March for Science blows it again: defends ISIS as “marginalized people”

April 14, 2017 • 2:11 pm

While in New Zealand, I’ve been interviewed twice about April 22’s March for Science, and have had to refuse several other interviews because I’m traveling. I think the interest in the March comes partly from magazines’ and journalists’ failure to understand what a “march for science” is really about.

And they’re right to be puzzled. The aims of the march aren’t clearly articulated, as you can see by contrasting their Mission Statement, which says the March should “champion and defend” science  and their Diversity and Inclusion Principles (they had to issue a clarification about the latter), which indicts not just some science, but science itself, for marginalizing some groups and doing bad things (I think they have in mind issues like the Tuskegee Syphillis study).

In other words, they can’t decide whether to extol or indict science. Surely scientists have done bigoted and racist things in the past, and have excluded women, but those are the actions not of the field but of people—biased people who are found in all professions and, I maintain, are less common today in science than in many other professions. A successful science march is not going to be one that spends its time indicting science. Yes, there are institutional issues that scientists should work on—and we are!—but you’re not going to persuade people to support science by emblazoning these issues on placards. The March is supposed to be for science, not against what science does.

Further, if the Science March becomes obsessed with politics, and identity politics in particular, it will neither persuade our opponents nor distinguish the demonstration from overtly political marches like the Women’s March. (Do remember that I support the goals of that march and of ending oppression everwhere that is based on sex, race, and ethnicity).

Pity, then, that the tone-deaf organizers of the Science March just played their political cards in a dumb way: by extolling ISIS fighters as “marginalized people.” Or so report places (yes, mostly conservative one, of course) ike The American Council on Science and Health and The Daily Caller. (Remember, don’t dismiss news because of its source.)

According to these sources, the Science March account defended ISIS as “marginalized people” in a tweet that was later deleted. It started with a post by activist Zellie Imani, a member of the Black Liberation Collective, noting on Twitter that the cost of the “Mother of all Bombs” could fix the water system in Flint, Michigan. That’s a fair point if dropping the bomb was a waste of effort (I’ve only just heard about it because I’m traveling), but you could also say that about a lot of defense spending:

And, in response, the March for Science people sent out this tweet, which appears to have been deleted but was screencapped:

No, it’s not science who is at fault here—any more than architecture is responsible for the Nazi gas chambers—but rather the military who decided to use the bomb, and those scientists who help build big bombs. But in what respect should this be an indictment of science? Those big bombs might actually be used in a positive way, so the blame, if there is any in this case, rests on the military and Trump, the people who decided to drop the weapon.

And seriously:  is ISIS, the bomb’s target, really to be coddled as “marginalized people”? What world are the Science March organizers living in? ISIS regularly kills marginalized people!

The March for Science appears to have also deleted tweets blaming “scientific progress” for chemical weapons.

Well, technologists and scientists played a role in developing those weapons, but are we to blame science and scientific progress for that? Let us then also blame science for all the bombs and weapons used by the Allies in World War II, and on any weapons used on evil people like ISIS.

What is the point of this kind of finger-pointing by the organizers of the March for Science? Like Trump, they simply can’t keep away from Twitter, and the result is they post ill-advised tweets that are tone deaf, and then have to withdraw them after they realize what they’ve done.

Though I was a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War and consider myself a progressive, agreeing with many of the political views held by the Science March’s organizers, they’ve proven themselves ham-handed, inexperienced, tone-deaf, and unable to resist identity politics to the extent that they’re now sympathizing with ISIS. I’m done with this group, and with the Science March. I’ll do my bit for science by speaking and writing articles, something that may be more effect than waving placards in the streets.

h/t: Mark

65 thoughts on “March for Science blows it again: defends ISIS as “marginalized people”

  1. I see a bumper sticker:

    “You don’t do quantum field theory and I won’t do postmodern cultural analysis”

    (except there’s no real reason to discourage people from QFT.)

      1. They do, although not in these exact same words — mathematics, physics, biology, scientific epistemology, etc. have all been branded as tools of masculine oppression on numerous occasions.

        1. When I was in high school a million years ago and planning to major in physics, there was much feeling that the only purpose of a field like physics was to build bigger and better bombs.

  2. Off topic but – people that are criticizing the use of the MOAB bomb should at least get the price right: it’s $16 million for one bomb, $314 million for the order of 20 bombs.

      1. There probably was. If nothing else, the development costs would have been factored into the price and the more bombs you buy, the more the one off costs are spread out.

  3. I have a dilemma: if we are to pursue science/experience/discovery over faith/belief/dogma, then how do we approach LGBT (mostly T)issues? If someone “identifies” as a person of the opposite sex, but fails to note their obvious biological primary sexual characteristics, isn’t this person being unscientific? Even delusional? Shouldn’t he/she be pointed to the nearest biology textbook, if not the nearest psychotherapist? Just wondering….

    1. There appears to be a cognitive association with one sex or the other that is stronger than one’s body parts. After all, one could make the same argument that gays are deluded since gay sex doesn’t comply with the biological purpose of sex, but obviously to whom they are attracted is not conditioned on their biological traits.

