The Science March: why I’ve opted out

April 19, 2017 • 11:15 am

In the past two days. I’ve been interviewed by five media outlets: two television stations, one radio station, one journalism review, and one newspaper.  All of them want one thing: to use me as someone opposed to the Science March (I’m not marching for reasons I’ve articulated, this one being the last straw, telling me that the organizers have an ideological agenda and are merely hiding it in the face of pushback). Yet the journalists are diverse in their  background knowledge: some have read what I’ve said or written about the March, others are clueless about nearly everything, and one even misrepresented to me the views of another person on a proposed discussion panel to make me think the discussion was “balanced.”

Again, the main reasons I will not be participating are that the March hasn’t clearly articulated its goals, is infused with identity politics, has organizers that are ham-handed and are constantly revising its goals and “diversity statement” (and withdraw tweets!), have appointed Bill Nye, who’s not even a scientist, as one of its honorary chairs (that caused another fracas because he’s an Old White Man), and, mainly, because I don’t want to waste my time on a march that, I think, will be useless at best and counterproductive at worst. This is my decision and I don’t ask others not to participate. I will continue to do my bit for science, writing about it and popularizing my own field, and weighing in politically when and where I can, but, as the old song goes, “I ain’t a-marchin’ anymore.

My views will be aired in at least three of the five venues (I haven’t decided about the others), so stay tuned for links, all within a week. I’ve spoken in much more detail with some of these folks, so my reasons will be clearer when the shows are aired and the publications appear. I’ve been in many marches in my life, but the goals of the others were clearer, and those marches weren’t riven by factionalism and tests of ideological purity. I prefer to stand up for science on my own.

The Science March takes place this Saturday.

172 thoughts on “The Science March: why I’ve opted out

      1. Um, in case you hadn’t noticed, science has ALWAYS been intruded on by politics. Did we go to the moon because it was fun? No, we went to the moon because we were in a Cold War space race. Did we eliminate polio because it was interesting? No, we eliminated polio because people were dying from it and it was a public health crisis. Have we made advances in cancer or AIDS or any other genetic or medical science without politics playing a role? No, no and no. We make political decisions ALL THE TIME that dictate the attention paid, the funds released, the prioritization of certain scientific topics over others. It is incredibly naive to state that science takes place in a vacuum of or is insulated from politics. What we can do is recognize this reality AND recognize that there is an appropriate role for politics in science- in that we should, as a society, decide the things we prioritize and we should fund, because funds are limited and questions are limited. What we should NOT do is allow a small group of special interest stakeholders like the fossil fuel industry, or private security agencies, have outsize influence on the decisions we make around science to the devestating detriment of our broader society. Nor should we state that any of the political funding mechanisms get a say in suppressing or skewing or altering the facts that come out of scientific research if they don’t like the political ramifications. But to pretend that science and politics are not interwoven is naive and does all of us grave disservice.

        1. science is a matter of method. you’re conflating that with political institutions. also you’re discussion of special interests is quite narrow and ignores diverse players

  1. I’m marching for Science. No goals. No complications. Just want to show my support for facts and clinical thinking.

    1. Me too – in Lincoln, NE, with some friends and colleagues. I will be there to add to the “show of force” for science and rational thinking. The rest of it is just distraction as far as I am concerned.

      1. Because the organizers have made it more complicated than that. Supporting science is no longer what the march is about. In fact, much of the march is about denigrating science.

  2. I’m not concerned about the ‘official organizers’ and their agendas. I see this march as more of a grassroots effort to support science in general and the role it should have in formulating public policy. I’ll be in D.C.

  3. I signed on to March at Ann Arbor, MI (where we would be preaching to the choir), but I am proctoring an exam that day so can’t go. But I would march if I could.

  4. I had planned on marching an the internal political cluster-*** wasn’t going to deter me. But some personal issues came up causing me to change my plans, so I donated instead.

    I saw a good potential posterboard slogan in the most recent Science magazine though. I’m kind of chagrined I won’t be able to use it (and I’m quoting from memory here so I may not get it verbatim). “All of your technologies began as our experiments.”

    1. “All of your technologies began as our experiments.”

      Sounds almost like a play on “All your base are belong to us”. If that was the intent something like “All your tech are begun with us” would have been better. I’d carry that sign. 🙂

    2. “All of your technologies began as our experiments.”

      I like that. It’s the thing I think Republicans should be hit in the forehead with when they diss science.

      Where do they think all the fancy stuff we have comes from? Science works!

      1. It should also be the thing regressives are hit over the head with when they oppose science as some white supremacist, patriarchal conspiracy. Science denialism is not the sole province of the right — far from it.

