As the March for Science in Washington, D.C., grows, so does its criticism.
This should be expected. Scientists are encouraged to look at even the most widely accepted statistic or finding and question it. So of course, as soon as the march, scheduled for April 22, was announced, people began to critically examine its message, mission and goals.
This critical examination has led to a better, more inclusive diversity statement and a clearer focus for the organizers who have seen their grassroots mission explode on social media.
But other critiques of the march — which asks scientists and those who support science to stand up and say that scientific facts aren’t partisan and that science should be considered when enacting policy — haven’t been so constructive.
The main argument against the march hinges on the idea that “science isn’t political.”
These naysayers argue that science needs to be seen as objective, so marching at a pro-science rally that is, effectively, opposing a presidential administration known for “alternative facts” runs counter the scientific hunt for objective evidence and truth.
A sign at the Women’s March in New York City.
Image: miriam kramer/mashable
After all, the critics ask, how can scientists purport to be “objective” if they are actively involved in a march supporting something which is seemingly politicized?
That argument sounds great, but it’s also bullshit.
Science is and has always been political
Building the atomic bomb? That was a political decision, implemented by scientists. Going to the moon? That too was a political decision that involved scientists at every step of the way. Where NASA goes next will also be a decision born of a mix between science and politics.
Why do you think there are such extremely skewed gender and racial balances in the physical sciences? Is it because women and people of color are somehow worse at math or physics? Of course not. It’s because of institutionalized racism and sexism, and you know what that goes back to? That’s right, you guessed it: politics.
Sure, the scientific process itself is meant to be separated from politics, but it isn’t, and can’t ever be, given the implications of scientific findings and ways that politics works its way into education and research funding.
Anyone who denies that fact is sticking their head in the sand, refusing to face up to reality.
Shouting down arguments by simply saying that “science isn’t political” will help no one combat the anti-science Trump administration in office now.
Instead, scientists must look out with clear eyes on a political situation that demands attention every day. Science is conducted by people of all different gender identities, races, abilities, nationalities, sexual orientations and backgrounds, so protecting science also means protecting the people that do it. Ostensibly, that is what the March for Science stands for.
If science weren’t politicized, we would have implemented measures to combat climate change back in the 1990s, or perhaps even earlier. If science weren’t already politicized, we would have kept on flying to the moon through at least the 1970s.
So yeah, it’s all well and good to say that science shouldn’t be political, but the reality of the situation is that it is.
Here’s the deal: If you’re a scientist who doesn’t want to go to the march in April because you think science shouldn’t be political, then fine, don’t go. But also, don’t pretend this means that science is somehow safe.
Sure, scientific inquiry should be immune from the whims of politicians. It just isn’t.
March for your damn job
If nothing else, under the Trump administration, those whims are going to threaten the jobs of scientists around the country.
Today, much of the science done in this country is conducted using taxpayer dollars given to organizations by the government. That money can evaporate — and jobs along with it — when administrations change their minds about what kind of science they think needs to be done in the country they govern.
Science faces an existential threat under the current administration. While science isn’t necessarily partisan in the best of times, the truth is looking more and more like a partisan issue these days.
President Trump has claimed that climate change is a hoax perpetuated by China and his recently confirmed administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency is a known climate denier. Trump has also perpetuated the myth that vaccines cause autism, a claim that has been debunked multiple times by peer-reviewed research.
While President Trump likes to make a fuss about all the great jobs he’s going to bring back to industrial towns, he certainly isn’t losing any sleep over the numerous scientists he will put out of work if his administration slashes funding to science agencies in the U.S.
The administration is reportedly planning to cut hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of funding at the Environmental Protection Agency, which would surely get rid of grants that keep scientists of all kinds employed.
Trump’s immigration ban also threatens research in the United States, as many international scientists are barred from entering the country and the risk of brain drain grows.
The administration is also rumored to be planning cuts at the Department of Energy, a hub of scientific activity not just centered on climate change but involved in physics research, supercomputing and a number of other scientific pursuits that employ thousands of people around the nation.
Although the March for Science may not change anything about what the Trump administration plans to do in the next four to eight years, it will at least show that scientists — and those who support them — are a sizable group that should not be invisible to those running our country.
Now is the time, if ever there was one, to stand up fight for science. If that doesn’t mean marching on Washington in April, don’t say it’s because science isn’t political. That ship has sailed.
Source:: Yahoo Science