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The March For Science

I’ve had a number of questions about the March For Science that’s taking place tomorrow, so I thought I’d explain my position, for what that’s worth.

Overall, I find myself in agreement with this editorial at STAT. I am relentlessly pro-science, but this march leaves me a bit nonplussed, for several reasons. First, I’m not sure how large the “anti-science” constituency is – I know, I know, climate change and vaccines and GMOs and all the rest of it, but if you look at these people, most of them aren’t anti-science so much as people who think that they have better, more accurate science, or that science is just fine but it isn’t definitive in this case yet or has been corrupted, etc. Being “anti-science” is equivalent to saying “I believe in magic instead”, and there aren’t so many people waving that banner.

So a “March for Science” is inevitably going to be a march for something else, perhaps a whole list of things. One of those is a March for Science Funding, and I can certainly see where that’s coming from. Keep in mind, though, that the ridiculous budget proposed by the White House is a nonstarter, as are all presidential budget proposals. If you want to fight for science funding, you need to apply pressure to the appropriate members of the House of Representatives, as in telling them that this is a very important issue for you, and that it will decide your vote for them in the future, as well as deciding your political contributions and activity, etc. If members of the House hear a lot of that sort of thing – and not form letter emails or tweets, mind you, but actual individual calls – they pay attention. They’re all up for election next year. Those of you who live in districts represented by members of the House Budget Committee are especially valuable in this regard, and if you don’t know if your own representative is on it, now’s the perfect time to find out. This sort of thing will do far more than a march through the streets (and if you do march, be sure to follow through with this part, too).

Beyond funding, then, a March for Science will then turn into a march for all sorts of separate issues, and of making separate issues there is no end. This is a problem that any big-banner event has – everyone wants to tie their own cause to it, and you can end up with a pretty shaggy product. I’ve already seen a lot of different things attached to this march, some of which I agree with and some of which I’m not as sure about. I do try to keep politics out of science – data are data and facts are facts, ideally, and that’s what I think that we should strive for. Remember, attacks on scientific conclusions come from both ends of the political spectrum – it’s not science they’re attacking, but hearing things that they don’t like to hear. But fighting some of the shouting ignorance that’s going around by shouting at it doesn’t appeal to me, and I say this as an outspoken critic of the Trump administration, which I loathe.

I realize that these opinions are not necessarily widely shared, by readers of this site and others. That’s fine – I’m not telling anyone not to go march; I’m just saying why I won’t be there myself. In the end, I think back to the 2010 rally set up by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Over 200,000 people showed up for that one in DC, and there was so much news coverage. The crowds, the speeches, the seemingly endless number of funny signs. A few days later, the Republican Party gained 63 seats in the House, the largest such change since 1948, six seats in the Senate, and 680 seats in state legislatures, which broke the record set by the Democratic party in the 1974 post-Watergate midterms. I think it’s safe to say that most of the people at the Colbert/Stewart rally were not in favor of those things happening, but happen they did, and no number of amusing signs and air quotes slowed it down one bit.

So march for science, if that’s your thing. But keep your eye on the rest of the picture. If you’re trying to show support for science and science funding, remember to call your representatives after you get back home. If you’re trying to change minds about your favorite science-related issue, go ahead, but I think that there are probably more effective ways of doing it. And if you’re trying to send a message to the White House, you are absolutely wasting your time, because I fear that the current administration does not give a used napkin about any protest rally, by anyone, anywhere.

90 comments on “The March For Science”

  1. agesilaus says:

    Scientist should be generally apolitical. If you consistently support a political party’s opponent then you thrust yourselves into the political arena. Don’t be surprised if the party you opposed and is now in power remembers your opposition and react accordingly. Politicians have very long memories.

    Furthermore a lot of this noise is from groups which are hardly scientists in the first place, the so called social scientists are little better than witch doctors. The money wasted on them would be much better spent of real productive science.

  2. Sean says:

    The context for the March for Science perhaps could be focused around a single goal such as increasing budgets related to science. On the other hand, a vague goal perhaps is a plus since many groups can get on board and attach their separate issues as you mentioned.

    Although this march has political undertones it’s great seeing scientist come together. When was the last big march by scientists?

  3. Anonymous says:

    A march for science that is actually for partisan causes risks pushes “science” that bit further into become a partisan issue itself, as has already happened to global warming.

    1. Paul Kammermeier says:

      I disagree with his assessment that the march is really only about science funding. Personally, I see three things that I’d like:

      1) Funding. Of course we want funding, but in my mind, this doesn’t necessarily mean large increases every year. I would be happy with a known budget with a long horizon. If the NIH and other funding agencies knew what their budget would be 10 years in advance, they could plan accordingly and even do more with less. Uncertainty in the budget gives too much incentive to funnel $ to the big labs that would be fine anyway, because these seem like safe investments. I think this is damaging to the overall scientific enterprise. Along with this, I’d like to see a rational review of how grants are evaluated, what grant money can be used for, and whether and how to incentivize research.

      2) Science based policy. Government policies regulating everything that the government regulates should be based as much as possible on what is known to be true. The climate is only the most obvious example, but you could also argue that our elected officials ignore the most convincing data on the economy, tax policy, foreign relations, etc.

      3) Commitment to real science education. This means that in public schools at least, science education should be strictly limited to science, meaning teaching of the things learned through the scientific method.

      1. sparky says:

        The entire climate change mantra boils down to “send some anonymous government entity your money and they’ll fix it!” However, it seems more likely to be an elegant tax to throttle US manufacturing while ignoring any activities by the other large nations (e.g., China, India, etc). The data has been corrupted both in analysis and collection to point to an alleged increase in global temperature but how does data support the claims of “Ice Age Coming” that were made in the mid-70s? How do the “greenhouse gas” levels compare between now and then? I can go on but wondering how open minded the audience is now…

  4. While I agree that the admin doesn’t care about our views I hope this sends a message to our Representatives that many people in their districts finds this is an important issues and it would be nice to have some scientific rationale where relevant in decision making. I have and will be continuing to contact my representatives.
    On another note there is a fairly interesting article on why scientists are so bad at explaining their point of view, even to scientifically informed lay people.
    I think clicking my name will lead to the link.

  5. Druid says:

    I like this and Artie Lambert’s opinion piece. A march for science funding would make some sense, though anyone who thinks a working life in science is difficult should take a look at some of the alternatives. A march for the protection of some specific piece of habitat – great. But science is in our own hands, no-one else’s, and sometimes I think we are making a mess of it through rushing to publish or claim IP, or disrespecting other scientists. If you want to promote science, organize an open day with demonstrations (I mean demonstrated experiments!). Show someone something they can’t do and they will respect your superior knowledge of science. Tell them you’re right and they’re wrong and they will think you’re a jerk.