        1. Unfortunately, as things stand today, the influence of the right wing relative to science denial is far greater then the influence of the far left. In fact, much of the far left’s antiscience agenda has been hijacked by the far right (the leading anti-vaxer in the nation dwells in the White House).

          1. I don’t think this is true and it all depends on where you’re looking. If you’re looking at academia (where the minds of the future are shaped), it is the left that holds far greater power when it comes to science denialism. Anti-vaxxers are on both the far right and far left (Jill Stein is one).

    3. The only problem is that, at best, it’s a simplistic representation. Technology frequently does stem from science, the classic example would be solid state electronics which probably wouldn’t have been invented without the preceding quantum mechanics.

      However, sometimes technology drives the science. For example, a lot of what we know about thermodynamics comes from attempts to understand the scientific principles behind the already invented steam engines in order to make them more efficient.

      1. The only problem is that, at best, it’s a simplistic representation

        Well sure. But the message was going to be written in 8″ letters across a 4′ posterboard, and the gist needed to be understandable in a few seconds of viewing. Given those expectations I think the wording is a reasonable tradeoff between technical accuracy and communicability.

        1. I know, but it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that somebody will pick up on that and write an article whose thesis is “scientist is wrong about relationship between science and technology: what else are scientists wrong about?” It’s a standard tactic on the internet to pick one little misunderstanding and generalise it into “all supporters of X are wrong about everything”.

  5. I agree. The current Adminisration ignored the Womens March, which was the largest such demo in American history, and there’s no reason to believe it would pay any attention to scientists.

    That said, I think it might be wise for some large, funded science organization to employ a lobbyist to support legislation relevant to science interests and to oppose cuts to science funding. As someone observed today on Twitter the best way to get a legislator to support your program is to give him/her money.

    1. I agree with you, the Trump administration ignored the Women’s March and will either ignore or downplay the Science March as well. These large public marches raise awareness and encourage and promote civic engagement. Those are good things. Maybe a payoff in 2018?

    2. The point isn’t to get Trump and Company to change their views any more than arguing in public with creationists is likely to change the creationist’s views. Instead, you do it to motivate activism among the populace and build interest in fighting for reason, especially at election time.

      1. “you do it to motivate activism among the populace and build interest in fighting for reason, especially at election time”.

        If what comes out of this is a load of identarian nonsense it will negatively impact the “fight for reason”,

    3. Entrenched authorities almost always feign disdain for protest marches. I wouldn’t accept their pretense at face value.

  6. I often agree with you, Jerry, but here I think you couldn’t be more wrong.

    This is why conservatives do better at power politics than we liberals / progressives. They can look at something that isn’t perfect, understand that the result is more important, hold their nose, and push through.

    You can support science as an individual, but that is much less important to public perception than their seeing masses of people – scientists and non=scientiists – supporting science. Your negative comments will get used and amplified by the right-wing media and politicians to help those who are anti-science. So ehile your indivual principled stand won’t further the support of science, your public negative comments will do a great deal of damage.

    And Bill Nye? He’s an *honorary* chair. That doesn’t say he’s a scientist. But it does put someone fromt and center who is well known and has taken very public stands against anti-science forces. Your perosonal animosity against him is misplaced in this instance, and, as with your earlier comments, will just be used to delegitimize a voice fighting against the hatred of science and fact that’s being encouraged by people who want ideology and profit to Trump reality.

    1. I am not a scientist and should stay out of this conversation. However, if you say anyone should stay quiet and not speak their mind because the other side might use your words against the cause, that doesn’t wash. If the cause is worthy, it will stand on it’s own and one’s individual comments will not hurt a thing. That is the same kind of thing as those who cry about the last election and blame it on any who said one negative thing about the candidate. Rubbish.

      1. Sorry, but that’s just not reality.

        Politically aware (and realistic) people need to understand that the media and activists will often twist their words.

        It’s why most biologists, wisely, don’t debate creationists. They know that a debate is a lousy way to communicate (the audience doesn’t know how to disinguish lies and half-truths from facts) and it just gives a boost to the creationists, who have no compunctions about lying.

        Choosing where and how you communicate on complex issues isn’t censorship – it’s just common sense. He can say whatever he wants. But that doesn’t mean he always should, to anyone, anywhere.

    2. While someone is surely entitled to have reservations about anything which mixes politics and science, I do agree that publically demonizing the event in question only serves to weaken and oppose honest and rigorous science.

      And do I need to point out that it does this in favor of certain corporate, political and religious interests which all would rather information delivered to the public not be honest or accurate to be sure.

      And so to my mind Dr Coyne’s comments show an astonishing lack of understanding as to when and how one can best use the media to their advantage absolutely…

      Moreover they stand poorly in comparison to another scientist who has championed science endlessly in public, and to be clear much more effectively without question…

      Being of course Bill Nye!

