24 April 2017

The bizarre world wherein we march for science

Posted by Callan Bentley

I marched on Saturday.

In spite of the congested conditions in both the local atmosphere and my sinuses, I felt compelled to add my voice and presence to the March for Science, an event that was probably the first of its kind since the Enlightenment, aiming to push back against anti-science attitudes from the current occupant of the White House and his contemporaries on Capitol Hill. I tried to keep my message nonpartisan and positive. This is what I came up with:

My former student Maddy Rushing (interviewed on NPR here) also attended, and her sign was a lot funnier than mine:

We gathered with other friends and colleagues to stand up for rational thought, empirical evidence, and professional expertise. We advocated for supporting science through federal funding, and basing policy decisions on peer-reviewed study of tangible evidence. In our view, the Trump administration is dismissing critical scientific insights to the detriment of the United States and the planet Earth.

It was a delight to see so many like-minded participants, despite the nasty weather. I’ve read estimates that about 40,000 people attended the DC March, and that seemed about right to me. There were a LOT of people there.

I’ve never done anything like this before – but I’ve never been so motivated to defend something so near, dear, and vital before. There are many noble causes, but this was the first time I felt as if things were so far from normal that I needed to protest. I feel like the assertions we were giving voice to at the March for Science were things that should not have to be stated, much less defended or marched for. It should go without saying that we’re better off without infectious diseases, enabled by high-speed accurate digital communication, with foresight of coming threats. The world is a demonstrably better place because of scientific advances. I’m only alive because of science (seat belts, antibiotics, surgery). The rain that fell on the marchers was clean, thanks to the scientific study of atmospheric pollution (and legislative reaction to it). We knew the rain was coming, thanks to the scientific study of the weather, meteorology. To prepare for the rain, we donned Gore-tex jackets (a technology only possible thanks to science). The Jumbotrons on which we watched Michael Mann, Bill Nye, and Cara Santa Maria talk — and Jon Batiste play jazz (what a good choice!) — were another form of technology built using scientific principles.

…Even Carl Sagan joined us!

As rainy days go, it could hardly have been better. Here’s our posse, also including Robin Rohrback, James Blondell, and my colleague Ken Rasmussen:

Photo by Victoria Martin

I felt glad to have been able to contribute, and I was delighted to run into so many neighbors, colleagues, friends, and science celebrities there.

Donald Trump, did you hear us? Lamar Smith, did you hear us? In case you missed our show of support for evidence-based policy, I’ll be dropping you each a note in the mail later this week! 😉