    1. Tom Billings says:

      Yes, science is properly in the demonstration of knowledge category. Unfortunately, the activist route so many academics have taken while claiming to be scientists leads far more to the “I’m right and you’re wrong because *I* have Piled it Higher and Deeper” category. Not only is argument from authority illogical, it gets you assigned to the “jerk” category. Most of the hostility is not toward science, but toward academia, because so much of academia today argues “from authority” that has, over the last 55 years become all to laughable to all too many.

      1. Jim Hartley says:

        Tom, you have touched an important nerve. How can we “argue from authority”, when our operating manual says “question everything”? And when all our conclusions are subject to modification or reversal pending new evidence?

        1. Li Zhi says:

          There are all sorts of problems with the simple model of science usually presented. First, and most obviously, March for Science Funding, is inaccurate. It should be “March for Government Subsidies of University Administrators, Campus Overhead and Science Funding using Taxpayers Dollars”. Second, the idea that Science can be discussed without appeal to authority is ridiculous. Sure, there’s probably some group or individual who is currently doing work showing that, say, the Law of the Conservation of Energy is being obeyed. But do you know of any? Probably not, instead we appeal to authority, either of some famous talking head, or to a literature reference. No one has the time (or resources) to fact check any more than a percent of a percent of a percent of a percent of the facts claimed by a particular scientific discipline. OF COURSE scientists appeal to authority. It’s simply and obviously unavoidable. Claiming that science is different is only true theoretically, in practical terms virtually no one has the ability to do other than rely on others for nearly all of their facts. Third, there’s growing realization that Science has a problem, especially in the soft sciences and the medical sciences. When nearly 2 /3rds of published highly cited research isn’t replicable, it’s not “a minor problem”. Fourth, scientists claim one thing and practice another (see points 1, 2, and 3 above). A great (imho) example is Climate Change. Given the facts, there is no more scientific rationale to decrease CO2 emissions than there is to increase them. Facts do NOT define policy. Confusing the facts with the policies indicates these scientists are, just like any advocates, comfortable with inadequately qualifying (i.e. misstating) their claims in order to attain a desired political (not “scientific”) goal. The idea that there’s a political group running around yelling “Let’s NOT base our policies on our best collective judgement!” is a strawman. I know of no policy which has only positive social effects, they all have both positive and negative effects. The question is, determining whose ox is to get gored, and while I agree that the facts can help inform the decision makers, (and that many times the facts make some choices appear to the public more objectionable than others), no one should claim that taking something away from group A and giving something to group B is “based on evidence”, with no subjective judgement required. The people who want “evidence based policy” usually have an agenda. In my experience, they are mostly unwilling to admit that the evidence is virtually never sufficient to unambiguously prefer one choice over another. Eg. If we don’t make abortions illegal, then more babies will die than if we made them illegal. This seems to me something which not only can be tested, but which has an enormous amount of evidence (data) to support. Does it guide the policy decision? Should it?

          1. Dana says:

            All correct and very aptly put, especially the first point. Lets also remember, science somehow managed to muddle along through the centuries in the absence of NIH and university marketing departments. It doesn’t strike me that the pace of progress in the last 60 years or so, since the “Endless frontier” policy and the subsequent increase in science funding, has been so much superior to, say, the 60 years before that.

  6. Bob says:

    This blog entry reads like an “either/or”, as if you can’t march and call your representatives.
    Many, many people called their constituents during the cabinet member selection, and nearly all of those were approved. Was it a waste of effort to make those calls? The message, “do something!”

    It’s deeply disappointing to see you write a seemingly post-political blog, as if you’re above it. Why not just say you’ve got other things to do besides spend your day marching? We understand that.

    1. Anon says:

      This assessment of the blog post seems misguided. Derek never put forth a choice between calling your representatives or participating in the march. In fact, he even wrote “remember to call your representatives after you get back home”.

      Derek received a number of questions regarding the March for Science during his Reddit AMA, so it makes sense for him to address this topic directly on the blog. At no point in his post did he encourage readers to jump the “March for Science ship”, he was merely expressing his personal thoughts on the topic. His astute insight into pharma, chemistry, and the scientific world in general is partly what attracts a following, so why not hear what he has to say about the March?

    2. annoyed says:

      have you tried to actually read the post?

    3. David says:

      …except that Derek said to call. Or if you’re going to march, call as well?

  7. DCRogers says:

    > most of them aren’t anti-science so much as people who think that they have better, more accurate science, or that science is just fine but it isn’t definitive in this case yet or has been corrupted, etc.

    That’s a far too charitable description that fits only a small minority of people in question.

    Being “anti-science” is not using the scientific method to reach conclusions; or, to be unwilling to accept conclusions drawn from using the scientific method. It does not matter where else you draw your own conclusions from: religion, “common sense”, friends, Facebook, FOX, or “magic” – if any of these are the ultimate source of your belief, it’s anti-science.

    Another way to look at it: a scientific belief is “disprovable”. Any other belief is not a scientific one. Or: “you can’t argue someone out of something that they weren’t argued into”.

    1. Wes says:

      I wonder if this isn’t region specific too. I live in the midwest, reside in a small city (~50,000) and work in a small town at a Catholic-affiliated hospital. The argument here is that people discovered that science is unreliable as a solution to problems in the world. Thus they seek religion where they do find answers and solutions. Regardless of how misplaced that sentiment is for its conclusions or predicates, that drives a distrust and disregard for science that maybe people don’t see in the urban areas. This is not an unusual sentiment here. One of the people that spoke it more eloquently and persuasively in the workplace has now moved on to preach that at one of the larger churches in the area. So no doubt more minds will be viewing science in that light as time progresses.

      I can see the drive for people to march in the name of science, if nothing else to catch the eyes and ears of representatives. The only way we’re going to increase science literacy and correct misunderstandings like this is if it becomes a ballot issue. I’m just not clear how that’s going to happen given the toxic sentiment towards science in red states like this one. Cognitive dissonance isn’t an easy thing to banish.

      1. Ken says:

        The straw man in the argument you cited is that science is supposed to be (provide) a solution. It’s not supposed to be a solution. It’s supposed to be a tool that can provide clarity of fact, of information (or to cast doubt on prior ‘fact!’). Solutions still need to be decided on and implemented by people, businesses, governments, and organizations in the real world; and as we have seen it can be a very messy process that can’t always executed.

        1. Wes says:

          Indeed, well put. I think people are both asking too much of “science” by wanting it to assign meaning to our lives, and asking it to solve all our problems. I use quotes to denote that science as a general term no longer holds the definition it used to, it can mean different thing to different people, such as theory or hypothesis. I hesitate to call it misuse of the words, given that English is mutable and definitions eventually coalesce around the commonly understood meanings. Regardless, I think it has unfortunately splintered into two general meanings, the one implied by that straw man and the other around its use in STEM fields. So now we have to clarify what people mean when they use the word science, and perhaps that isn’t a terrible thing if that can be used to educate. The second problem is that people don’t understand how little we know, which is something that Derek has touched upon several times, most recently with respect to how difficult it is to discover compounds to cure diseases. It seems like it should be so simple when I can pick up my smart phone and have a video chat with someone halfway around the world. If more people understood the latter, perhaps society wouldn’t have such a dim view of the sciences.

