March for Science: The Extreme Left’s Trojan Horse?

On the March For Science page, we currently read:

Science is not a field that should be understood only by a small few — every person, from every background, deserves an education that encourages scientific learning alongside the arts and humanities. Science works best when scientists come from diverse perspectives, and we must work to encourage and support a new generation of scientists that increasingly includes historically underrepresented groups.

Sounds fairly mainstream.  But this is a scrubbed version.  On Feb 1, the March For Science page had an earlier version:

At the March for Science, we are committed to highlighting, standing in solidarity with, and acting as allies with black, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander, indigenous, Muslim, non-Christian, non-religious, women, people with disabilities, poor, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, trans, non-binary, agender, and intersex scientists and science advocates. We must work to make science available to everyone and encouraging individuals of all backgrounds to pursue science careers, especially in advanced degrees and positions. A diverse group of scientists produces increasingly diverse research, which broadens, strengthens, and enriches scientific inquiry, and therefore, our understanding of the world.

As you can see, the March for Science stood in solidarity with many groups, but notice how both Jews and Christians are not mentioned.  Does anyone really think that was some oversight?

Well, if you go back to Jan 29, the extreme leftist underpinnings of the March for Science were on full display:

In the March for Science, we are committed to centralizing, highlighting, standing in solidarity with, and acting as accomplices with black, Latinx, API, indigenous, Muslim, Jewish, women, people with disabilities, poor, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, trans, non-binary, agender, and intersex scientists and science advocates.

We recognize that many issues about which scientists as a group have largely remained silent – attacks on black & brown lives, oil pipelines through indigenous lands, sexual harassment and assault, ADA access in our communities, immigration policy, lack of clean water in several cities across the country, poverty wages, LGBTQIA rights, and mass shootings are scientific issues.

Science has historically – and generally continues to support discrimination. In order to move forwardIn order to move forward as a scientific community, we must address and actively work to unlearn our problematic past and present, to make science available to everyone

In fact, the same day they also tweeted:

colonization, racism, immigration, native rights, sexism, ableism, queer-, trans-, intersex-phobia, & econ justice are scientific issues.

And it looks like that tweet has also been quietly removed.

Does anyone know of any place where the extreme left claims of the March for Science have been retracted?  Quietly and sneakily sweeping such comments under the carpet do not amount to a retraction.  Instead, it would simply mean that Extreme Left activists are trying to hide their agenda to better lure scientists into thinking it’s “all about science.”

It would seem to me someone should ask the March for Science organizers some simple questions.  For example, do they still agree that science has historically – and generally continues to support discrimination?  Or do they concede that that claim is false?

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36 Responses to March for Science: The Extreme Left’s Trojan Horse?

  1. Kevin says:

    This is the same thing that happened to New Atheism with the Atheism Plus monstrosity. The progressive left tends to try and insert its values into every aspect of life, so I don’t see why science as an institution would be immune.

    Of course, once something starts advocating policy, it ceases being science.

  2. TFBW says:

    As you can see, the March for Science stood in solidarity with many groups, but notice how both Jews and Christians are not mentioned. Does anyone really think that was some oversight?

    Coming as no surprise to anyone, Christians were never included. What’s kinda weird though is that Jews were included in the earliest cited version, then dropped. What’s with that? Is there some disagreement in the ranks whether to classify Jews as “us” (for being a persecuted ethno-religious group) or “them” (for reasons of alignment on Palestinian issues, I suppose)?

  3. Dhay says:

    I see that the 25 January version of the website shows the March’s (original — surely they changed it?) logo as being a clenched fist within the words “Scientist’s March on Washington”: that’s just one scientist, then.

    https://web.archive.org/web/20170125030027/http://www.scientistsmarchonwashington.com/

    Why use a clenched fist to symbolise science — a very odd choice indeed. Perhaps it instead symbolises ‘Science’, or symbolises ‘Science and Reason’.

    It was headed “Scientists’ March on Washington” — presumably scientists, or their website designers at any rate, are more literate than logo designers; or perhaps they are just more numerate.

    Has anyone spotted any figures on how many scientists actually marched, either as a total or as a percentage? My cynicism tells me they will have been few by either reckoning.

    *

    Interesting: clicking the ‘About Me’ to see the website owner’s profile on the 25 January archive linked above, I see it was originally in French — “Sur Blogger depuis le janvier 2017” — changing to English by Michael’s linked archive dated 28th January; uninformative otherwise.

    Might have been a French national or French-Canadian who was the solitary scientist originally going on that March.

  4. TFBW says:

    Has anyone spotted any figures on how many scientists actually marched, either as a total or as a percentage?

