On Earth Day, thousands of scientists and activists converged on Washington, D.C., for the March for Science. Organizers billed the march as an opportunity for a broader discussion on science’s role in civic life.
The March’s website claims that “the march has generated a great deal of conversation around whether or not scientists should involve themselves in politics.” But nobody is suggesting scientists shouldn’t be involved in politics. And everyone believes fact-based, evidence-backed decision-making is a good thing. The real argument lies elsewhere. Many liberals seem to believe that science should be the primary guide in public policy debates and excoriate those who they claim “politicize” science.
But that’s what politicians are supposed to do. Science should inform public policy, but the scientific perspective on an issue must be balanced with other important considerations such as justice, personal liberty, cost and risk.
If the scientists were really interested in avoiding politics, they wouldn’t be marching on Washington DC, which is an overtly political act.
Organizers stress that the march is nonpartisan. But it is being led by pseudo-liberal scientists such as Bill Nye “the science guy” and activist liberal groups with an ax to grind such as Union of Concerned Scientists. And it’s no coincidence that the March is happening in the opening days of the Trump era. The subtext is clear: Science is under attack by President Trump and conservatives, and people who value science and rational thought must stand up and have their voices heard.
The left talks about “settled science” especially as it relates to climate change. But the term itself is unscientific; science is never settled. Too often, what liberals regard as scientific consensus is nothing more than their own political opinions and priorities masquerading as fact and necessitating the expansion of government.
Liberals don’t have a monopoly on scientific truth. On many issues, liberal scientists have abandoned their profession to take up the leftwing cause. Science tells us that an abortion destroys nascent human life; science tells us genetically modified foods are safe; science tells us that men and women are born biologically distinct; social science tells us the two-parent family is the ideal setting for kids to flourish. On all these issues, the left embraces the anti-science position.
Many scientists are sitting out the march because they recognize its leftwing bias and see the damage it can do. A 2016 Pew Research Center poll found that 76 percent of Americans have either a great deal or fair amount of confidence that scientists will act in the public interest. That confidence could erode if the public believes scientists are acting chiefly out of partisan loyalty and if science becomes little more than a synonym for the left’s policy agenda.