      2. loupgarous says:

        Cognitive dissonance is all over the country and on both sides of the political divide.

        Remember “unprecedented transparency and honesty in government” and how long that lasted after Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009? We didn’t see bills posted in advance of their signing on the White House Web site, the stimulus spending bill carried many earmarks (of the sort Obama swore he’d never sign, before he was elected). Remember how Obamacare would save everyone money and not involve new taxes (there were at least six new taxes in PPACA, and their inclusion in the bill made it a tax measure, according to the Supreme Court). An administration so honest, fifty agency Inspectors General signed a statement complaining about how they were obstructed and stonewalled, and which failed to appoint an independent counsel to look into any scandal involving current or former high officials in the Obama administration? Presidential overreach so pervasive that even Alan Dershowitz and two other liberal law professors complained about it? Nixon critic Nat Hentoff asking “Why hasn’t Obama been impeached yet?”

        Cognitive dissonance is strong among the members of the press, who forgot the millions of dollars that went into the Clinton Foundation’s coffers (and the half a million that went straight into Bill Clinton’s pocket) from the Russians and the chairman of Uranium One (which controls 20% of US uranium reserves) just when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to vote yea or nay on whether to approve the sale of Uranium One to Rosatom. Somehow, release of authentic DNC E-mails with authentic evidence of corruption and bad governmental faith has spawned cascading press cycles we never saw on the UraniumOne story. I’d say that cognition isn’t just dissonant, it’s downright obtunded.

        But sticking to science and the Federal government, remember the “Patrick Stewart” skull, and how the Clinton administration caused it to be surrendered to a native American tribe which has no scientific case to be its custodian, and how the Clinton administration ordered many tons of gravel to be poured on the site where it was discovered? Anyone who can reconcile that with respect for science has got very dissonant cognition indeed.

        1. Wes says:

          Never said that cognitive dissonance didn’t exist on the other side of the aisle, I was simply speaking to the problem with it _on this topic_. You see the same dissonance on the left, for example with GMOs. Perhaps I should have mentioned that to avoid responses like this. I’m not convinced it’s as widespread of a problem yet on the left, though that could simply be due to a lack of exposure on my part.

    2. tangent says:

      Yeah. We’re not necessarily talking about people who are “anti-science” in a sense where they pointedly avoid doing whatever science says. Those people do exist in significant numbers — left, right, and apolitical — but they’re mostly not driving the country.

      We’re talking about people to whom science is irrelevant. They have their own reasons. Power and money, mostly. These are the people who matter right now, exactly because these are the people with the power and the money, and who just don’t give a shit about science.

  8. Jamil Gregory says:

    Some other thoughts from Obama’s scientific advisor

    1. cancer_man says:

      Holdren has a PhD in physics but never worked as a physicist and instead joined the environmental movement in the 70s making one unfounded alarmist claim after another. And not surprisingly Holdren continued his shtick in the Obama administration by insisting “the world is headed straight to a cliff with no brakes” with respect to global warming.

      He is as much a scientist as Al Gore.

      1. Jamil Gregory says:

        Maybe he doesn’t meet your standards of being a scientist but nonetheless it is a good summary of the reasons that most people have for marching.

  9. DCsciencepolicy says:

    Many are new to social action and many don’t know how to engage. For those of us without an established platform to engage with our communities, this is a critical way to connect. We’ve had this discussion about every march that has taken place, that’s fine, but know for some, these marches are the activation energy needed to get involved in other ways.

  10. MikeR says:

    Scientists have had an enviable and mostly deserved position in this country. They are trusted way way more than politicians. It is a big mistake to give this away. Behave like partisan politicians and you will be trusted like partisan politicians – that is, not at all.
    There’s an understandable tendency to say, If they’re doing it we need to do it too! Resist that tendency. You would be giving away your biggest weapon.
    The public face of Climate Science has already fallen into this trap, and their political position in this country is the result. It need not have been.

    1. tommysdad says:

      “Scientists . . . are trusted way way more than politicians. ”

      Sadly, that is not my experience. I think that COMPLETELY depends upon where you live (country. state, neighborhood, socioeconomic strata).

      I know way too many folks who think scientists pontificate only to gain federal research dollars, or don’t know what they’re talking about “because some other study will contradict them later”.

      But I still like drinking beer with these folks.

    2. loupgarous says:

      And, unfortunately, the March for Science is a huge gamble that may just flop, hard.

      While the AAAS Web page on the March says “We encourage AAAS members and affiliated organizations to ‘be a force for science’ by participating in the March for Science and making it positive, non-partisan, inclusive, and diverse,” the actual rhetoric at the March is “The very idea of evidence and logic and reason is being threatened by individuals and interests with the power to do real harm.”

      And in breaking news from “U.S. scientists to protest Trump policies at Earth Day rally in Washington”:
      “…Rush Holt, chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told reporters on a conference call this week. “I wouldn’t say that it is fundamentally because of Donald Trump, but there’s no question that there’s been concern in recent months about all sorts of things.” and
      “It’s really the age-old debate of the rational view of the universe against the irrational view of the universe,” Elias Zerhouni, former director of the National Institutes of Health, said on the conference call.”

      Hey, guys, good luck with those Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee you’ve just called irrational. You’ll need it.

      1. user says:

        OTOH, this is no different at all from their usual “everyone who disagrees with me is an ignorant hillbilly racist” rhetoric, so how much MORE damage can it possibly do? Surely they’ve already reached peak alienation…

  11. Anon2 says:

    “the ridiculous budget proposed by the White House is a nonstarter, as are all presidential budget proposals.”
    I don’t think the purpose of that proposal was as a blueprint. As an experienced negotiator, Trump was engaged in “anchoring”. So although we (hopefully) won’t see a 20% cut in the NIH budget, the discussion in Congress will be biased toward “how large a cut” rather than “how much should we spend to further biomedical research”.

    1. WW says:

      You forget–the Commander in Cheetos is as far anti-science as they get. He’s a conspiracy nutter, an anti-vaxxer, and an illiterate bully who despises anyone with an intellectual background. Given a chance, he will would wipe out medical research in the country and replace it with snakeoil.

      1. STLChemist says:

        You sure sound like your judgment isn’t clouded by irrational hatred!

  12. David says:

    Seems to be more of a question of what reality you decide to live in sometimes.

    The Trump admin were talking this morning about snowpack in the Sierras being at a high. Of course they wouldn’t have this data without NASA earth science, but they’re cutting it anyway.

  13. mzonc says:

    It is an old trick to convolute Science The Government/Industrial Complex with Science The Method. The latter is unimpeachable (figure out how stuff works), the former is tainted with the same sorts of sordid things that all human activity involves.

    What I am troubled by is the a lot of vocal support by postdocs and junior profs. Many of these people have suffered terribly under the complex (through low salaries and fickle funding), and they are enthusiastically supporting it without even a modicum reflection and criticism (as if there has never been an article on the postdoc crisis). Less money in the Complex will mean fewer professional scientists, this may not be a bad thing.