      In impugning the latter, Dr Coyne is seemingly just being jealous of Nye’s public success (for being out-competed on the public stage so to speak) and frankly it’s confounding that someone of Coyne’s stature would stoop to these kinds of remarks regardless.

      Nye holds a degree in science from Cornell, and moreover has involved himself in a host of scientific endeavors (to say nothing of education) such that through years of effort he has EARNED the title of “Scientist” without question.

      Frankly, being a scientist is NOT a matter of employment or education, but rather something obtained through the practice of the scientific process with diligence and honor.

      Indeed many of the world’s greatest achievements in science arose with folks operating outside conventional means such as Nye. They did so with nothing but the same type of humble background and enthusiasm, and alone through their rational understanding of science in exploring wherever their curiosity and interests led.

      To say people like Nye have not studied or worked in this field enough to be called a Scientist is just plain wrong, period, put a fork in it, period again, and again…

      Going further, for someone to thus set themselves up is honestly only foolishness at best. So I gotta say I find it sad that Dr Coyne would thus dishonor his own very creed, and paint a picture which in many respects is nothing but false, and unfortunately appearing petty to boot.

      I truly feel that at this point the wise thing for Dr Coyne to do would be to make a simple apology to Nye first and foremost.

      If his remarks about the event in a larger sense are being misconstrued, it would nice to see a clarification, but human nature for us all is to spin things out of control and I’d rather not see the good Dr dig a deeper hole in trying to backfill the one already in existence.

      I guess what I’d most like to see, is for Dr Coyne to just admit his experiment in public relations here has gone totally astray and acknowledge it as wholly mistaken attempt to bolster his field.

      Clearly lol he failed utterly from hypothesis, to data and analysis, and like any researcher in these circumstances needs to go back to the drawing board.

      Science is about getting the facts right, and do so as to correct our knowledge and understanding as to the universe surrounding.

      And of course science is about seeing when our current understanding is wrong, and respectfully I submit Dr Coyne is off the mark with his statements above (especially about Nye) and should address that fact and more forward with grace.

      And I hope he does, as hey we all make mistakes, and its how we correct them which really counts right?

        1. “Instead of 3000 words of praise to Mr. Nye, would you cite a single fact that would justify calling him scientist?”

          Who called him a scientist, and why does he need to be one? He is arguably the most popular mainstream science promoter in the country, doesn’t that qualify him to be one of the “honorary chairs” of a march promoting science?

          1. (Let me first say that, being a non-American and a TV abstainer, I hadn’t heard of Bill Nye before this post.)
            I do not have any objection against involving a science popularizer in such a campaign. Prof. Coyne has. There can be a discussion about this. I agree, however, with Prof.Coyne that an engineer is not a scientist. The previous commenter called Bill Nye a scientist and accused Prof. Coyne in envy. This was combined with lavish praise of Mr. Nye and abuse of Prof. Coyne, and all this on the latter’s own site.
            Someone needs to read Da Roolz.

            1. For purposes of the March for Science, I think the idea Jerry has advocated… “science broadly construed ” should apply.

        2. I’d have thought that the principle qualifications to be a prominent person in a campaign to promote an idea is to understand the idea and to be a good communicator. It also helps if you already have a public profile. I think Bill Nye meets those criteria admirably.

    3. I agree that the crack about “Bill Nye, who’s not even a scientist” is out of line, and tends to undercut Jerry’s professed abhorrence of “factionalism and tests of ideological purity”.

        1. How by any stretch is Bill Nye a scientist? He has a degree in mechanical engineering and I don’t see any information on him ever working as an engineer let alone a scientist. His career has been as an entertainer and educator.

        2. Sorry, but this is not equivalent to damning someone for an impure ideology. It’s not the same to say that I’d prefer a real scientist to head the march than to damn a field or a person for racism, misogyny, and so on. It’s not an ideological purity test, and I’m baffled that you would even raise this point,

          Pro-tip: I wouldn’t answer if I were you, for the comment itself is skirting Da Roolz

    4. It’s not that it isn’t perfect, it’s that much of the march is apparently about denigrating science and viewing it as a colonialist, white supremacist, patriarchal conspiracy. That is not support for science, but the opposite.

        1. But why do you disagree? You have seen the many statements from the organizers explicitly stating this, yes?

          1. I disagree because that set of bullet points is primarily common sense points about science and society. To say the science communications try should embrace diversity is not to say that it’s owned by racist white men, but that like most endeavors, can look to do better.

            You have to work at it to see malign intent. And that’s the same sin that Jerry inveighs against.

