On the heels of the Women’s March and recent executive orders gagging government scientists and restricting grants, scientists and science advocates are now planning a march for science to take place in Washington, D.C.
Interest in the march is YUGE and growing by the minute: the Facebook group for the March now exceeds 500,000 members. But even though progressives say they want to “stand with science” and against Trump, does a progressive pro-science agenda really exist? And are pro-science conservatives welcome?
Most progressives support climate change science and vaccines, but once we move beyond those issues, the consensus begins to fall apart. Take GMOs. The scientific consensus on the human health safety of genetically modified foods has been well-established, but many progressives remain suspicious of genetically modified foods, believing organic food is healthier and pesticide-free.
Groups like Greenpeace and the Union of Concerned Scientists, groups that oppose Trump and “stand with science” on climate change, reject the scientific consensus on GMOs. Worse than that, on GMOs, Greenpeace and other environmental groups are even actively hindering scientific progress.
On the other side, some pro-science conservatives are worried the march will be more liberal science than science, pointing to heavy emphasis on climate change and social justice issues. Climate change has indeed captured much of the media attention about science these days, but that’s because Trump called climate change a hoax, appointed people who are climate change deniers (or skeptics, if you prefer) and then put a freeze on EPA grants and muzzled government scientists (some of whom are climate scientists).
That said, it’s disturbing to see groups like U.S. Right to Know, Food and Water Watch and Greenpeace — groups with a history of refusing to acknowledge scientific evidence — claiming to be pro-science in order to ride the coattails of this movement.
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On the other hand, some conservatives are in such a panic over the mere mention of the words diversity and intersectionality that you have to wonder to whom the term “snowflake” really applies. Is it so awful to acknowledge that scientists of color, women scientists, LGBTQ scientists and others might have an identity or, more simply, a life experience, in addition to “scientist”? Would it really be so horrible to be part of a march organized by a diverse group of scientists?
You’re worried about having to listen to victim narratives, triggers and safe spaces, but if you’ve never been part of an intersectional group or coalition, maybe you should get out of your bubble and give it a try before you assume the worst. I’m friends with plenty of people who consider themselves intersectional and committed to social justice and, let me tell you, reports of the humorless snowflake brigade have been greatly exaggerated. I’m not saying there aren’t problems with political correctness, but I run into a hell of a lot more hysterical white people claiming the world has been ruined by social justice warriors than the caricature SJW brigade they’re describing.
Finally, as we come together for this March for Science, it’s tempting to call groups like Greenpeace “anti-science” as a way to keep them out. But the truth is that “science” is a broad umbrella covering many divergent points of view, so we should stop using the term so casually.
For example, while some scientists dispute the claim that pesticides are killing bee populations or argue pesticides do less damage than other threats to bees, let’s not forget that it’s environmental scientists arguing that bee populations are at risk. And while many toxicologists argue endocrine disrupting chemicals like Bisphenol A or organophosphate pesticides are safe if used properly, environmental health scientists point to correlations between some of these chemicals and increases in worrisome health conditions amongst vulnerable populations. You are welcome to dispute their facts and their methodology, but calling a scientist “anti-science” is straight out of the “alternative facts” playbook and we should stop doing it.
Now, bring on the March for Science. I’ll be the one wearing my I heart GMO shirt, with my Intersectional Feminism sign held high.