  14. b says:

    One of the big goals of the march is to encourage scientists to be more active and engaged with the public. “Humanizing” scientists is still a challenge, and I think it can often lead to a lot of the anti-science rhetoric we see. We need to promote and push scientists to be engaged with the public, and in turn we can highlight the value of science in all of our lives. This is just one way that we can work towards a system that continually values and supports funding for science and accepts scientific consensus for evidence-based policy.

    Derek, I find it somewhat interesting that this doesn’t resonate with you given your role in digital media. Just yesterday you were on Reddit for a Science AMA, which has many of the exact same goals and ideals as the March For Science. Overarching, it is to give the public an opportunity to talk with scientists and gain a better appreciation of what it means to do scientific research.

  15. Bill Too says:

    I will join the March simply to show that I want to see policies based on data and not opinion. Unlike Derek who writes a blog and takes on Ask Me Anything, my contribution until now was limited to being a member of ACS and AAAS as well as writing a letter or two. Now I will be one more in the March, but in a democracy numbers matter.

    1. Humulonimbus says:

      Hi Bill, thanks for marching. I’m one of the co-organizers of the March for Science LA and a longtime ITP reader/commenter. This is also my first foray into any sort of activism, and I’m glad to hear there are more scientists like me who have decided enough is enough and it’s time to start speaking up.

      As to calls of partisanship, we can’t control every person who shows up to yell or carry an orange muppet sign, but all of LA’s programming was focused on the positive role science has on our society and the critical importance of funding science research, communicating the results, and using those results to guide the best policy decisions. If you think you can take these 3 points (funding, communication, and acknowledgement by policymakers) for granted, you must have had your head buried somewhere.

      I wonder whether anyone critiquing us for partisanship has paid any attention to the actual goals of the organizations. Each city march was a grassroots assemblage of people that miraculously had similar interests in calling out anti-science on all sides (ahem: vaccines, GMOs, “natural” remedies are all mostly LEFT leaning anti-science.) It so happens that climate change, vaccines, and evolution are under attack by a number of those in power right now, so we chose those as the focus.

      Obviously my perspective is a lot different having been on the inside. I know this is a late reply, but I was setting up Friday, running the event Saturday, and catching up on sleep yesterday.

  16. Passerby says:

    Both the left and the right have hijacked science for their pet peeves and causes. The main goal of the march in my opinion should be restore science to as neutral a position as possible, as an apolitical vehicle for discovering facts about the physical world that can in principle be used to improve humanity’s lot. Sadly, both sides have been so acutely riddled with rampant identity politics by now that they don’t really care about doing this. Instead as Derek said, they will simply use it as an opportunity to trot out their favorite hobby horse.

  17. Phoebe Grigg says:

    I disagree with this. I think that Representatives respond to their constituents (if that still works, now that there is so much money involved). When the constituents are educated, they push for Representatives that reflect their views. The reason this “didn’t work” with the Stewart/Colbert rally was that they had that rally BECAUSE politics had become so crazy. The rally was not causal, it was in-spite-of. I think these efforts to show the world the number of people that like and respect science takes away some of the power of the louder, crazier anti-science voices. I also really agree with David Roberts in Vox about the distinction between “Science-t” (the actual theory and practice of science), and “Science-p”, the human- and policy-based meta effects of science. His article is entitled “Science is already political. So scientists might as well march.” I also think much of the current politization of Science comes from people treating the economy and climate change as opposites.

  18. Steve says:

    I think you and most of the commentators are missing the point. There is indeed active suppression of science by this administration and Congressional Republicans. Global warming denial is denial of scientific facts and active suppression of the ability to generate facts by dismantling EPA, enforcing gag orders, removing standards for methane and clean power standards, etc., etc. It’s easy to be an industry shill like Pruitt if you just deny the science about carbon emissions and your President says it’s all just a Chinese conspiracy. Trump denies science when he claims that vaccines cause autism. He denies science when he has Sessions end the National Commission on Forensic Science. He’s anti-science when he picks a VP who denies the existence of evolution. He’s anti-science when he refuses to appoint a science advisor (or if he picks someone like William Happer, rumored to be a top pick and who acutally said “that the “demonization of CO2″ “really differs little from the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Soviet extermination of class enemies or ISIL slaughter of infidels”). Republicans are anti-science when they put a charlatan like Lamar Smith in charge of the science committee. So yes, there is a pervasive anti-science attitude that would allow for Trump to submit a budget with a 20% cut for NIH and to make policy decisions that threaten the ecology of the country and the climate of the world. That’s what people are protesting.

  19. Jim says:

    A loooot of my fellow grad students are going to this. And you know what I told them what I’d be doing tomorrow instead of going? Actually doing science in lab.

    1. Anon says:

      Oh please, get off your high horse. I am sure your students work hard in the lab every day, and probably harder than you do if you include weekends and holidays. Just because they are taking one day off while you work in the lab does not give you some kind of moral high ground to condemn them and the march. If this is your disapproving attitude toward your students taking a single day off (for whatever cause), then I feel bad about them.

  20. steve says:

    Derek, I think you and most of the commentators are missing the point. There is indeed active suppression of science by this administration and Congressional Republicans. Global warming denial is denial of scientific facts and active suppression of the ability to generate facts by dismantling EPA, enforcing gag orders, removing standards for methane and clean power standards, etc., etc. It’s easy to be an industry shill like Pruitt if you just deny the science about carbon emissions and your President says it’s all just a Chinese conspiracy. Trump denies science when he claims that vaccines cause autism. He denies science when he has Sessions end the National Commission on Forensic Science. He’s anti-science when he picks a VP who denies the existence of evolution. He’s anti-science when he refuses to appoint a science advisor (or if he picks someone like William Happer, rumored to be a top pick and who acutally said “that the “demonization of CO2″ “really differs little from the Nazi persecution of the Jews, the Soviet extermination of class enemies or ISIL slaughter of infidels”). Republicans are anti-science when they put a charlatan like Lamar Smith in charge of the science committee. So yes, there is a pervasive anti-science attitude that would allow for Trump to submit a budget with a 20% cut for NIH and to make policy decisions that threaten the ecology of the country and the climate of the world. That’s what people are protesting.

    1. IQ is Genetic says:

      Trump believes in genetics and heritability of IQ, which is something previous admins were very anti-science about.

      1. loupgarous says:

        In W’s case, he had evidence against heritability of IQ. He wasn’t as bright from 2001-09 as his dad was in 1989-93.

    2. Bell4 says:

      Agree with every word.

      Damn, I hate it when I agree with steve.