            Does every person talking about the March say what I’d like them to say? No. Do the people speaking represent a wide group, some ones of whom would say things that hurt my feelings? Yep. Does that matter for the overall purpose of the March.

            Not a bit.

            1. I’m not talking about the twentieth revised edition of the bullet points. We know that the march has become identity politics-infested because of the first nineteen editions that completely denigrated science.

              1. I’m confused. If you’re really saying that previous versions were bad, but this one is okay (or at least better), then the organizers made an effort to improve the list. So they were on the right track. (And nothing in that list denigrates science.)

                If that’s not what you’re saying, then you don’t really care about the list. You’re just using it to try to push your point of view. (Or I’m misunderstanding your point. I’m open to that, but I need a better explanation.)

                Anyway, organizing committees often come out with lists like this that, rightfully, most people ignore. The point of this March is, clearly, to show that large numbers (I avoid the word “huge” these days) people support science and scientists. And oppose the people who, in the interest of ideology and short-term earnings, are putting us all at great risk. That’s worth supporting.

                And, again, I think that by assuming that the organizers’ compromise list represents the thinking of the great mass of people taking part in the march is making the same error that conservatives make when they make sweeping generalizations about races and ethnics by pointing to the actions of a few.

  7. I must admit I am a little confused about all this. Surely (don’t call me Shirley) the only qualification you need to be associated with the Science March is that you care about science? This might include:

    that it is funded adequately?
    that it is not skewed?
    that it is not muzzled?

    Secondary issues might include:
    Are people getting sufficient education to take up science should they unfreely choose to do so?

    Are qualified people somehow being disbarred form participating in science education and research

    Just some thoughts.

    1. “the only qualification you need to be associated with the Science March is that you care about science?”

      Yes, and on that note why would the honorary chair have to be a scientist? It shouldn’t matter who it is as long as they support science, and some level of notoriety as is the case with Bill Nye is a bonus.

      1. It occurred to me that a committee of Nobel Prize winning scientists would not have as much impact with the general public as Bill Nye all by himself. To many, Bill Nye has probably come to represent science and scientists more than any working scientist. You’d have to go back to Albert Einstein for a more familiar name.

      2. Bill Nye is, to my mind, a superannuated figure of fun who is not only a jerk (he’s the only person who refused to sign “Fiath versus Fact” so I could auction off a multiply-authored copy for charity, and he refused simply because he was arrogant), but he’s desperate to recapture the fame he once had as the Science Guy. It’s embarrassing.

        You’ve already said what you’ve repeated; I think the head of the March should have been Neil deGreasse Tyson. You’ve disagreed twice, saying the same thing, and that’s enough.

        1. May I respectfully point out that BJ (who supports your position) has repeated essentially the same comment about “denigrating science” at least five times in this thread, and received no reprimand for it.

        2. “I think the head of the March should have been Neil deGreasse Tyson.”

          You said he was “one of its honorary chairs”. I would agree there are better people, Tyson among them, to be the “head of the March”, if that is the case, and he isn’t just one among several honorary chairs I withdraw my repeated disagreement.

          1. Oops, didn’t close the blockquote correctly, sorry.

            he refused simply because he was arrogant

            Did he give any reasons for his refusal?

          2. He told my friend, who asked him at the Reason Rally, to go away, that he couldn’t be bothered. He did hear the pitch but didn’t look at the book. I was appalled and sod so was my friend. But people who know him tell me that’s the way he is–he doesn’t care about other people–only about being the center of attention. And that’s the way he behaved at the Reason Rally to my friend who encountered him backstage,

            1. Thanks for the details. I ask for those regularly when I hear about people “being” this and that, to know where the particular impression comes from and if I would rate their behaviour the same way.

              Since I have friends and acquaintances with social disorders within a broad spectrum from “high functional” to “low functional” that let them often come across rude or arrogant to others, I also try to give people that may have similar traits the luxury of the doubt. So I “hope” that may be the case with Mr. Nye and he’s not a real jerk. 🙂

        3. “I think the head of the March should have been Neil deGreasse Tyson.”


          Yes, that would (I think) have been an infinitely better choice.

  8. Nobody who sees videos of crowds with pro-science signs and t-shirts will dig into any of those issues. They will think “wow there are a lot of people who support science”

    Me, I’m not participating because it will make my feet hurt. Getting old sucks.

  9. Nobody who sees videos of crowds with pro-science signs and t-shirts will dig into any of those issues. They will think “wow there are a lot of people who support science”

    Me, I’m not participating because it will make my feet hurt. Getting old sucks.