    Before we can answer that question, we need to decide whose classification criteria to use. After all, if we defer to Sam Harris, we’ll probably need to include plumbers. In fact, we may have difficulty performing the classification at all, as “drawing the line between science and non-science by reference to a person’s occupation is just too crude to be useful” in his view.

  5. Dhay says:

    Has anyone spotted any figures on how many scientists actually marched

    My bad, misled by the date heading the original web page, actually a blog post, the blog post date; and also by a certain lack of proximity to US events: it’ll happen on 22 April; I’ll be interested in figures then.

    Looking in the new (proper, not just a blog) website’s Home page and ‘Store’ I see the logo has now changed to something much more savvy. But the symbology of that original fist intrigues me.

    It’s a left-handed fist, usually (though not always) associated with Marxism and the Left; it’s a universal symbol of rebellion and defiance; the thumb is inside, a position rarely if ever depicted, and used in anger only by rank novices, indicating its symbolic user is going to end up with a symbolic badly hurt thumb.

    Presumably the last was thoughtless and unintentional; I reserve judgement about the first two, but would not be surprised to find them to have been very intentional.

    As regards the changing logo and changing text, evidently the committee has re-designed the horse.

  6. Dhay says:

    > We recognize that many issues about which scientists as a group have largely remained silentScience has historically – and generally continues to support discrimination.

    Is it just me, or have the March for Science people just slagged off scientists and science — not just in some Trump-dominated possibly underfunded and ignored future but right now, today, and perpetuating pre-Trump past failings and abuse — haven’t the March for Science people just slagged off scientists and science as lacking authority and objectivity.

  7. stcordova says:

    March for Science: “the rally will be both a call for politicians to implement science based policies ”

    Ok so the Scientific Fundamentalist Kanazawa points out Feminism is at variance with science. So how should this affect public policy? Kanazawa has these wise words of actual science:

    “Why Modern Feminism Is Illogical, Unnecessary, and Evil
    Feminism is the radical notion that women are men

    First, modern feminism is illogical because, as [Susan] Pinker points out, it is based on the vanilla assumption that, but for lifelong gender socialization and pernicious patriarchy, men and women are on the whole identical. An insurmountable body of evidence by now conclusively demonstrates that the vanilla assumption is false; men and women are inherently, fundamentally, and irreconcilably different. Any political movement based on such a spectacularly incorrect assumption about human nature – that men and women are and should be identical – is doomed to failure.”

  8. FZM says:

    After all, if we defer to Sam Harris, we’ll probably need to include plumbers. In fact, we may have difficulty performing the classification at all, as “drawing the line between science and non-science by reference to a person’s occupation is just too crude to be useful” in his view.

    Harris may be working with a principle like: ‘I can’t explain in an intelligible way what science is but I know it when I see it’. So he thinks about his idea that a person’s occupation has nothing to do with whether they are engaged in doing science or not and knows that it is a piece of scientific knowledge.

  9. Regual Llegna says:

    Politic Science tm
    Still leave the question/s: Which science? which branch of science? which methodology? which objetive?

    Poor gnus atheists, if this continue, i bet that they will set aside in the ownership of the highly political claim “i believe in:” SCIENCE tm currency.

    Note: “The Scientific Fundamentalist Kanazawa” will be toss under the bus because The Left victimhood mentallity prefers feminists and muslims, because the gnus are a too tiny population to to have the “vote preference” of the left party leaders and only exist in westerns countries to appeal to the globalists marxists so gnus atheists future and dreams of utopia (controled by scienctific atheism-socialism-scienctism utopia) is dammed for all sides any way.

  10. Regual Llegna says:

    “Harris may be working with a principle like: ‘I can’t explain in an intelligible way what science is but I know it when I see it’. So he thinks about his idea that a person’s occupation has nothing to do with whether they are engaged in doing science or not and knows that it is a piece of scientific knowledge.”

    Harris should know that the BEST KNOWLEDGE IS THE EXPERIENCE, nothing beats the experience because is the thing that become the true reference and point of view to the vision of the future, but science contain methodologies that alredy tell what science is and in what way the scientist should work and in what should work.

  11. At the March for Science, we are committed to highlighting, standing in solidarity with, and acting as allies with black, Latinx, Asian and Pacific Islander, indigenous, Muslim, non-Christian, non-religious, women, people with disabilities, poor, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, trans, non-binary, agender, and intersex scientists and science advocates.

    “People with disabilities… scientists” is bad grammar; it ought to be “disabled”, although using that term is probably some sort of hate-crime now.

