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Science March Massively Confuses Science with Politics

March for Science

So in the end, what was the March for Science, really? Held on Saturday on the National Mall in Washington, DC, and at satellite locations around the country, it was basically an anti-Trump rally with science dragged in as a theme for, mainly, window-dressing purposes.

Some folks don’t like President Trump. Really, really don’t like him. If you were unaware of that, then the March was a big news story for you, offering an important revelation. Otherwise, not so much.

From the Washington Times, which nails it:

Take the Women’s March on Washington, slash its attendance, throw in Bill Nye “the science guy,” and you have the formula for Saturday’s March for Science, the latest in this year’s series of anti-Trump protests.

Framed as a defense of scientific inquiry, the Earth Day march offered a lesson in political science as speakers urged thousands of rain-soaked attendees to fight President Trump’s “anti-science” agenda by advocating more federal funding for research.

“This is about last November’s election,” said Denis Hayes, coordinator of the first Earth Day in 1970.

More:

Thousands gathered in the shadow of the Washington Monument prior to the march to hear from a lineup of speakers that consisted of scientists, progressive activists and at least one poet, while others gathered at more than 600 satellite events across the nation and around the world.

Organizers had insisted beforehand that the march, while political, was non-partisan, an assertion belied by the sea of anti-Trump signs and repeated condemnations of the Trump administration.

They talked with Discovery Institute’s Stephen Meyer, who emphasized the “massive confusion” of politics with science.

“They’re conflating political claims about the need to fund the EPA or to prevent the Keystone pipeline with science,” said Mr. Meyer. “They’re conflating religious and philosophical claims about materialism with science. And then they’re conflating particular theories with the practice of science itself, such that if you disagree with those theories, you’re deemed a ‘science denier.’”

“So it’s massive confusion because of the conflation at all three of those levels,” he said.

Dr. Meyer elaborates further in an interview on EWTN Nightly News. Click on the image to see it at YouTube, starting at about 15:20.

March for Science

CNET‘s Chris Matyszczyk was on hand for the San Francisco satellite March, and reports much the same. At an event like this, you spend a lot of your time reading the homemade signs and judging them for both wit and substance. Matyszczyk wasn’t impressed, and indeed found the signage “troubling.”

A significant proportion of the signs were personally aimed at President Trump, which seems a touch narrow-minded and plays into his Twittering fingers. He isn’t the first on his party’s side to negate science.

So while many might have been amused at a sign that read “Trump doesn’t believe in climate change because he can’t imagine anything hotter than his daughter,” it’s not quite the heart-winner that scientists need in order to make their case.

Some signs were rebuttals to presidential tweets. For example: “I’m not getting paid for this. Trust me, I’m a postdoc” is funny, for those who know how little postdoctoral fellows are paid and that Trump insinuated that anyone who marches against him is being paid. But to a broader audience? Not quite.

It seems clear that while the scientific marchers had put in a lot of effort, there were many in-jokes that wouldn’t translate to the masses.

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the precipitate,” may be amusing, but again, only to scientific minds.

At a relatively sublime level, there were “Copernicus died for your sins,” “Science gives me a hadron” and “Girls just want to have funding.” Still, though, I couldn’t find anything that would make a Trump supporter — or even a fence-sitter — care. Too many signs, indeed, smacked of superiority.

Overall, it sounds like an exercise in self-congratulation, not aimed at changing minds. How could such a thing be a success, unless the only goal was for everyone to pat themselves on the back and feel special? In that case, the March was a smash success.

William Briggs at The Stream neatly summarizes:

I am pleased to report the asinine March “for” “Science” has been a dud.

In case you missed it earlier, go back and see Anika Smith’s fun interview with Steve Meyer, live from the scene of the March on Saturday morning.

Photo: Bill Nye, by Will Folsom via Flickr.