This past Saturday, April 22nd, thousands gathered in their cities to march for Science. They (myself included, full disclosure) see the buffoons in the current government who, among other things, believe climate change a Chinese plot, aim to bleed dry the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institute for Health, and suspect vaccinations.
All good reasons to march! But here’s the rub. Marching for Science, and solely for Science, is a bad political strategy. To champion a cause without an underlying telos, goal, or explicit ideology threatens to neuter the power of the cause to affect political change.
Take a look at the Facebook page for the Austin March on Science. The closest it gets to being political are in the three following lines: “We’ll stand in solidarity with friends and allies around the world to support and defend all things SCIENCE!” Well, Bill Nye can teach you how to calculate atmospheric pressure, and it’s all good and clean scientific fun, but those same calculations will also aid your estimation of the blast radius of the newest and baddest weapons in the US arsenal.
This march for science made us feel good. We shouted, called Trump silly names, checked dating apps for fellow protestors, and foreplayed with stories about how We Marched for Science. Yet at the end of the day, one fact remains: Donald Trump will be President of the United States for the next for years. His appointees to the EPA, NIH, and other departments will have free reign in that time to push their anti-vaccinationism, denial of climate change, abortion bans, and what have you.
I marched because I want our government to recognize the civilizational threat from man-made global warming and subsequent climate change. It should in no way be construed that science itself is the answer or the proper means of organizing human society; we have too many examples of the horrors – eugenics, Zyklon-b, the atom bomb – unleashed by driving a mono-sight science to its logical extreme. You must remember the human being whose fate rests on the result of your statistics.
For this reason it is incomplete to stop at “I Fucking Love Science!” and like slogans. We must acknowledge who and what inspired us to march. Who and what we oppose. It is Trump. He and all he represents must be the forefront of our focus. If we cannot remove him, pressure must be kept on his mind at all times. He should not so even as set his phone down without worrying that there are folks against him and his team, who will not shut up until they are removed and replaced with competent and professional scientists. Above all, these scientists cannot limit their scope to the equations and the data gathering. They must keep a humanistic vision that reminds them that statistics are composed of people. Actual, real-life human beings, who will feel the consequences of ill and well scientific policy.
Science is a powerful tool, a candle in the dark, but it must not and should not be regarded as a means into itself nor the primary tool for organizing society.