  10. There seem to a several people on the national committee who are mainly science educators. Bill Nye is otherwise mainly an engineer with several patents (including a timepiece used on a NASA mission). There is also one software engineer on the national committee (and one lawyer), so a lot of these folks are friends of science without being scientists per se.

    1. I think (am not sure) that the majority of those who describe themselves as members of the political left do not subscribe to the views that characterize the sjws’.

      1. Republicans and conservatives have been effective in attempting to conflate a small group of people on the “left” with the “left” as a whole. In the 1950s, they worked non-stop to try to convince the American public that everybody on the left were Communists. Now they are attempting a similar ploy to conflate “social justice warriors” with the Democratic Party or progressives. It is hard to tell how effective their efforts have been, but as was McCarthyism in the 1950s, their message is an utter lie. Of course, progressive have fought hard for social justice. They are the people who have fought hard for civil rights, workers’ rights and gay rights, for example. They must never be embarrassed by this or make excuses for what they’ve accomplished.. They should never concede the intellectual battlefield to the right, which wants to set us back a 100 years.

        There does exist a small and politically powerless group of extremists on the left. The vast majority of progressives should challenge them. But, they must never forget that the right wing extremists control all three branches of the federal government and are the true enemies of democracy, the environment, science, available health care for all, and an economy that provides the opportunity for all Americans to live the “American Dream.” I hope they are not so foolish to be distracted from the real political enemy by the unending stream of well financed right wing propaganda.

        1. “Republicans and conservatives have been effective in attempting to conflate a small group of people on the “left” with the “left” as a whole.”

          Started to say that the same is true of feminism–and I hope it is–but the third-wave loonies are getting all the attention and making all the waves now. I hope both progressives and feminists can right their ships, and soon!

          1. The ivory tower loonies are in no way representative of those of us who do such outrageous acts of feminism as holding full time jobs, wearing pants, and not having children.

    2. Sorry, but this is just silly. Don’t confuse the actions of a few with the positions of the majority.

      Leave that to the right-wing.

      1. If it was convenient, I suppose. I would take my sons. We almost always do something on Earth Day, but usually a family hike in the wilderness. More personal than public.

  11. I’m going to the science march, with American flags flying. Why? Mostly because I think it will be fun. My personal goals will be making a statement that science and facts in general are important.

    I’m frustrated with the national organizers lack of clear goals or inclusion of all goals (hard to tell which). I’m also frustrated that our local march is timed such that it conflicts with another science-related event. But since I almost never go to anything, oh, what the heck. I’ll go.

    Besides, a friend knit me a nice cap with DNA helices and I’ll get to show it off.

    1. I’d love to hear about your experience, sedgequeen. I’ll bet Jerry’ll have a post-march post and hope those who’ve expressed their intent to participate can chime in again with their opinions…

    2. The whole point of a demonstration is the power of the people to set the agenda, not the other way around!

  12. Maybe if the marchers have a sense of humor, one would see signs like:

    “This would never need to happen at Hogwarts!!”

    “What do we want? Peer reviewed publications! When do we want it? After peer review!”


    “Where are our flying cars? We were promised flying cars!”

    1. Other thoughts:

      Science succeeds–bigly!

      Science–we have all the best words.

      Science–trumping ignorance since we’ve had two neurons to rub together…

  13. You are way way more valuable to science and to life on earth doing what you have done and what you do now than by marching.

    1. Agreed! +1. Jerry is a credit to science and educates the public on it. He is far more valuable doing what he does on this blog and in his scientific and authorial endeavors.

        1. It’s not a choice for him. His convictions and principles (with which I agree), which stand at odds with the many statements by the march organizers outright denigrating science, force him to abstain from this march.

          1. +1

            Well said! And I second that, I would not touch this march with a ten foot pole.

            The real scientists in this march are (I think) being fooled by the much more political savvy people in the identity crowd, and are (for lack of better words), being used as puppets.

            The outcome will (in all probability) not be the one they think, believe or hope.

            1. Being fooled into what? Political action intended to cry out against anti-science attitudes of our current government?


              1. If the aim of this is anything more than an ginormous kickoff and internal group hug for scientist, you need to think hard about the how, and who, and what message are going to come through to the intended recipients on the other side.

                You also need to think about who controls what that message is.

                Who, what group or fraction in a demonstration gets the most attention?

                Who, in this march are going to behave the most conspicuous, the most violent, shout the loudest, have the loudest signs?

                Who, or what message are the journalists and media most interested in?

                With 20+ messages, individual groups can choose their message, choose their behavior, and media can choose what to relay to its viewers.

                And my guess is, that it will not be the message that you, or the majority of participants want to send. (Just pick up the cues from the interviews our host describes.)

                But, the media can pan out and show all these people, and say that, hey look, the whole of science stands behind this.