    Plus, it’s very odd that they feel the need to highlight “non-Christian, non-religion” scientists, given that one of the commonest atheist talking points is that most scientists are atheists. Perhaps atheist scientists are just so unassertive that they let themselves get pushed around all the time by their more religious colleagues.

  12. Tim'L says:

    Hi theoriginalmrx,
    “it ought to be “disabled””…. I don’t disagree with you. But terms like that fell out of favor in the mid to late 90s; for stupid and inconsistent reasons.

    I used to work with autistic children and it was the same with that. In that field you’d get reprimanded with “you call them children with autism, not autistic children, because “autistic children” is a term that defines who they are while “children with autism” defines one aspect of them and not their totality.”….. same went for “disabled people” to “people with disabilities”.

    It’s interesting though. These are typically very liberal/progressive tendencies with this relabeling every 10-15 years…. with homosexuality you had some folk saying “it’s a disorder, but it doesn’t define their whole being.” That way you could still maintain the dignity of the person while criticizing a behavior they have a tendency towards.
    But it was the reverse in this case: more liberal/progressive folk started saying “no, homosexuality defines who they are to their core! You can’t separate their behavior from their total person. If you criticize that behavior then you’re criticizing everything about them.”

  13. TFBW says:

    @FZM:

    Harris may be working with a principle like: ‘I can’t explain in an intelligible way what science is but I know it when I see it’.

    You may be right, but he postures as though it’s much more than a subjective perception. I think it’s more charitable to suppose he’s not working from a position like that — or at least believes that he’s not doing so.

  14. Dhay says:

    TFBW > … if we defer to Sam Harris, we’ll probably need to include plumbers. In fact, we may have difficulty performing the classification at all, as “drawing the line between science and non-science by reference to a person’s occupation is just too crude to be useful” in his view.

    Harris seems to take the view — as does Jery Coyne — that anything which involves any use of reason to problem-solve (they both give the example of a lumber finding a leak) counts as science.

    I note it is such a weak case-example for what is science that anyone who is capable of navigating roads and transport to merely get to and from the March has probably amply fulfilled Harris’ rather minimal requirements to count as a scientist.

    Ironically, Harris has himself failed that ‘ability to perform basic problem-solving’ test; as he relates.

    The roofer in this story Sam Harris tells meets Harris’ standard for being a scientist — “he was thinking just like one.”

    You awaken to find water pouring through the ceiling of your bedroom. Imagining that you have a gaping hole in your roof, you immediately call the man who installed it. The roofer asks, “Is it raining where you live?” Good question. In fact, it hasn’t rained for months. Is this roofer a scientist? Not technically, but he was thinking just like one. Empiricism and logic reveal that your roof is not the problem.

    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/clarifying-the-landscape

    Note, however that the “You” in this story doesn’t meet Harris’ standard for being a scientist, but fails to ask the blindingly obvious question of how it could possibly be rainwater coming through “your” roof when it is not raining, and when in fact ”it hasn’t rained for months”: whoever “You” is, in this story, they are very far from using those “highest standards of logic and evidence” which Harris says characterise scientific thinking, and are evidently not far off moron level.

    The question is, who exactly is the “You” protagonist in this story? Is Harris here insulting his readers by suggesting they might demonstrate such poor “standards of logic and evidence” that they would fail to reason, when faced with water poring through a hypothetical ceiling, that the pouring water cannot possibly be rainwater if “it hasn’t rained for months”; or is he, as Waking Up indicates he might be, relating a story which actually happened to him, himself that dimwit he pictures as incapable of those basic standards of logic and evidence he says would characterise scientific thinking.

  15. FZM says:

    TFBW,

    You may be right, but he postures as though it’s much more than a subjective perception. I think it’s more charitable to suppose he’s not working from a position like that — or at least believes that he’s not doing so.

    Personally at least I find it hard to think what kind of definition he could come up with which would manage to include all the things he thinks are examples of science, exclude everything which from his point of view isn’t scientific (or is anti-scientific) and wouldn’t just involve pushing the explanation back a stage. (For example by explaining what science is with reference to concepts like evidence, rightness or utility, but then failing to discuss their meaning, falling back on assumptions, subjective impressions etc.)

  16. Dhay says:

    While I am sure there were scientists before Newton and Leibniz, a good rule of thumb nowadays for differentiating even the lower slopes of ‘real scientist’ from non-scientists is whether they know something as basic and elementary as how to differentiate.

    Those who have to look up what that sentence means need not apply.

  17. FZM says:

    Dhay,

    While I am sure there were scientists before Newton and Leibniz, a good rule of thumb nowadays for differentiating even the lower slopes of ‘real scientist’ from non-scientists is whether they know something as basic and elementary as how to differentiate.