    3. sparky says:

      If CO2 levels are so important to global climate, every year should be warmer than the previous. How’d we get from the impending Ice Age clamored about in the mid-70s (where they actually were thinking about finding a way of coating both poles with soot to allow maximum heat absorption from ambient sunlight? More industrial activity? Since the 70s, we’ve had more activity though cleaner, in the US at least. Was there a drop off in worldwide manufacturing from the years before the 70s? Global change doesn’t seem to correlate as well as claimed by those seeking funding and control to “fix” the perceived problem…

  21. PUI prof says:

    The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on. This is unlikely to be effective, as from what I hear the numbers will not be large. The mainstream news media will report on it only if there is mayhem (which will be bad for scientists).

    1. steve says:

      There were already multiple reports and interviews on national news tonight (Friday) before the march has even started.

  22. jbosch says:

    I would say it differently.
    If you don’t raise your voice, you consent with what is brought to you – independent if it is your opinion or not. Unheard voices simply don’t count and you must assume from an administrative perspective that what you are doing is good for the people, otherwise they would say something right?

    The other part is the non=partisan part, I think it speaks for itself that there are >500 marches worldwide and I’m pretty sure the ones happening in Australia, Germany, India or elsewhere care very little about Trump or the Republican party, that by itself is very non-partisan in my opinion.

    In my opinion, we should see it as a starting point for something many of us scientist have failed to do, communicate with the majority of the people why it matters what we do in our daily scientific live. Continuous outreach to non-scientists is what is needed to better communicate with each other. Talking in hieroglyphs for each individual discipline does not help, we need to work on our skills to reach out and connect.

    You can have some very positive examples if you follow on twitter #ScienceMarchCle for example or #Bosch_Lab (also linked in my handle)

  23. Chris Phoenix says:

    You say, “Being “anti-science” is equivalent to saying “I believe in magic instead”, and there aren’t so many people waving that banner.”

    That’s exactly what Creationists believe. It may be hard to get them to admit it, but if you talk to them long enough they will invoke a miracle (divine intervention). The number of Americans who don’t believe evolution caused speciation is shockingly high.

    The promotion of Creationism is connected to the promotion of anti-vax, anti-climate-science, and other deliberately anti-science efforts.

    So yes, part of what’s being protested is that a lot of people believe in magic, and are deliberately taught to believe in magic, as one tactic of weakening the effectiveness of science.

  24. tangent says:

    Derek, I know you acknowledged people can march and then take other action, but it still sounds as if you’re concerned that a march will compete with more effective action.

    I think going to a march actually tends to lead to other activity, rather than to substitute for it. At least, it that correlates. I can’t prove it’s causal, because I can’t intervene to randomize people in/out of a march. But I don’t see reason to believe that it’s negatively causal.

    Marching is not the enemy of calling your representative. Both are enemies of sitting on your tuchus. Getting off your tuchus leads to further action. (Resharing articles with your Facebook friends still counts as “on tuchus” empirically.)

    1. tangent says:

      And yes, people who are working scientists, please hold your own town halls! Or get a blog read; this blog is absolutely pro-science in a way that matters.

    2. Derek Lowe says:

      If it does lead to other activity, then good. You’re right, though, that my concern is that people will spend the time and effort to march and feel (consciously or not) that they’ve really accomplished what they set out to do, when there’s more than can be done. (And you’re right about Facebook, or sharing things with your Twitter followers. Preaching to the crowd doesn’t count!)

      1. Eduardo Ramirez says:

        So far my personal experience of the last 4 months is that participating in these events leads to MORE advocacy efforts. I attended the Women’s March, surrounded by many people who like me had never done something like that. I live in Delaware, and so far my blue state Congresspeople haven’t needed any prodding, but my friends at the march from PA were among the many that melted down the house switchboard during the next month. I’ve since that march donated to ACLU and some campaigns, something I’d always meant to do but never had. Yesterday’s event had its origins in someone looking at the Womens March and saying ‘Hey, that looks like a good idea’. And just like at the Women’s March, I met dozens of people in DC yesterday saying Ive never done this before, but I’m definitely doing it again.
        It also helps the define the narrative around issues. The first weeks of the Trump admin stories about his ability to get anything done included the note that 3 million people showed up to protest him 24 hours after his inauguration. Every story about the travel ban included lines about how tens of thousands of people descended on airports to object. Any stories about the EPA or energy policy will probably mention that a couple hundred thousand people came out on Earth Day because they were concerned about the attacks on environmental regulation and the mission of federal agencies to educate the public.
        As far as partisanship… it would be one thing if we had two parties that had different priorities in funding levels for agencies and the best way to combat climate change, but we don’t. We have a party that is heavily opposed to addressing climate change at all, one that is hellbent on repealing environmental protections up and down the spectrum, and an administration that is gutting every federal agency that isn’t defense or law enforcement related. If you think the GOPs other priorities are more important than those things, that’s a valid position to have. But I don’t know how we can support those issues without being in opposition to the party that is unified in attacking them.

    3. loupgarous says:

      Tangent, what I’m concerned about isn’t just the AAAS’s choice of forum (a march doesn’t have to be a protest march, but I noticed AAAS didn’t feel they had to take it to the streets till many of their members saw proposals for their funding to be slashed) as the optics we’ll get – signs at these things tend to be partisan, even if the organizers aren’t.

      It’s not just scientists and their fan base who have telephones and Internet access. People who may not have felt existentially threatened by scientific research may see another street demonstration in a year of the self-proclaimed “Resistance” and decide that AAAS has signed on to that.

      I don’t care for the “Resistance” – any more than I cared for birthers, flat-earthers, creationists or anyone else clutching for the levers of power after losing an election. We’re not going to see Trump impeached any more than Obama was. If you’re going to advocate for science, advocate for science – effectively, with persuasive facts. Not by hitching a ride on a wagon full of people who are now trying insurrection, since the democratic process didn’t give them what they wanted.

  25. Doug Steinman says:

    I think that part of the problem is that scientists are seen as being apolitical. If you think back to what happened in the ’50’s when a group of scientists loudly objected to the further development of nuclear weapons, there was a huge backlash against them. They were viewed as Communist sympathizers and potential traitors. So let’s think long and hard about how political we as scientists want to be. I think that fighting against the anti-science activities of Trump and his allies is a good thing but perhaps it is something that is best done in a less public sort of way. If you want to get involved politically that’s great, but I would say to do it as a private citizen and not as a scientist or a representative of science. Finally, I would say that money talks louder than signs and marches and that money should be used in 2018 to change Washington from anti-science to pro-science.

    1. loupgarous says:

      Just how are you going to do that with mere money? You’d have to locate politicians in either major party who were genuinely pro-science (instead of simply dedicated to bringing funding back to home-state universities and industries). Easier said than done.

      The Democratic candidate for President nearly was the Democratic Socialist Senator from Vermont, a believer in “alternative medicine” just as his former Senate colleague Tom Harkin (D, Iowa) was.

      Harkin was behind the creation and funding of what is now the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, which dignifies the new snake oil, “alternative medicine”, with Federal grants. Not that he did this all by himself – he was able to get it into the Federal budget by negotiation with others whose devotion to science was as non-existent as his.

      1. loupgarous says:

        Pardon, the “National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health”. Same snake oil, different label.

