, obesity is killing millions, legal overprescribed drugs are killing millions, taxes are high, the economy is poor, people are struggling, millions die from air pollution, endless foreign wars continue, the drug war continues, junk science is rampant, millions of children go to bed hungry, our K-12 education system is a failure, and we have a shortage of competent science, technology, engineering, and math experts among US citizens. Where is the outrage over these issues? Why aren’t people giving these issues any attention? Where is the march for these issues?
Nearly all of our problems are a matter of our lack of embracing sound science. Imagine the progress we could make by more citizens fully embracing science – leaving divisive identity politics and political correctness behind. Science is critical for our lives, economy, productivity, national security, and future — it deserves our attention.
Regardless of your career, your life depends on a healthy science community. Everything you use, everything that makes your life comfortable, and everything you take for granted came from science. Science is awesome. Science deserves your attention and time.
A march doesn’t change science. In an age of global social media, the argument that a march raises awareness of anything is weak — especially when the movement is built on identity politics, sensationalism, subjectivity, and personal opinion.
We can do better than this. We need to do better.
We can come together, if we fully embrace science. Nothing is perfect, but by injecting our political agendas with the tactic of hiding them behind the mask of science is just superficial, disgusting, and dishonest. Science is a consistent and universal process of discovery, verification, repetition, classification, objectivity, and quantifiability. Science applies to everything and everyone – it’s basically the best way to make informed decisions.
If you decide to go to the march, focus on science, leave politics and your personal opinions out of it. At least you will get outside and exercise. Don’t give anyone forcing identity politics on others the time of day. Make sure things don’t get violent, there’s no need for it. Maybe watch something about science on YouTube after the march. Read something that gets (and keeps) you interested in science. Support your local scientists. Be skeptical, question everything. Live long and prosper.
Republicans and Democrats, if they truly support science, need to come together and listen to the actual science community. Political ideologies are not a replacement for sound science. Science will give us much more than any failed political ideology could ever imagine to accomplish.
We are products of long-term evolution and it’s amazing that we’ve discovered so much about ourselves and our surroundings. Science has saved countless lives and we enjoy easy living today because of it. Every scientist has a story and some even gave their lives to further science.
I’m skeptical and not alone in my sentiments. Is this even a march about science? The Trump administration totally ignored the Women’s March, why not this one too? You can also check out some of Lawrence Krauss’s thoughts. He has a nice blog post on Scientific American about some concerns with this March for Science and its long-term impact.
It just looks like this march will not accomplish anything. After just a few days — it will likely be forgotten. The obvious attempt to turn science into a left-leaning entity will just further divide an already divided nation. Maybe people could have done something better with their time? Let’s hope more good than bad comes out of this March for Science event…
We should not be superficial with our attention to or investments in science.