    I was reading Harris’ article ‘Clarifying the Landscape’ from the link you provided; I was thinking that the reason he uses the roofer-as-scientist example is because he wants to use it to argue that his moral philosophy should be considered scientific.

    I suspect he could have communicated some of the same content in a more direct and concise way (science involves empirical observation, controlling variables via experiment/testing, replicability of results, aims for objectivity etc.) but it would have raised more questions about whether morality/ethics could really be made a scientific in the way that Physics, Chemistry and Biology are.

    I also noticed that while ‘Clarifying the Landscape’ is arguing for a very broad definition of science, it is also claiming that affirming the existence of God, souls and free will must be considered anti-scientific or the opposite of science. That’s where I think special pleading and subjectivity will become a factor in how Harris defines science.

  18. wodewick says:

    “Does anyone know of any place where the extreme left claims of the March for Science have been retracted? … For example, do they still agree that science has historically – and generally continues to support discrimination?” Not sure why they would retract those claims, since they’ve probably got a point. If you look at the history of scientific racism (craniology etc.) and how these ideas have been used to justify slavery and segregation, and how eugenics has been an impetus in more than one genocide, it’s clear that science –despite anyone’s idealistic views of it — doesn’t have a spotless record.

    If the scientific community were more diverse, would that lead to better science? I wonder whether the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” for example would have gone ahead if there had been African-American medical researchers on the team. Perhaps diversity can lead to science that is, if not better, at least more empathetic and ethical?

    “…it would simply mean that Extreme Left activists are trying to hide their agenda to better lure scientists into thinking it’s ‘all about science.'” — what? It’s a protest march, and it’s not supposed to be political somehow???

    “…stood in solidarity with many groups, but notice how both Jews and Christians are not mentioned. Does anyone really think that was some oversight?” Are you being obtuse? You must be aware that traditionally the scientific community has been dominated by Anglo-Saxon males and Jews (Albert Einstein and many others). So if they’re expressing a willingness to stand in solidarity with *minorities*, why would they include two prominent *majorities* in that list? Why does that make you sore?

    I wonder what it is exactly about their position that *really* offends you — can you state it clearly? Surely as good, compassionate Christian folk you too stand in solidarity with minorities including ethnic, homosexual (you “hate the sin, love the sinner” or something like that)? So what’s the problem when the scientific community tries to do it?

  19. Michael says:

    Not sure why they would retract those claims, since they’ve probably got a point. If you look at the history of scientific racism (craniology etc.) and how these ideas have been used to justify slavery and segregation, and how eugenics has been an impetus in more than one genocide, it’s clear that science –despite anyone’s idealistic views of it — doesn’t have a spotless record.

    But this is the March For Science. We’re told the goal is to get policy makers to pay attention to the authoritative voice of science. So come to think of it, policy makers in the past paid a lot of attention to science when it came to eugenics.

    Hmmm. This March seems confused. Is it FOR science? Or is it about getting science to clean up its act?

    “…it would simply mean that Extreme Left activists are trying to hide their agenda to better lure scientists into thinking it’s ‘all about science.’” — what? It’s a protest march, and it’s not supposed to be political somehow???

    I see. So it’s about politicizing science.

    I wonder what it is exactly about their position that *really* offends you — can you state it clearly?

    Easy. Science should strive to remain apolitical. Remember the eugenics example you brought up? That was when politicians and judges everywhere decided to implement scientific findings.

  20. wodewick says:

    @Michael “Easy. Science should strive to remain apolitical.” I’m aware of the situation in the USA with Trump, his claim that man-made climate change is a fabrication by the Chinese, and other ridiculous lies. Are we saying that only one side has to play by the rules? That politicians and big-oil shills can hijack the public narrative while scientists need to remain silent? Or, wouldn’t it be better for people with expertise in a field speak out against bad policy?

    “Hmmm. This March seems confused. Is it FOR science? Or is it about getting science to clean up its act?” I don’t see any contradiction in scientists engaging in public debate, in a manner that is inclusive of minorities and under-represented people. In fact, by diversifying their demographic aren’t they going to reach a larger audience and bring in a wider range of views? Seems good to me.

    “I see. So it’s about politicizing science.” I wonder what makes you think science wasn’t before (and hasn’t always been) political. Public policy has always been based on a mix of facts, evidence, bad information, superstition, emotion and bigotry. I’m not sure why it’s the people who actually have expertise in various areas that have to remain apolitical — why scientists in particular?

    And I still don’t feel much closer to understanding why a whole lot of people here are getting bent out of shape by this march.