  26. mazonc says:

    I see a lot of implication that it is merely Trump that is anti-science. All politicians use science as means to implementing policies they like. In many cases the “science” they cite is of such poor quality and so silly, it is obvious that they aren’t being objective. This is somehow much worse when it involves social policies.

    The academic behind the “super predator” term, famously parroted by Clinton:

    Clinton comparing video games to lead poisoning for increasing violent behavior:

    Bernie Sanders has endorsed alternative “medicine”:

    Juliani and “Broken Windows”:

    HHS and plan b (which was also covered by Derek):

    I frankly don’t believe any of these politicians are “anti science”. They need science to control the flight paths of missiles, drill for oil etc. etc. Disregarding or absurdly misrepresenting evidence is something that all people in power need to do a lot of the time to stay in power. Being anti-science when you need to be is a source of cheap votes.

    1. loupgarous says:

      Let’s not forget Senator Tom Harkin (D, Iowa) who got a center in NIH for the study of alternative medicine funded, then over-funded, then elevated to National Institute status.

      Just where was AAAS on that? If they had denounced it as a waste of money back when it was just “the Office of Alternative Medicine”, 20 years and $2 billion in grants and other spending ago, I’d be more impressed by their advocacy for science now.

      A cynical man might say they were “Advocating for Dollars”. It not only sounds like a TV show, it’s getting plenty of air play by a press who on board with the partisan message they say they’re not pushing.

  27. azdsas says:

    I see a lot of implication that it is merely Trump that is anti-science. All politicians use science as means to implementing policies they like. In many cases the “science” they cite is of such poor quality and so silly, it is obvious that they aren’t being objective. This is somehow much worse when it involves social policies.

    The academic behind the “super predator” term, famously parroted by Clinton:

    Clinton comparing video games to lead poisoning for increasing violent behavior:

    Bernie Sanders has endorsed alternative “medicine”:

    Juliani and “Broken Windows”:

    HHS and plan b (which was also covered by Derek):

    I frankly don’t believe any of these politicians are “anti science”. They need science to control the flight paths of missiles, drill for oil etc. etc. Disregarding or absurdly misrepresenting evidence is something that all people in power need to do a lot of the time to stay in power. Being anti-science when you need to be is a source of cheap votes.

  28. loupgarous says:

    I actually saw the “official” AAAS announcement of the March for Science on Facebook, and questioned whether this conflicted with any language in the AAAS by-laws about partisan political advocacy. Huge response, mostly assuming I was a climate-change denyin’, evolution denyin’ Repuke. (I’m none of those things).

    This in itself shows that a large part of the “constituency” for a March for Science is politically partisan. even if the March’s organizers say “oh, no, not partisan at all! Not one bit!” ” Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas,” as the saying goes. AAAS may not be overtly partisan in holding this march, but it’s sort of like burning a cross and saying you’re not advocating racism.

    The popular street demonstration is mostly associated with one political wing in this country. If AAAS chooses to associate itself and American science with that wing knowing that the country’s neatly polarized down the middle, it’s difficult to see how they expect to influence policy when that policy is made in a Congress dominated by the other political wing. If AAAS wants to play with the Resistance, that’s not advancing the cause of science in Congress, but tying it to one side of a contentious political landscape.

    Science is best advocated for with facts, not slogans on cardboard signs.

  29. Steve says:

    For the cynics who thought no one would show; here’s how the Washington Post is describing it at 1PM:

    The March for Science materialized as a global event on six continents — and cheered on by scientists on a seventh, Antarctica. On the National mall, the crowd has been large, with thousands of people gathered on the grounds of the Washington Monument and lines for the security checkpoints stretching for more than two blocks.

    Rain has varied from light to borderline apocalyptic, but that didn’t stop people from dancing when Thomas Dolby performed his 1982 blockbuster hit “She Blinded Me With Science.” The march proper is scheduled for 2 p.m., and will proceed down Constitution Avenue to the foot of Capitol Hill.

    “We are at a critical juncture. Science is under attack,” said Cara Santa Maria, a science communicator who is one of several emcees of the four-hour rally that kicked off at 10 a.m. “The very idea of evidence and logic and reason is being threatened by individuals and interests with the power to do real harm.”

    1. loupgarous says:

      “The very idea of evidence and logic and reason is being threatened by individuals and interests with the power to do real harm.”

      What were we worried about? Partisan? Naaaah.

      1. steve says:

        If standing up against those who argue against vaccines, climate change, evolution and the very existence of facts is partisan then so be it.

        1. loupgarous says:

          Those are strawmen, and you know it. If they weren’t, we’d have seen Marches for Science since the AAAS’s founding in 1848.

          What provoked this march is $cience feeling the heat. Scientists are like the rest of us, they hate losing money. This ought to suggest why someone was elected President on a budget-cutting platform – the taxpayers are more than a little tired of losing money, too.

          Instead of a march, what AAAS ought to do is create infographics showing what percentage of the national budget Federally-funded science consumes and contrast that with its positive impact in human health and economic growth. Then, they can release these analyses to the public and make their case just as every other lobbying group does.

          Among other things, AAAS is a lobbying group.

        2. loupgarous says:

          Strawmen, and ones AAAS ignored until their ox got gored.

          1. Data Driven Dude says:

            There are MANY legitimate questions around the datasets for climate change that cause me to be very skeptical from my own research. I know for a fact that if I presented data like that to our clients, I’d run the risk of being fired.

            I also assume then that Richard Lindzen, the founding professor of the department of atmospheric science at MIT, who disagrees with the IPCC report findings, is also ‘anti science’?

            The sad thing is even my stating this on this website risks me being hit with a scarlet letter, or punished for thought crimes.

            From where I sit, this “grass roots event’ is simply another tool that many AstroTurf organizations funded by the OSI are using as a political wedge issue. And the media fools lap it up like pigs at a trough.

  30. loupgarous says:

    Having said what I have to say about the utter lack of thought that went into the AAAS March for Science, I’ll also say that since most science research funding is treated like all the other pork on Capitol Hill, Trump’s budget proposal is, as Derek said, a non-starter.

    Even a principled attempt to destroy the actual pork-barrel spending on science, the sort of thing the late William Proxmire featured in his “Golden Fleece Awards” would be doomed to failure because… it’s part of horsetrading on the Hill. And a low-ball budget is how Trump rolls. He doesn’t expect to get all those spending cuts, but if Congress and the AAAS feel good taking a ‘victory’ back because only five percent of the science budget got cut, everyone gets something.

  31. steve says:

    Yeah, there’s no war on science. One of the first things Trump did is actually remove the word “science” from the EPA’s Office of Science and Technology Policy description of what it does. The EPA’s Office of Science and Technology has historically been in charge of developing clean water standards for states. Before January 30 of this year, the website said those standards were “science-based”. Since January 30, though, the reference to “science-based” standards has disappeared. Now, the office, instead, says it develops “economically and technologically achievable standards” to address water pollution. At least he’s honest about his intent – no need for that pesky science anymore.