                I might be to dark in my concerns, and I might be wrong in my fears of what the probable outcome will be, but I think the risks and the stakes at hand are way to high to go through with it.

              2. Your concerns are, I think, an argument for political inaction. The exact same argument could be made in ANY context. There will ALWAYS be people with different agendas in any political movement. It is ver much like voting. If you refuse to vote for people who don’t share your exact agenda, you will never vote at all.

              3. @GBJames

                No, not at all.

                You fail to differentiate between “fighting this specific battle”, under these given conditions, and “fighting any battle, ever.”

                That are two very different things.

                As any strategist since time immemorial will tell you, when you do decide to risk the uncertainties of a ‘battle’, you should make sure (as far as you possibly can, that you are the one that controls the where, the when, and the how.

                That is a crucial difference, in a military, political, or in an intellectual battle over peoples minds.

                In this specific case, the minimal requirement aught to be to make sure you have one crystal clear message.

                And, that this message is delivered and hammered in, in advance, through all possible communication channels, blogs, magazines, facebook, t-shirts, news media, until it reaches your intended target.

                The march will then only supply the last crucial aspect, the support behind it.

              4. Sure seems like making the perfect the enemy of the good to me.

                I’ll be marching in Milwaukee. I have no trouble demonstrating support for this agenda.

  14. I plan to attend my local event, even though there isn’t going to be a march. And even our local event looks like it might be nothing more than a local politician speaking and some local scientists setting up booths. (With a national laboratory and a state university here, meeting some local scientists sounds like a bonus!)

    However, I’m extremely disappointed that after all this time, the Science March still hasn’t come up with one, concise, coherent message.

    Maybe next year we can hone our message and keep the momentum going?

  15. Up with people! The Peoples Climate March is in 10 days. I’m not sure if it hasn’t been overrun by communists, fascists, of cub scouts, but it should be supported.

  16. There is huge power in numbers, even if Trump can’t count, so it would seem that any and all who show up at any of the marches will add to the apparent power of Science. I’ll be in Washington D.C. Saturday…!!

  17. Jerry, I applaud you for taking this stand. We need more people like you. Kudos to you, and thank you for standing up for your worthy convictions.

  18. Ah

    I have to go then.


    Because :

    A. I’m no PCC(E). To abstain in such a strong way, … without getting into details, I can’t do it. I’d like to see some favorites for the Nobel Prize do the same as PCC(E).

    B. It could serve to raise awareness of PCC(E)’s criticisms

    C. There’s a thing called “face time”. Might have to bite the bullet.

    Thanks PCC(E), for making a strong case.

    1. hasty update:

      having participated* in a local march, I can report a few things.

      I saw none of the anti-hate speech / outright identity politics that was anticipated.

      let’s wild-guess say 52.5% of the signs I read were purely science related (equations, philosophy), 42.5% were science-and-politics (global warming, vaccinations), and 5% were explicitly referring to Trump in any way. In addition, some featured speakers referred to science funding, career stuff, etc. I think that’s a big problem with the March for Science – the majority of signs should have been taking out Trump and his administration – there are so many easy targets. Instead, it was more of a “pure science” march, from my view.

      I’d like to say that I’m glad PCC(E) challenged my thinking about this important event. Like the sign in the post-election demonstrations last year, I am “not usually a sign guy, but jeez”. I never actually marched for anything before. I think PCC(E)’s role was perfect _for_PCC(E)_, and valuable, and made a strong statement. However, my role was something else – a point made by PCC(E) a few times, but might have been lost in the noise. My strongest statement would NOT have been opting out. I learned that the march can become what you bring to it.

      [*]had to leave early

      1. I’ll second what Thyroid says. Just finished the Seattle march (reputed to be the second-largest in the country) and only a small minority of signs I saw had anything to do with identity politics. The vast majority were about fact-based public policy, climate change, and science funding.

        I hadn’t planned on marching, but friends were going and the possibility that Bill Nye might be a jerk seemed insufficient reason to say no.

    2. Having thought about what I wrote a bit more

      I think the reason there were almost no signs digging directly into Trump and his administration is children : it might be perceived to be bad form to up and call out against the leaders of the country on their science. Obviously that’s a big conversation starter, but – and this is just in – Trump just asked the surgeon general Murthy to resign. I bet everything that it’s because Murthy promoted to notion that guns are a public health issue. I don’t usually go all “do it for the children”, but this one – guns – that’s easy to do with the body count. Sorry to be so gruesome but F.

  19. As Ed Yong has pointed out*, there are at least 21 different stated goals for this march — which is a bit good way to dissipate a lot of energy quickly and is extremely poor political strategy. Great for making people feel like they have “become politically active” and great for getting people emotional, but without concrete, achievable goal goals cannot be effective.