      But on a more basic note, why would we want to try to “fix” them? It’s their business and they’re not hurting anyone.

    2. So the fact I am and have always been exclusively attracted to people of the same sex makes me delusional about science?? What an absurd, outrageous claim. Maybe it is you who should study the effects of genes and hormones in defining gender and sexual behavior.

    3. I know LGBT people, and a few I know quite well. It is not wrong to wonder this, in passing, but I don’t think the idea fits the facts. Orientation and identity are like modules in the brain that are a certain way, and people in the LGBT range are in a situation where one of these brain modules does not fit the body that it is in. It is not like a delusion, but rather very, very real to the person experiencing it. When someone says that they self-identify as a man in a womans’ body, it seems to be true.

    4. That is not how science works. Science does not tell us how the world should be, it is a (tentative) description of how the world is.

      If science says that gender is – or should be – merely a function of what your genitalia look like (or what your genome looks like), but this contradicts with the observation that there are transgender people then it is not necessarily that transgender people are irrational but that the science is incorrect.

      How do we approach LGBT? We accept that the simplistic idea that sex = gender = XY or XX is wrong and there is new science to be done to find out how it really works.

  4. I’ve been chewing on this march business…

    I think there’s confusion also between science as a thing outside ourselves, and identifying as scientists. That sounds like identity politics to me.

    Or I could just go and not be “that guy”.

  5. I’ve seen the virtue signalers infiltrate and diminish the skeptics and atheists. These seems like more of that. I think the only effective strategy against this is to ignore them, and let them march along.

    I’m marching for science and facts with posters about evolution and climate change. Couldn’t care less what others are doing.

    1. Very good, and well put. I would rather just ignore them, and happily march alongside whoever.
      I signed on to march at Ann Arbor, but unfortunately I have to work that day. Rats.

    1. I don’t think the left can be defined by a handful of humanities students in some colleges. These are post-mdernists, not associated with the left.

      1. The repressive left is a subset of the left that is characterized by rigid and accusatory stances aimed at anyone who disagrees with them. The rigid part is their attempts to shut down anyone they disagree with. Perhaps that’s not an accurate description of the tweeters in this case, but to blanket condemn all of science because it’s somehow responsible for oppression seems to come out of the same logic.

  6. Science is weaponized? Why not nature? The same science used to figure out how the sun works also was used to nuke Hiroshima and create medical isotopes to treat illnesses. Science is a way of discovering the truth about the natural world for 🦊 sake. That’s like saying words are bad because they are used to oppress people in North Korea.

  7. I’ve been in active communication with Miles Greb, the organizer for the Seattle March, and he has been – as always – eminently reasonable and approachable. I truly do respect him and he has assured me that he and the rest of the leadership were just as upset at the tweet as we here are. I have asked him to try and email Dr. Coyne since there is always more than one side to a story and, even though I feel like I can’t right at the moment, I would still love to be able to support the March; or at least what the March should stand for. If there is any hope, it will rest with Miles and hopefully enough others like him that can right this ship.

  8. Politics is more implicated in the bombing than science so why insist on bringing more politics into the science march?

    Why not say ‘politics is responsible for most of the evils in the world so let’s keep politics the fuck out of this?’

  9. The reason we have apples and oranges is to allow people to confuse them. If there is a better example of conflation or just odd thinking, this would be it. Science had much to do with the invention and development of electricity so is science complicit in the use of the electric chair. Let us remove all electricity from our homes and business immediately.

  10. I clicked on the @ScienceMarchDC link in this post, and this image was the top tweet:
    A good statement of purpose

    The next two tweets stated:

    Recent tweets on the March for Science account did not reflect our nonpartisan mission to advocate for science. We disavow those statements.

    We apologize, and have taken steps to ensure it will not happen again.

      1. That is very nice. But nooooooo, it does not speak for this and it does not acknowledge that, so its’ eeevvillle.
        Sorry, got a little frustrated there.

  11. I do not know if any studies exist that study the question of whether marches or demonstrations are more effective when they focus on a single issue or are more diffuse in their advocacy. I would argue that the former is the case. Although the size of the crowd would be smaller than if many groups participated, media attention would by necessity report on the single issue as opposed to spending time on a multitude of peripheral issues. In addition, if the march hosts many different causes, people who may be favorable to the primary cause could be turned off if they do not like any one of the other causes.

    As I recall (and my memory may be faulty here), the Vietnam War protests were effective because they overwhelming concentrated on the one issue. So, in the case of the March for Science, the organizers should have made it clear that its one and only purpose is to educate the public on how scientific research enriches human life and that the current Administration’s anti-science policies threaten the well being of all citizens. This message is in danger of being drowned out in a sea of various causes, some of which are only peripherally related to science at best.

    1. Just thinking out-loud as you mentioned Vietnam as did the post itself. Marches and protest against the Vietnam conflict or conscientious objection are both true results or actions from the conflict. So too was the bad treatment of those returning home who had fought and survived in Vietnam. One should not have had anything to do with the other.