  32. Curious Wavefunction says:

    I went to the march in Boston today, and while I agree that marches by themselves do little, I think that they inspire people to do all those other things that do matter. Seeing 20,000 people advocate the same causes that you do and stand by your side is a refreshing shot in the arm, and I am sure that going to a march will make someone more likely to call their congressman, or do some grass roots work on behalf of science, or at least write or talk about science more often. Nothing wrong in sitting one out, but as with many things, the value of most of these marches is somewhere between “enormous” and “negligible”, and in the era of Trump I will take what I am offered.

  33. Well put. The march is/was far too political for my liking, and YES, I do understand science and politics are inexorably linked, and NO, I’m not a Trump supporter.

  34. steve says:

    Too bad no one showed up…. This is just Chicago. Anyone who says science and politics don’t mix has never held a faculty position. Politics is how humans interact and we can either put our heads in the sand (or a beaker) and ignore what’s happening to our country or speak out and protect our ability to conduct science in free and open manner.

  35. dearieme says:

    A good rule of thumb: any public statement made by more than one scientist translates as “Give us da money”.

  36. anon says:

    A lot of what I read here both in the post and the comments reflects a conflict many industrial scientists face every day without really acknowledging it. So was the March partly about money? Sure. But not mostly, and not mostly partisan although many oppose Trump, as do many Americans. Most people at the March I was at were concerned about evidence-based policy, which by definition is politics. The same politics as when e.g. you get data that says the drug your company is taking into phase 3 is going to be much more toxic than they think, and they start phase 3 anyway. What do you do? State your case and then you either stay and deal with it, or get another job. We are used to seeing politics and money overrule evidence in industry. In the end, the FDA usually sorts it out.

    But what if there was no FDA? What if the drug companies took a page out of Dow’s book and wrote letters about their drugs to everyone they can think of or gave money to? It’s starting to happen. What then when you need a medicine? Who do you trust, how do you know if it’s safe, never mind if it works? As citizens, we expect decisions in the public interest, not corporate interest.

    That’s what is at risk now – FDA, EPA, Interior, Energy, NASA, Education are all being steadily eroded in the interests of corporate profits rather than the public. The number of people who are “anti-science” may or may not be large, and they are both liberals and conservatives, but they are very persistent. So if you want your kids to get an education that includes science, if you want to have some confidence in your medicine, cleanish air and water, fewer pesticides in your food, help for a family member who may be addicted to opiates, vaccination and vaccines for emerging diseases, more climate data, etc, etc, wake up and look around.

    There are certainly as many stupid “scientific” claims from the left as the right, and honestly not all scientists know what they are doing. But the stars have now aligned to give the corporations everything they have dreamed of since regulations started to limit what they could do. Marches don’t solve anything, but they encourage people to take further action. Scientists are finding a public voice and I think that’s overall going to be a good thing in politics.

  37. Kent G. Budge says:

    Until recently, I was that rara avis the author of the STAT piece seems to believe is all but nonexistent: The STEM Ph.D. who is also a registered Republican. This changed last August, when I changed my voter registration to independent the week after the Republicans nominated Trump as their candidate. I went to the polls in November with the disheartening conviction that every single one of the Presidential candidates on my state’s ballot was utterly unfit for the office.

    I suppose that means that, in some sense, I am now nonpartisan.

    I entered graduate school with every intention of remaining in academia after I was awarded my doctorate. By the time I was finishing up my dissertation, I had already begun looking outside academia for employment. There were a number of reasons for this, some personal. Fear that I would never get tenure was not an important one. Fear that I would be politically marginalized was. I had become quite interested in libertarianism while in graduate school, and became increasingly disquieted by the solid left political orientation of my professors. (I had not yet perceived, at that time, that libertarianism as practiced by the Libertarian Party has solid roots in the political Left.) I was particularly troubled by the sense of entitlement among the faculty, who seemed to believe, in complete sincerity, in a teleology of the human race in which the pursuit of scientific knowledge was the ultimate purpose of mankind and massive scientific spending funded by coercive taxation always justified.

    So, while I could not bring myself to vote with them, I suppose I’m just a little sympathetic to the blue-collar voters who pushed Trump over the threshold in the electoral college, who wonder why elite professors are guaranteed permanent employment and funding when they’ve repeatedly lost their own jobs. (Yes, I know about the growing number of untenured lecturers at universities. I doubt blue-collar Trump voters do.)

    I ended up going to work for a national laboratory, on the grounds that at least national security was a legitimate function of government. Having come to understand the concept of a public good a little better, I’m less skeptical of public funding of science than I was then — but still, I suspect, far more skeptical than the vast majority of scientists. I’m not sure it’s actually been good for science.

    Though I no longer call myself a libertarian, I think this article at Reason comes close to capturing my views on the March for Science.

    I particularly like the remarks attributed to microbiologist Alex Berezow.

  38. watcher says:

    You may know of the phrase “digging harder and deeper” when referring to someone who has put themselves in disfavor or “in a hole” and then responds by doing the same again, and again. This is how I feel about Derek’s doubling down on his original statement about the March for Science. Yes, different groups and people attended a rainy March attended by tens of thousands in the city where I was. It was clear from their presence, from their signs, from talking calmly to each other. There were those hard core established scientists and teachers looking toward a better time when scientific data is believed, climate, drugs, vaccines, etc. There were those who marched for the withheld funding. There were those who wanted to point out how much science has contributed to current society how we live. There were the optimistic looking to a better future, and students of all ilk studying chemistry, physics, engineering, environment and more who are looking toward a future when science once again is respected and honored. There were families, parents and young children, a desire to a future with a clean environment, good water, parks with native animals and plants without oil wells contaminating soil, streams and beautiful spectacle. They were all there for the benefit of science. They were all valid. They are all being threatened. When people of power and money collude with governmental officials then much of the good that science has brought and what it can do for the future is threatened.

    If you cannot see this, if you don’t believe in this, if you don’t want to speak out for personal reasons such as looking for a job, if you take your blogging too seriously as a spokesperson, a judge, then you should not double down, should not dig yourself into a deeper, wider hole.

    What comes after this March is unclear, but if the current administration does not reverse some of its policies then this March will almost certainly happen again, and again. And ironically, it is being done with people who normally simply stay in their labs or offices writing, doing experiments, analyzing, thinking. Despite the goal of not being political, some of the driver has been just that. And it seems to me it will again. If you don’t want to take a position, voice a public opinion, that’s fine, but don’t suggest it has no reason, no goals. That is doubling down. That’s digging deeper.

    1. Derek Lowe says:

      I didn’t suggest that the march (or the marchers) have no reasons and no goals – just whether this is the best way to accomplish them. I think that when you speak about me digging a deeper hole, what you mean is that I hold a position that you disagree with, and when asked again, I stated that position again.

      People with power and money have always “colluded with government”, and always will. I think that we should set up our laws and regulations so as to make that as difficult as possible, but human nature is what it is. Recognizing that is not defeatism; to me, it’s realizing how to get things done.