  21. TFBW says:

    @wodewick:

    “…stood in solidarity with many groups, but notice how both Jews and Christians are not mentioned. Does anyone really think that was some oversight?” Are you being obtuse? You must be aware that traditionally the scientific community has been dominated by Anglo-Saxon males and Jews (Albert Einstein and many others).

    The quotation to which you are responding speaks of Jews and Christians, but your response speaks of Anglo-Saxon males and Jews. Is there supposed to be some sort of correspondence between Christians and Anglo-Saxon males, or did you just mean to imply that Christians are another majority group in scientific circles?

  22. FZM says:

    “Does anyone know of any place where the extreme left claims of the March for Science have been retracted? … For example, do they still agree that science has historically – and generally continues to support discrimination?” Not sure why they would retract those claims, since they’ve probably got a point. If you look at the history of scientific racism (craniology etc.) and how these ideas have been used to justify slavery and segregation, and how eugenics has been an impetus in more than one genocide, it’s clear that science –despite anyone’s idealistic views of it — doesn’t have a spotless record.

    In the hands of the extreme left science was used to justify democide and a wide range of oppression and persecution as a means of attaining ‘freedom and equality’, so some scepticism about science and far left politics being yoked together seems justified as well.

  23. wodewick says:

    @TFBW I don’t want to quibble about demographics or choices of words. I think my point was clear, so I’m content to leave it at that.

    I’m still not clear why it’s scientists in particular who are required to remain apolitical. If you have some insight on that I’m interested in hearing it.

  24. Kevin says:

    The problem isn’t scientists having political views, but rather scientists conflating science with political/moral imperative.

  25. wodewick says:

    Another thing that confuses me is how you ascribe affiliation and motives to these scientists. You write of the “extreme left”, and multiple posters here refer to “atheism”. I went back to the original linked site and archives you provided, and I don’t see where they describe themselves as atheists, leftists or extremists. So what’s your basis for concluding that they hold these views and affiliations?

    In particular, why do you describe them as “extremists”? Normally when we speak about religious “extremists” we mean the types who stone rape victims to death for adultery, or fly planes into buildings. Political “extremists” assassinate politicians or launch coups. What’s so “extreme” about these scientists? Stating support for minority groups and holding a protest march — that’s “extreme” somehow? Not sure we have a consistent standard here.

  26. wodewick says:

    @Kevin “…scientists conflating science with political/moral imperative.” Can they do that? Because it seems to me that in this new era of “alternative facts” with its big lies, grandiose claims and thin-skinned Twitter outrage, it’s the scientists and other rational, evidence-based thinkers who are on the back foot. No wonder they’re marching.

  27. Michael says:

    wodewick: Not sure why they would retract those claims, since they’ve probably got a point.

    So why did they scrub their web page and remove those claims?

    I’m aware of the situation in the USA with Trump, his claim that man-made climate change is a fabrication by the Chinese, and other ridiculous lies. Are we saying that only one side has to play by the rules? That politicians and big-oil shills can hijack the public narrative while scientists need to remain silent? Or, wouldn’t it be better for people with expertise in a field speak out against bad policy?

    Scientists can speak out and protest and carry signs and wear t-shirts with slogans and organize and fundraise and anything else they want. But they ought to consider the words of George Bernard Shaw:

    I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.

    If scientists want to politicize science, then they forfeit their claim to objectivity on matters of social impact. And expertise in a field doesn’t go very far if that expertise to coupled to a political agenda. You can complain about that, but that’s how political reality works.

    The rules of science are very different from the rules of politics. If science is to embrace the rules of politics, and to become more political, it will gradually lose its privileged position in our culture. Using science to push a political agenda is simply inviting political pushback. So don’t act all offended and outraged and flabbergasted when it occurs.

    Me thinks I’ll write a whole blog posting about this.

    I don’t see any contradiction in scientists engaging in public debate, in a manner that is inclusive of minorities and under-represented people. In fact, by diversifying their demographic aren’t they going to reach a larger audience and bring in a wider range of views? Seems good to me.

    You’re not helping to clear up the confusion. So the March for Science is really a march for affirmative action in science?

    I wonder what makes you think science wasn’t before (and hasn’t always been) political.

    Excuse me? Are you saying that climate science is political? And you are complaining that politicized science is receiving political pushback?

    I’m not sure why it’s the people who actually have expertise in various areas that have to remain apolitical — why scientists in particular?

    They don’t have to remain apolitical. They just need to deal with the reality that if they are to become political, they have no rational basis for expecting the populace to view them as apolitical.

