March for Science Supporters Continue to Undercut and Poison Science.

I think the March for Science has significant potential to do some serious harm to science given it is a political act masquerading as a non-political act.  Over at the New Republic, Emily Atkin wrote an article that touches on some of these issues (we’ll look at that article in the near future).  She notes:

Thus, some scientists fear that by participating in a march that appears even slightly anti-Trump, they will feed a conservative narrative that scientists are inherently biased and manipulate data for political ends.

You can pretty much count on that.  What’s more, the March for Science organizers and promoters are making all sorts of arguments that play right into that “conservative narrative.”

Over at the March for Science Facebook page, they linked to this article by Mariam Kramer:

Science is already political. Get over it and start marching.

The March for Science FB fans really liked this article.

So let’s see.  Atkins notes that “some scientists fear that by participating in a march that appears even slightly anti-Trump, they will feed a conservative narrative that scientists are inherently biased and manipulate data for political ends,” and Kramer essentially echoes that narrative with: ” Science is already political. Get over it and start marching.”

In fact, let’s look more closely at how Kramer’s argument, popular among the March for Science people, fits almost seamlessly into the “conservative narrative.”

Kramer argues:

After all, the critics ask, how can scientists purport to be “objective” if they are actively involved in a march supporting something which is seemingly politicized?

That argument sounds great, but it’s also bullshit.

Looks to me like Kramer is agreeing with the “conservative narrative” that scientists are not objective.  Interesting.

Building the atomic bomb? That was a political decision, implemented by scientists. Going to the moon? That too was a political decision that involved scientists at every step of the way. Where NASA goes next will also be a decision born of a mix between science and politics.

How about another example?  Eugenics.  When the government began programs to forcefully sterilize people considered intellectually defective, this all occurred because of politicized science.  So whether it is building weapons of mass destruction or forcing a eugenics agenda on the people, what we can glean from all of this is just because a political cause is supported by science does not mean it is good.  And that would seem to undercut the entire narrative of the March for Science, which comes across as an effort to set up Science as the Ultimate Authority On All Matters Political.

Why do you think there are such extremely skewed gender and racial balances in the physical sciences? Is it because women and people of color are somehow worse at math or physics? Of course not. It’s because of institutionalized racism and sexism, and you know what that goes back to? That’s right, you guessed it: politics.

Whoa!  She’s right about something.  According to these data,  28% of scientists and engineers are women and according to these data, 33% are non-white.

But………that doesn’t truly qualify as “extremely skewed” when compared to these data from Pew Research:

If 28% and 33% qualify as evidence of institutionalized racism and sexism, how do we explain that only 6% of scientists are Republicans and 9% are conservative?  If the scientific community has been discriminating against women and minorities, it has been discriminating even more severely against Republicans and conservatives. And that’s something that does not exactly counter the “conservative narrative that scientists are inherently biased and manipulate data for political ends.”  On the contrary, it feeds right into it.

Sure, the scientific process itself is meant to be separated from politics, but it isn’t, and can’t ever be, given the implications of scientific findings and ways that politics works its way into education and research funding.

So the extremely skewed political ideologies of the scientific community dictate what we teach about in science and what type of research we fund. Hmmm. Kramer seems to be arguing for a view of science that advocates large chunks of science are cultural expressions of leftwing political ideology.

Shouting down arguments by simply saying that “science isn’t political” will help no one combat the anti-science Trump administration in office now.

Given that over 80% of the scientific community is Democrat or leans Democrat, and its “implications for scientific findings” and the way it “works its way into education and research funding,” is Kramer arguing that scientists need to stop pretending their work is objective?  That it’s time to come out of the closet and fight the good fight against the Republicans?  Is it because their Democratic agenda is at stake?

Instead, scientists must look out with clear eyes on a political situation that demands attention every day. Science is conducted by people of all different gender identities, races, abilities, nationalities, sexual orientations and backgrounds, so protecting science also means protecting the people that do it. Ostensibly, that is what the March for Science stands for.

Wow.  This looks like the complete merger of science and identity politics (something, not surprisingly,  the Democratic Party thrives on).  Kramer seems to be arguing for an identity politics litmus test for earning the “pro-science” label.   Which, I suppose, makes sense given the extremely skewed political ideology of the scientific community.

If science weren’t politicized, we would have implemented measures to combat climate change back in the 1990s, or perhaps even earlier.

Given that Kramer has effectively conceded that climate change science itself is political, what is she trying to argue here?  That society should have blindly implemented the demands of climate change science like it did with eugenics?  Or that politically motivated science should receive no political pushback because it’s called science?

Look, Kramer has painted herself into quite the corner here. As I have said before, I do think the climate is changing because of human activity. So I am sitting here shaking my head.  What is remarkable is how Kramer’s justification for the March for Science plays right into the hands of people who are skeptical of climate change.  That community would fully agree with Kramer that science is political.  That’s their core argument.  Why do you think Trump’s “hoax” accusation resonates with so many people?  Do you think those skeptics just believe scientists are out to play practical jokes on people? Is that what they mean by “hoax?”  No.  The message resonates because they think climate change is a hoax in the sense that it is a politically motivated agenda that has massaged data to further the political goal.  And Kramer’s entire argument, along with the March for Science itself, essentially echoes those sentiments.

Let’s consider just how bad it gets.  The March for Science advocates for “evidence-based policy and regulations in the public interest.”  But three questions will arise from suspicions of partisanship behind such advocacy.

  1. Do these “evidenced based policies” benefit the Democratic Party?
  2. Do they benefit the scientific community?
  3. Do they help advance the political worldview of those on the Left?

It would seem to me the answer to all three questions is – Yes. And that would mean it’s going to be easy to make an analogy between climate change science and it’s linked policies with the scientists whose research is funded by tobacco companies. 

So how is the scientific community going to respond? Oh, it would help greatly if someone could point to the 30-40% scientists who are Republicans and likewise accept climate change.  But that’s not available to us, now is it?  In fact, it’s possible that among climate scientists alone, the number of Republicans/conservatives is vastly less than 6%. Such extremely skewed numbers erode crediblity.

So what’s left?  We can argue that the political affiliations of scientists are irrelevant.  Science strives for objectivity and its findings are largely separated from political considerations. That’s where we are now.  But along comes that March for Science and people like Kramer: “Bullshit! Science is already political. Get over it and start marching.”

Science is already political. Science is already political. Science is already political.

Those who are skeptical of climate change have one simple, powerful response:

Told ya so.

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This entry was posted in activism, March for Science, Politics, Science, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to March for Science Supporters Continue to Undercut and Poison Science.

  1. according to these data, 33% are non-white.

    Given that the US is 73% white, this suggests that non-whites are actually over-represented in the scientific community.

  2. Dhay says:

    > Over at the New Republic, Emily Atkin wrote an article that touches on some of these issues (we’ll look at that article in the near future).

    FYI, Jerry Coyne has now blogged about his New Republic interview, adding to it and correcting one point:

    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/more-on-the-march-for-science-with-added-pcce/

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