Home / Blog / Article




April 4 2017

The "March for Science": Actually, It Seems to Be a March for Identity Politics

by Charlotte Allen

And you thought scientists were just quanty dorks in lab coats running fruitfly experiments.

Well, you have haven't been following the story of the  "March for Science." Any image you might have of scientists as horn-rimmed super-rationalist nerds will be promptly shattered.

First, there's the idea behind the March itself. It apparently got going on the very day of President Trump's inauguration, when the White House erased all the "climate change" on its web pages, and the new president put an end to his predecessor's costly carbon regulations as part of his "America First Engery Pan."

So the alarmed climate-change folks promptly scheduled the March for Science, to take place in Washington and 400 other cities around the world on April 22. It's supposed to be kind of like the Women's March on Jan. 21, except without Ashley Judd and the pink hats. The theme seems to be that the Trump administration hates science and, even worse, could dam the river of federal money that enables scientists to dwell and do their science thing in plush California beachside communities with oodles of upscale restaurants.

"When science is threatened, so is the society that scientists uphold and protect," the March for Science website declares.

But, wouldn't you know, trouble quickly started brewing inside those scientific heads. StatNews reports:

At the heart of the disagreements are conflicting philosophies over the march’s purpose. In one corner are those who assert that the event should solely promote science itself: funding, evidence-based policies, and international partnerships.

In another are those who argue that the march should also bring attention to broader challenges scientists face, including issues of racial diversity in science, women’s equality, and immigration policy.

And indeed the range of "broader challeges" that the March on Science is supposed to address is broad indeed. Here's one take--insisting that Trump's visa ban for residents of seven Muslim-majority nations is one of them:

To date, over 43,000 academics have petitioned against the original decision, including 62 Nobel Laureates, 146 prestigious Prize awardees, and 521 Members of the various National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Arts. Over 150 professional associations collectively protested. More than 160 biotechnology leaders signed a similar letter and over 100 technology companies joined in a lawsuit against the original Executive Order. This political issue harms science because it hampers the people and networks of collaboration without whom science is not possible.

Plus:

Immigration raids have also escalated and broadened the groups being targeted. A hand-me-down from the Obama Administration, this is a science issue too, affecting community health and infant well-being. Latin American students and scientists live in communities ravaged by fear of deportation. This comes alongside President Trump’s desire to build a wall to separate the USA from Mexico, a decision that will stall international science programs, hurt wildlife and destroy habitats, as well as cause other environmental damage. Then there is the potential ecological disaster on sacred Native American lands through President Trump’s revived approval for the construction of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines. This is of special concern to Indigenous scientists and their communities, whose knowledge science cannot do without. Then there is the threat to the American Health Care Act, which will affected disabled people most of all and deepen poverty further along racial, gender and class lines. Scientists with disabilities have made a tremendous contribution to research and they use scientific knowledge to deliver services that benefit all of society. Such a massive impact on health is a hazard to science. Similarly, the Transgender Bathroom Bill, which has zero scientific and civic legitimacy, will impact the safety and wellbeing of transgender people not just in Texas, but everywhere, bringing additional risks to transgender scientists whose careers are already negatively impacted by discrimination.

Once the immigration and transgender activists got into the act, Buzzfeed reported, "diversity" seemed to replace climate change and funding as the March's top concerns:

“Colonization, racism, immigration, native rights, sexism, ableism, queer-, trans-, intersex-phobia, and econ justice are scientific issues,” an organizer tweeted, following with a raised fist and a rainbow emoji. The next day, the group released an updated diversity statement, claiming that issues like sexual harassment, disability, LGBTQIA rights, clean water access, and mass shootings “are scientific issues.”

Indeed, there was so much infighting between the climate-change and funding purists and the identity politicians that the March organizers rewrote the diversity statement four times.

Then there was the mistake the March organizers made in appointing Bill Nye, the anodyne and reliably (but not obnoxiously) liberal "science guy" of '90s television fame, as the leader of the April 22 protest.

The bowtied Nye may be gung-ho about global warming and suitably anti-creationist, but uh-oh, the organizers forgot that he belongs to the wrong gender and ethnicity:

“I love Bill Nye,” said Stephani Page, a biophysicist at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who created the Twitter hashtag #BlackAndSTEM. Page was asked to join the march’s board in February after she tweeted criticism of its approach to diversity. “But I do feel comfortable saying to you what I said to the steering committee: He is a white male, and in that way he does represent the status quo of science, of what it is to be a scientist.”

So the organizers scrambled to dig up two female scientists of color to co-chair the March along with Nye:

Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who first exposed dangerous lead poisoning among the mostly poor black kids in Flint, Michigan, and Lydia Villa-Komaroff, a molecular biologist famous for helping to figure out how to get bacteria to make insulin.

There. Of course now it's hard to figure out exactly what the April 22 March for Science is supposed to be about besides a forum for a mixed bunch of identity-activists with pet political causes. But perhaps some scientist of the future will be able use the scientific method to figure that one out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 



Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
Follow us