The March for Science made big news last year, when supporters and enthusiasts around the country flooded the streets of DC and their own cities. Featuring witty signs, catchy slogans, 'teach-ins", prominent speakers, and of course lots of marching, the March has become an annual tradition.
But not all scientists and members of the scientific community joined in the efforts. The March's slogan was "out of the labs and into the streets," but many scientists chose to stay in their labs. In this two-part series I'll weigh the pros and cons of the effort, ending with the cons:
By choosing to take the form of a *march*, the organizers painted the event - by will or by happenstance - with undeniably political colors . Marchers of any political movement send a clear and unmistakable message: you are either with us or against us. Either you agree will all our goals and aims, or you are the enemy, and it is now our mission to fight you, not teach you.
The March politicized science and centered most of its messages on climate change and evolution. These are obviously important topics, but the discussions around those topics have unfortunately been split along political lines. That's a division that we need to heal, not reinforce. Instead the March largely ignored the many aspects of science that people universally enjoy, but claimed to represent all science. The messaging was loud and clear: if you're of a traditionally conservative mindset, then science simply isn't yours.
Is this how we are supposed to spread a love and appreciation of science? By telling people they're ignorant and on the wrong side of a debate? Do we honestly believe that anyone who already viewed science negatively watched the demonstrators on TV and thought, "Yeah, alright, this science stuff sounds pretty fun and applicable to my life"?
Did the March for Science disown the very people we need to reach the most?
So while many scientists agreed with the messages of the March, they didn't necessarily agree with the methods. Science needs debate and skepticism to thrive, which are lacking in a march. To foster understanding and a true appreciation for the scientific worldview, we need olive branches and dialogs, not demonstrations and monologues.
That said, I can't blame someone who's passionate about science when they get out and proclaim that passion, so the debate continues...