  28. wodewick says:

    @Michael “So why did they scrub their web page and remove those claims?” I don’t know — for some reason I don’t particularly care about I guess. Perhaps they decided to tone down the rhetoric, move that discussion to some other forum where it’s better suited, and focus on the core aims of the march? You seem to care though: you’re ascribing motivations (“trojan horse” etc.). Since you care, did you take the time to ask them directly? Or did you just assume a sinister motivation?

    “So the March for Science is really a march for affirmative action in science?” Ha, nice try. Inclusiveness and affirmative action are different things. I can’t find any mention on their website of affirmative action. Can you provide some substantiation, or did you just make up an alternative fact?

    “If science is to embrace the rules of politics, and to become more political…” You’ve got a good point here. I hope you do write a blog post about this. You’ve mentioned two things. On the second (“become more political”) I have argued that science is already involved in politics. On the first (“embrace the rules of politics”) I’m not sure that’s a given from the second, if you’re referring to scientists’ day-to-day work. But I can’t rule it out either. If you think that increased involvement in politics (such as this march) is going to taint scientists’ work then by all means make your case, but I certainly wouldn’t take it as a given.

    “Are you saying that climate science is political? And you are complaining that politicized science is receiving political pushback?” I think it is, yes, but nowadays I’m not sure which side is more politicised, and which is doing the most pushing back. Things seem to be swinging towards vested interests and mindless denialism, while the scientific community (who actually have expertise in the area) are struggling to make themselves heard. If I had a complaint it would be that people generally seem to be getting bolder in their ignorance, which I think leads to bad policy and a culture of willful stupidity. As evidence I would point out that conservative governments worldwide (not just USA) are winding back environmental reforms, on the basis of personal opinions of politicians, while at the same time cutting scientific funding and axing departments that do research that might contradict their political standpoint.

  29. TFBW says:

    @wodewick:

    I don’t want to quibble about demographics or choices of words. I think my point was clear, so I’m content to leave it at that.

    If your point were clear to me, I wouldn’t have asked for clarification. Let me rephrase the question. The text to which you were responding mentioned the exclusion of Christians (and also Jews) from the long list of welcome participants. Your response mentioned Jews explicitly, and answered in terms of demographics which dominate the scientific community. Are you implying that Christians are also a dominant demographic in the scientific community, or have you simply chosen not to address the exclusion of Christians? The quoted context suggested that your response included that topic, but the response itself isn’t clear in that regard.

  30. TFBW says:

    @wodewick:

    Things seem to be swinging towards vested interests and mindless denialism, while the scientific community (who actually have expertise in the area) are struggling to make themselves heard.

    As I said in another thread, accusations of “denialism” undermine the target’s legitimate ability to speak in terms of any of the non-science considerations which go into policy-making. Framing opposition as “denialsim” is a rhetorical tactic which invites push-back against science itself. If you frame scientific findings as Truth Which Must Not Be Denied, then an effective counter-measure is to throw around accusations of fraud and ulterior motives (i.e. taint). An attack of that sort is far more attractive, in terms of rhetorical effectiveness, than a back-footed attempt to defend against accusations of “denialism”. After all, denying denialism sounds like a losing strategy right off the bat, doesn’t it?

    The fact that “denialism” has any purchase as a term indicates that we are already in a rhetorical war of escalation over this point. Accusations of “denialism” solicit exactly the kind of political (rather than evidence-based) push-back that the term rails against in the first place. It’s a case of pouring fuel on the fire.

  31. wodewick says:

    @TFBW “The text to which you were responding mentioned the exclusion of Christians…” etc. I originally made a point about the list clearly being intended to include minorities. If you want to read some significance into the specifics of who exactly was in or out of the list, I’ll leave that to you.

    I’ll make the point that I don’t speak authoritatively on behalf of anyone (except myself), so questions about who specifically I think should be considered a minority or not can’t be particularly interesting. At this point I’ll politely decline to discuss the issue any further.

    “If you frame scientific findings as Truth Which Must Not Be Denied…” etc. Without getting bogged down on the usage of the term “denialism”, I would say that a refutation can be judged on its own merits. If I deny something with no reason except that I prefer not to believe it, then I’m not offering much substance to a discourse. Yet what we’ve seen is an increase in the rhetorical value of such a strategy.

    The worrying thing about this phenomenon is that it enables people to construct their own alternative realities, and demand to be taken seriously.

    For instance, Trump denies that he got a lower primary vote than Clinton. Despite the facts to the contrary, he claims that millions of fraudulent votes were cast for Democrats, yet he presents no evidence (just a promise that there’s going to be an inquiry).