  12. The problem is with the organizational leadership. I don’t know if this is the National Committee and its members that are listed on their website or some other special interest group. Identity politics should have zero place in it. If there were a neighborhood bike parade to advocate for safer streets for cycling kids the Regressive Left would find a way to barge into the proceedings and argue that Girls shouldn’t have to wear pink helmets. George Carlin was correct when he said (paraphrasing) “beware of anyone with an agenda”.

    1. I’m not exactly blown away by the credentials of the three co-chairs — an anthropology grad student, a public health administrator, and a science fair judge.

  13. “I’m done with this group, and with the Science March.”

    Shame, that; I had harbored high hopes this march would be a success.

    We must respect your decision, nonetheless, as a matter of conscience.

  14. We can always wait ’till April 29 when there’ll be the Peoples Climate March. Sounds like it will be narrowly focused.

    1. Guess somebody reined in the Social Media Directors: the one, a co-founder of a politicized artists’ collective; the other, a political science major/DJ/urban hipster.

      Beka Economopoulos is the Founding Director of The Natural History Museum, an initiative that connects and empowers scientists, museums and communities to address critical environmental and social challenges. Beka has two decades of experience as a senior manager in the communications, education, and advocacy sectors. She was the Director of Strategy at Fission Strategy, supporting non-profits and foundations with online communication strategies. She is a co-founder of Not An Alternative, a collective that specializes in cultural strategies for social change.

      Courtnie Weber is a licensed attorney, and the Member Engagement Manager at WeWork. She’s a Chicagoan in New York City, with a deep love for live music, sports, and craft beer. Courtnie studied Political Science & Industrial/Organizational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and then she studied law at Florida A&M University College of Law. Courtnie is the Media Coordinator for Asgard Radio, an up-and-coming Internet rock radio station, for which she is an amateur concert photographer as well. Courtnie also is a moderator on Reddit for several communities and the volunteer AMA Coordinator for the r/music community, which helps fulfill her love of live music. For all of these organizations, Courtnie helps manage the social media content across several platforms. Her passions outside of music include politics, Chicago sports, and figuring out how many IPAs she’ll have to drink before she finds one she enjoys.

  15. It reminds me of Green parties in many democratic countries – very well intentioned yet somehow always flubbing their popularity by raising some tone-deaf political no-go just before every election cycle (pointed out by the hilarious Bill Bailey)

  16. Sounds to me like one of the twelve-year-olds got access to the Twitter account. Lesson: don’t give control of your social media to someone just because you think that’s something “young people are good at”.

  17. In postmodern intersectionaland:

    -sharia law apologists lead women rights marches;

    -ignorant authoritarian virtue signallers lead marches for science.

    If they could at least appreciate the irony of them posting these ignorant statements aout science from a computer connected to the Internet.

  18. Peruse the March for Science web site, and it becomes clear that their primary focus is, in fact, “inclusion & diversity”.

    SJW entryism ruins everything.

  19. Kudos also to “Creative Lead”, 20-something graphic artist Sloane Henningsen, for the inspired and unique use of an atom with electron orbits to convey the concept of ‘science’!

    Landor’s got nothing on you, Sloane!

  20. More thoughts

    The origins of this March for Science are not scientific. The origins have everything to do with Trump. Naturally, I think, politics / identity things can be expected to dilute the objectives. Did anyone march in celebration of the grand advances e.g. genome project, protein structure, RNA, computing, etc., the past 20 years?

    Why has there not been a March for Science until now? There are other scientific marches I’ve heard of but this one is marketed as THE march.

    A double dilemma? Pascal’ wager?
    A: you deliberately abstain from the March for Science as “that guy” (this is my plan). Or, you go with the crowd because there’s no other March for Science and it’ll help in some small way (I’ll leave early in this case, and I won’t wear any hijab). What outcome is expected in each case? What are the Nobel Prize winners and winners-to-be doing?
    B: you are completely ignorant of the March for Science and don’t go. Or, completely ignorant, you’re caught up in the crowd. Does it matter?

    Double damned if you do, damned if you don’t?

    I’m – what is it – at a loss.

  21. I’ve seen this mentality in leftish groups for years.
    From hippies to feminism some people think the ‘the scientist’ is responsible for the worlds ills, because it is possible to point to the damage technology can do.

    There is either a cognitive dissonance about the technology they do use, or a cute fantasy about how things used to be and how they could live naturally.
    But, living naturally is hard, and boring.

    I don’t want to scratch a living out of the dirt. And watch children die early by the hundreds
    Thank goodness for the scientist.

  22. To be fair, they not only deleted the message, the disavowed it:

    It’s quite apparent, though, that there’s an enormous behind-the-scenes struggle over the direction of the Science March movement, between a non-partisan group, and one that wants the agenda to be radical left. The tone of their Twitter account changes radically depending on who’s in control at the moment. (Also note that a few local marches, notably in Memphis and St. Louis are solidly SJW.)

    I’m still a bit on the fence on this one. I want to support a sane, moderate-to-liberal opposition to Trump, especially one centered on science and reason. But I don’t want to support a batshit ideological movement that’s merely hijacking “science” for their agenda.

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