    –The 21 goals Ed Yong identified in their mission statements:
    Celebrate “passion for science.”
    Celebrate what science does for people and “the many ways that science serves our communities and our world.”
    Encourage the public “to value and invest in science” and “appreciate and engage with science.”
    Encourage scientists to “reach out to their communities” and share their research and its impact.
    Encourage scientists to “listen to communities” and consider their research from the perspective of the people they serve.
    Affirm science as a “vital feature of a working democracy.”
    Show science to be “first and foremost a human process” that is “conducted, applied, and supported by a diverse body of people.”
    Support research “that gives us insight into the world” and “upholds the common good.”
    Encourage people to “support and safeguard the scientific community.”
    Call for robust federal funding “in support of research, scientific hiring, and agency application of science to management.”
    Advocate for “open, inclusive, and accessible science” that is “freely available.”
    Support science education that teaches people “to think critically, ask questions, and evaluate truth based on the weight of evidence.”
    Encourage political leaders and policy-makers to enact evidence-based policies, and “make use of peer-reviewed evidence and scientific consensus, not personal whims and decrees.”
    Oppose “policies that ignore scientific evidence” or “seek to eliminate it entirely.”
    Oppose policies that “threaten to further restrict scientists’ ability to research and communicate their findings.”
    Oppose an “alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus.”
    Oppose the “mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue.”
    Protect science from “manipulation by special interests.”
    Hold leaders in science and in politics “accountable to the highest standards of honesty, fairness, and integrity.”
    Stand up for scientists: “Speak up for them when they are silenced” and “protect them when they are threatened”.
    Encourage and support a new generation of scientists “that increasingly includes historically underrepresented groups.”

    1. Worse than I’d even imagined.

      Took only 4 statements till they were (passive-agressively) criticizing what they were supposed to be celebrating.

      1. Wow. Really? What did you see that was so awful?

        That it’s a human process? That it should have a diverse community? That’s so terrible? (So Otto Hahn gettting a Nobel prize for Lise Meitner’s work is okay?)

        I think yoi’re looking to find things not to like. This is almost all just commone sense.

          1. Then ban me. My comment was mild. She stated nothing other than that something in that list bothered her. I called her on that vague statement. If that level of argument is rude – making someone be explicit, rather than letting them get away with a completely generic statement – then this isn’t a venue for serious discussion and you’ve fallen into the same snowflake issue of which you accuse others.

        1. Well, this got interesting in a hurry. 😉

          (Thanks for the support, Jerry.)

          rwilsker, my point is that this march was not intended to be about “what science should be.” It was intended (at least this was my impression from the first) as a protest in response to the very clear and present danger the new political regime represents to not just scientists themselves but by extension to society and, indeed, the planet itself.

          This is not the time to critique science, but rather to celebrate it.

          1. Could you please elaborate on the problems you have with points #1-4? I ask because I don’t see what you summarized about them. On the other hand, I see many statements on the list that seem to confirm to your demands, e.g. #13-17. We also shouldn’t ignore that this is not official but “collating every statement that could be reasonably interpreted as a goal” by The Atlantic.

            The official website’s headline reads:

            The March for Science is the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments.

            The rest of that page doesn’t strike me as controversial either. And that’s as far as most people will read the site, if ever.

            I agree with those here who say that most people won’t know the full manifest and/or don’t care about it very much. Scientists and lay people alike are very diverse in their views. As long as we don’t have multiple marches for the many different reasons for supporting science, an united march is a very good compromise, I think.

            That’s the reason I’m participating at Saturday without taking neither an absolute supporting or rejecting stance. Overall, I don’t think I have to.

            One last thought: If you support some goals and reject others, another option is to go to the march and make your goals clearly visible, so that they are duly represented there.

            1. I said (or at least meant to) that my disagreement began at comment 4; i.e., 1-3 were unobjectionable.

              Statement 4: “Encourage scientists to “reach out to their communities” and share their research and its impact.”

              Well, sure, when appropriate that would be nice (though perhaps that’s more the purview of science popularizers, university PR departments, etc.). But this obviously implies that scientists are not doing enough of this (which may or may not be the case; science is a human endeavor that includes all sorts of people, some of whom are more inclined to do this than others) and is thus a critique of science, which is not the original purpose of the march.

              Other points imply that scientists (apparently, we infer, white male scientists) need to pay more attention to inclusiveness. Actually, as an erstwhile Woman In Science, I couldn’t agree more, but again–the purpose of this march was not to urge “Science” (as if it were some unified monolith) to improve itself, but rather to stress its vital importance and protest its quite real endangerment given the priorities of the Trump administration. I see nothing to be gained by airing dirty laundry in that context.