    I feel it’s unavoidable that this sort of behaviour cheapens rational discussion. It’s got nothing to do with “…scientific findings as Truth Which Must Not Be Denied…” — in fact the opposite, since with denialism there are bald assertions without any findings behind them. If you actually do have facts and information at your disposal, how can you gain rhetorical traction when your opponents simply mindlessly deny everything, and the public at large lets that behaviour pass?

  32. Michael says:

    I don’t know — for some reason I don’t particularly care about I guess. Perhaps they decided to tone down the rhetoric, move that discussion to some other forum where it’s better suited, and focus on the core aims of the march? You seem to care though: you’re ascribing motivations (“trojan horse” etc.). Since you care, did you take the time to ask them directly? Or did you just assume a sinister motivation?

    I’m not assuming a “sinister” motivation. But when a political group scrubs its web page, I think we can reasonable infer a sneaky motivation given there has been no public retraction. Clearly, at this stage in the game, they would rather hide that raised, left fist.

    Ha, nice try. Inclusiveness and affirmative action are different things. I can’t find any mention on their website of affirmative action. Can you provide some substantiation, or did you just make up an alternative fact?

    I’m just trying to figure out what the March for Science is all about. Okay, so it’s about inclusivenes (better yet, a form of inclusiveness that carefully does not invite Christians and Jews). So you are marching to support something that has long had a problem with inclusiveness?

    You’ve mentioned two things. On the second (“become more political”) I have argued that science is already involved in politics.

    So the March is about doubling down on that and making science even more political. And what is that supposed to accomplish?

    On the first (“embrace the rules of politics”) I’m not sure that’s a given from the second, if you’re referring to scientists’ day-to-day work. But I can’t rule it out either. If you think that increased involvement in politics (such as this march) is going to taint scientists’ work then by all means make your case, but I certainly wouldn’t take it as a given.

    Oh, but that’s not the issue. It really doesn’t matter if involvement in politics (such as this march) is going to taint scientists’ work. In the world of politics, perception and narrative take precedence over truth. Welcome to the post-modern world. So all that matters is whether increased involvement in politics (such as this march) is going to further the perception that scientists’ work is tainted by their political views. I would take that as a given. I told you – if you are going to be political, don’t expect to be perceived as apolitical.

    “Are you saying that climate science is political? And you are complaining that politicized science is receiving political pushback?” I think it is, yes, but nowadays I’m not sure which side is more politicised, and which is doing the most pushing back.

    Well, the pushback against climate science is rooted in the perception that climate science comes with a political taint.

    Things seem to be swinging towards vested interests and mindless denialism, while the scientific community (who actually have expertise in the area) are struggling to make themselves heard.

    They are struggling to make themselves heard because they failed to separate themselves from the alarmists and political opportunists when they had the chance. For example, check out this news story from eight years ago:

    And in a searing indictment on capitalist society, Charles said we can no longer afford consumerism and that the “age of convenience” was over.

    The Prince, who has spoken passionately about the environment before, said that if the world failed to heed his warnings then we all faced the “nightmare that for so many of us now looms on the horizon”.

    Charles’s speech was described as his first attempt to present a coherent philosophy in which he placed the threat to the environment in the context of a failing economic system.

    The Prince, who is advised by the leading environmentalists Jonathon Porritt and Tony Juniper, said that even the economist Adam Smith, father of modern capitalism, had been aware of the short-comings of unfettered materialism.

    Delivering the annual Richard Dimbleby lecture, Charles said that without “coherent financial incentives and disincentives” we have just 96 months to avert “irretrievable climate and ecosystem collapse, and all that goes with it.”

    Let’s see. 96 months. 12 months per year. 96 divided by 12 is….8. Huh?! We are now living in the irretrievable climate and ecosystem collapse, and all that goes with it. Who would have thunk it?

    Look, I think the planet is warming and it is due to CO2 release. But if the scientific community made little to no effort to correct the record when it came to all the apocalyptic predictions from the alarmists, opportunists, and anti-capitalists, why be surprised when more and more people tune out the scientific community? Ever hear the old story about the boy who cried wolf and what happened to him?

    If I had a complaint it would be that people generally seem to be getting bolder in their ignorance, which I think leads to bad policy and a culture of willful stupidity. As evidence I would point out that conservative governments worldwide (not just USA) are winding back environmental reforms, on the basis of personal opinions of politicians, while at the same time cutting scientific funding and axing departments that do research that might contradict their political standpoint.

    I think ignorance is a tiny piece of the puzzle. The main issue is that science has become entangled with politics. For example, when Obama shut down 400 coal mines and put 83,000 people out of work, all in the name of climate science, it was science that took the food off the table for those 83,000 people. And you think it can all be smoothed over by getting them to understand the intricacies of climate science data?