      In the end, these funding and policy decisions are going to be made by elected officials and the people appointed by them. To get the attention of elected officials most effectively, you must make them believe that their “elected” status is in jeopardy if they continue on the course they’re on. This involves not voting for them, encouraging others not to vote for them, not sending them money (and sending it to their opponents, in the primary or general election) instead, and encouraging others to do those, too. Repeated, vigorous, multiple, and widely distributed applications of these stimuli are how you get things done, especially if you’re not yourself one of those people of power and money.

      I have no problem with people marching as long as they also remember those things. But without them, I fear that you may end up waving signs in the rain to make yourself feel better, but little else.

      1. watcher says:

        Yes, the ultimate voice in our country is the vote. The March was an expression of voice, opinion and protest on some of the policies taken already by those newly elected and appointed. This too is a way to make political points to officials, like letters, e-mails, and the vote. And I sincerely believe if we had the UK system, a newly called election today would not re-elect the same person for POTUS. And yes the March was not supposed to be partisan, but how could it not with the switchback by those currently reversing rules, regulations, funding. I do not believe the events held all over the world would have happened without the recent extreme partisanship influencing policies on environment, water, oil coal. along with cutting of research funding. With this I’m sure those in academics have more acute concerns than those in industry.

        What you also seem to leave out regarding officials making rules, is that the ultimate power should still be in the people, not in corporations or big money which have been allowed to play bigger roles that the past. That is not in the best interest of citizens, or why this nation emerged in the 18th century…large corporations did not exist. Further, the March I attended was remarkable in the diversity of those participating…women, men, children, multiracial, multinational, young, middle age, older. This unity is something to be applauded.

  39. Erebus says:

    It is not, and never was, about science. Wholly political. Recall that the @ScienceMarchDC account tweeted that “colonization, racism, immigration, native rights, sexism, ableism, queer-, trans-, intersex-phobia, & econ justice are scientific issues.”

    What more need be said? It should be clear that this was a march for progressive, not scientific, causes.

    I wonder how these marchers would feel about research into the heritability of intelligence?

    In any case, science is not monolithic. Science is not a “thing” at all — it’s a method. You can’t be for it or against it — you can use it, or not, as you like. Philosophers of science, as far back as Francis Bacon, understood that competing ideas and diversity of opinion (not of skin color) are what allow science to thrive. So I don’t quite understand what even the ostensible point of this march was.

    A march for science funding? Come on, we’ve got too much grist for the publish-or-perish mill, and too much unreadable student work, as it is. The NIH is a totally bloated organization. The problem certainly isn’t that science is not being sufficiently funded.

  40. Gobledegook says:

    He’s not antiscience, he’s “anti” pissing away money on stupidity.

    The majority of those that call themselves “scientists” are nothing of the kind, just verbose bums that don’t want to get a real job.

    He’s saying why should we kill our economy to stop climate change when the Chinese do nothing.

    If anyone should like Trump its the guys that lost their pharma jobs, he said he’s going to try and bring jobs back from China.

  41. Jane says:

    Actually I think it will hurt far more than help. Right now the EPA is tied so tightly to the left wing, that now when Republicans are in charge they’ll be lucky to get a 50% cut in funding every year for the next 4-12 years (depending on how long Republicans remain in power). Currently everybody (i.e. both Republicans and Democrats) likes the NIH and the NSF etc. Sure there are issues with funding weird things with little value, but that can mostly be dealt with by other methods than massive funding cuts. Even the FDA is considered to be good over all. Agree or disagree, the main complaints are that it is slow, inefficient and too conservative in drug approvals. Not that it is useless. People are talking about how to streamline it not eliminate it (unlike the EPA, which a large chunk of the Republican party simply wants to get rid of).

    Getting too tightly associated with the left is a losing proposition for science and the funding it depends on. Incidentally, the same is true for being to tightly associated with the right once the pendulum swings, as it always does, and the Democrats have their turn in charge.

    The NIH, NSF, FDA etc have been successful in being relatively nonpartisan and need to keep doing so. Marching with left wing slogans puts that position at risk. (Right wing slogans would cause the same problem, but as it so happens the slogans making the news from the march were left wing ones).

  42. steve says:

    Utter nonsense. Trump called for a 20% cut in NIH funding so the idea that he’s only attacking “partisan” agencies is absurd. Global warming is not “leftist”; the Pentagon has been addressing it for years. In 2003 they put out a report saying that the threat of global warming dwarfed that of terrorism Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, head of U.S. Pacific Command, said in 2013 that climate change is the “biggest long-term security threat” facing the region. DOD said the same thing in their 2015 report to Congress Trump’s answer to all this? Stop EPA from collecting and disseminating the data. That is the very definition of anti-science.

    1. Bagger Vance says:

      How does Steve get to keep posting links but i go to moderation? Disparate impact.

      NO WAR ON SCIENCE STEVE. If the funding cut is -20% NIH, 0% everyone else, you might have a point. Otherwise it’s a war on Bloated Government Budget, which is strangely something some people believe in.

      The idea we can wish ourselves more taxes or borrow against the future are over. The best thing you and the NIH/NSF can do is emphasize downstream impact on pharma research etc etc, not cry about Jeff Sessions when he sends your DREAMers home.

  43. exGlaxoid says:

    I see a few issues here.

    First, science and facts do not determine policy well. There are no scientific facts that can clearly determine the best way to tax people and corporations, how to best spend tax money to create the best US, immigration policy, or which healthcare plan is better. Those are all policy issues. Even if you believe in global warming.climate change, that does not give you a clear answer as to how to undo it. I would argue that nuclear is the best short term solution based on science, but almost none of the people seem to agree.

    Second, funding is about money, not science. I have worked for federal, state, and private funded groups, and frankly, all had major issues with spending poorly, changing their mind often, wasting money, bad management, and more. But only government funded groups got to keep wasting money for years past any benefit. There are STILL many government research programs to see if smoking cigarettes is bad, state programs that fund terrible “science” ideas, and government spending programs that clearly don’t provide any return on investment. So even though I have been funded by government funds, I would be OK with at least freezing some government research funding, maybe cutting other places.

    Third, like the Republicans, even if scientists were given control, I doubt that any group of them could agree on how to better spend the NIH budget. I know scientists who are left, right, socialist, foreign born, religious, atheist, and more. So until scientists can agree on some simple “scientifically proven facts” as to how to SOLVE climate change, poverty, disease, war, and economic disparity, having them debate them as science issues is moot. Few people argue over easily proven facts in government, most issues are not ever going to be easy to easy to decide, as most are not simple equations to solve, but policies that affect real people, with some winners and some losers. eg, lowering CO2 emmissions will hurt coal miners, help gas or nuclear; funding NIH might cure some disease, but might also spend funds that would pay for better immunizations; having fewer STEM graduates might be bad for science, but lead to fewer unemployed STEM graduates. No issue is really just about facts, but about policies, laws, and priorities.


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