              1. Very well said Diane!

                Trump seems (in this instance) to function much like the red flag in a Spanish bullfight.

                Wave it in front of people, and they will charge right at it, without much further reflection or contemplation.

                Especially not about who it is that is actually holding the flag…

        2. In case you are still commenting here and would like an answer, @darwinwins summed it up below more clearly than I did above —

          “What is needed is a clear unambiguous message to political leaders to listen to scientists and respect evidence and facts for the good of the country.”

          Political activism can’t be about self discovery and self definition. Drawing up that list is fine if a group wanted to do that (for themselves). But they needed to go further and isolate at most two or three points for a message to the public, and a concrete demand (with a deadline) for the public to support.

        3. The characterization of Otto Hahn as getting a Nobel prize for Lise Meitner’s work is a vast overstatement. Hahn performed the experiment and Meitner explained what the experiment showed. Both deserved to share the prize and it was a travesty that Meitner did not share, an example of sexism. She was not the first woman to be so denied. Chien-Shiung Wu should have shared the prize with Lee and Yang; Rosalind Franklin should have shared the prize with Wilkins, Watson, and Crick, had she been alive at the time it was awarded (it is quite problematical as to whether she would somehow been included had she been alive; either one of the other three would have had to be excluded or she would have had to be given an award in another category, say chemistry).

    2. Wow. Lots of platitudes and virtue signaling. Not that there is anything wrong with that, except I doubt it will be very effective with such a muddled message. What is needed is a clear unambiguous message to political leaders to listen to scientists and respect evidence and facts for the good of the country. Nagging the science community to encourage under-represented groups or to “listen to our communities” (whatever that means) are separate issues internal to the scientific community.

  20. I commend PCC(E)for his rational decisions on the rights and wrongs of this march, sharing them with others, and sticking with what his reasoning and conscience tell him to do. We all must reason it out for ourselves and follow that rationality as best we can.

    1. I’d argue that any “science march” that starts with the organizers making multiple statements about how science is essentially a white supremacist system designed to oppress other people isn’t “good” to begin with.

      1. I’m hoping that the “organizers” were so incompetent, as suggested by their tiresome blathering as PCC(E) has reported on, they essentially played no role in what the marchers wanted to express.

        I could be wrong.

  21. I’m opting out as well, but feel very conflicted about it.

    I am deeply concerned about Trump’s policies, but the Science March organisers are openly promoting an ideology which is the antithesis of science.

    Trump is bad, but Lysenko is worse.

  22. I support science, and I support science activism. But just like my disdain for the Atheism+ movement, I do not support the nascent Science+ movement, which seems to be science + far left regressive identity politics.

    Just the science Ma’am.

  23. We could ask the question: ” is this March really about anything else?” Or, “what are you REALLY trying to say?”

    Ask it about the Womens’ March. I think the answer is no, not really, because Trump is on record as … let’s not go there.

    Asked about the MfS : the answer I get is “it’s really saying “I Wish Trump Wasn’t President”.

    Given how verbose the MfS stuff is, you’d have to say there’s a problem – scientifically even. A principle of science is “as simple as possible but not simpler”. The MfS is not ASAPBNS.

  24. I’d make a cynical bet that those interviews, when published, will misrepresent PCC’s views the same way as the evolutionists who were interviewed for the appalling movie ‘Expelled’ notoriously were. And that PCC will consequently appear to be strongly opposed to the Science March and confirming all the self-serving obscurantist criticisms of science.

    I hope I’m wrong. Time will tell.


  25. I completely agree, and that’s why I’m not participating.

    Another thing to consider is that people don’t realize that when it comes to funding for basic science research, there is a rare bipartisan consensus in favor of it, with notable exceptions like climate change. But the bipartisan consensus in favor of funding (most) basic science is fragile and could easily go away. Having a bunch of scientists hold a massive in-your-face anti-Trump march is one of the things that could make it go away.

  26. I will not go, but it’s only because of personal inconveniences. I would if I could. I agree with most of Jerry’s concerns (the Bill Nye one being the only one I don’t agree with), but as far as I know you don’t have to pass a literal purity test that aligns with the organizers. Do you know who are the only ones who care about who the organizers are? People like you. And that’s not a bad thing, but to the general public what matters is the brand, and in many cases it’s pretty much just the title and perhaps the universal anti-Trump sentiment. In this case, vaguely defined goals might be a good thing. Don’t like identity politics? You can simply reject them and go there with a global warming sign or whatever.
    I just hope figures with some influence would push against identity politics in a march that has genuine potential to create considerable public pressure for the government instead of rejecting it all together.

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