  33. TFBW says:

    @wodewick:

    If you actually do have facts and information at your disposal, how can you gain rhetorical traction when your opponents simply mindlessly deny everything, and the public at large lets that behaviour pass?

    An excellent question, on many levels. It also raises many other questions, such as “why does the public at large let that behaviour pass?” A lot of it is explained by Michael’s “boy that cried wolf” analogy: the public at large is over-exposed to radical doom-saying predictions, all backed by science, and accustomed to those predictions being hype. Consequently, they are accustomed to allegedly good reasons being irrelevant.

    Another aspect of the problem is that those who have most publicly claimed Science and Reason as their own — the New Atheist movement, generally speaking — have also been the most public about dumbing down the level of discourse on their talking points. Now, let me be clear that I’m not blaming New Atheism for anything here: they probably have had some non-zero level of contribution, but that’s not the point. Rather, I am using New Atheism as the bellwether for a trend in society at large. As I said, these are the people who most publicly and stridently claim to be aligned with Science and Reason (and portray their ideological opponents as being against those things).

    And how do they fare in terms of quality in that regard? Are they paragons of Science and Reason? I think the 2012 Reason Rally is still the most telling example of what happens when these people get together: Richard Dawkins solicits cheers from the crowd when he exhorts them to mock and ridicule Catholics in public, with contempt. It’s a somewhat pervasive attitude in these circles that certain things (like opponents of Evolution, whom they universally label “creationists”) must not be engaged scientifically, as that merely serves to lend them credibility. Instead, the first weapon of choice is neither Science nor Reason but mockery, and mockery usually involves constructing a straw-man and jeering at it — a paradigm example of bad reasoning.

    It’s the activists on all sides that get the most publicity (because they actively seek it), and it’s the activists who are the first to abandon real reason in favour of whatever rhetoric gets results. The activists for Science and Reason have blithely forsaken (and weakened) the very things that they allegedly stood for in an attempt to get results. The March for Science looks all set to be another example for me to cite in future (unless it fizzles).

    And where does Johnny Q. Public stand in all of this? He’s drowning in a sea of rhetoric, and lacks the skills to even distinguish sound argument from slick presentation. He’s being browbeaten on one side into deferring to the authority of Science in lieu of actually being able to understand the issues, and on the other side he’s bombarded with accusations, allegations, and assertions to the contrary. In the end, people just go with whatever thing they felt the most inclined to go with in the first place, and cherry-pick whatever sound bites support their case to rationalise it.

    I’d say that the appropriate antidote to this is to actually train people in the art of critical thinking, and make them genuinely good at it, but it’s not a practical suggestion. We’re at a stage now where most of the intelligentsia in the fray are just as guilty of employing rhetoric as the weapon of choice, and the worst offenders present this activity as though it is Reason in action. Many of them don’t even realise that they parted ways with genuine critical thinking and reasoning a long time ago: they just assume that their habitual practice is Reason, because that’s how they self-identify.

  34. FZM says:

    On the second (“become more political”) I have argued that science is already involved in politics. On the first (“embrace the rules of politics”) I’m not sure that’s a given from the second, if you’re referring to scientists’ day-to-day work. But I can’t rule it out either.

    I think it’s useful to think of things in terms of politics getting involved in science as well as science being already involved in politics. Both these things may be true but they can also both lead to questions being raised about the objectivity of scientific research and findings and their public presentation, as Michael has been arguing.

    The idea that scientists who are highly committed to particular political causes (or who believe that science should be the servant of particular political ideals) will be immune to letting that influence their research programs seems naïve to me. You quoted some examples of the way in which right wing beliefs have influenced scientific research in the past, I added that there is a history of far left political commitments having the same kind of impact.

    Making claims to the effect that scientists as a whole need to mobilise to march to support greater inclusivity in science because a certain understanding of inclusivity is mandated by science itself (it’s a truth which has been scientifically proven and cannot be denied by anyone who values science) and a failure to have the required level of inclusivity produces flawed research and flawed science, I would wonder what the evidence for this was. It could be a case of using the authority and credibility that certain kinds of scientific knowledge and researchers enjoy to leverage moral, political, philosophical ideas which are pretty unrelated and should be argued for on their own terms.

  35. TFBW says:

    I posted a fairly lengthy comment in response to wodewick, but the blog has deemed it unfit to print, apparently.

  36. Michael says:

    I posted a fairly lengthy comment in response to wodewick, but the blog has deemed it unfit to print, apparently.

    Sorry. For some reason, it ended up in spam filter and I’m not sure why.

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