Today thousands of people will join the March for Science in Washington, D.C. — to say nothing of those who will march around the world. As a chemistry major turned social scientist, there is no doubt in my mind that, as the March for Science website states, we must all “defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies and government.”
The March for Science is a celebration of science. It is intended to be nonpartisan. Anyone who cares about the future of the earth and its inhabitants has a stake in the support of science as a process of inquiry. This doesn’t mean that artistic endeavors are less important or that faith should be demeaned. There are many ways of making sense of our surroundings and the meaning of life. But we can’t sit back and allow a rejection of science any more than we would accept a rejection of art.
The March for Science movement is described on their website as follows:
“It’s not only about scientists and politicians; it is about the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world. Nevertheless, the march has generated a great deal of conversation around whether or not scientists should involve themselves in politics. In the face of an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus and restricting scientific discovery, we might ask instead: can we afford not to speak out in its defense? … We face a possible future where people not only ignore scientific evidence, but seek to eliminate it entirely. Staying silent is a luxury that we can no longer afford. We must stand together and support science.”
It is difficult to grasp why science must be defended. It has brought us so much. Without an appreciation for science and robust interactions among scientists, educators and the public, we risk becoming gullible. Children deprived of science in schools are bound to grow up less aware of their surroundings and easy prey of those who advance their views as if true understanding is a popularity contest.
Scientists know that definitive answers are not always within our grasp. In some fields, we have yet to learn what questions to ask, let alone have answers. Science cannot explain everything. But without support for science and scientific integrity, we and future generations will suffer in the darkness of ignorance.
Any country that lessens the importance of science does so at its own peril. A weakening of scientific education weakens us all. It gives an advantage to people who know little about the world, yet wield significant power. It places ignorance above understanding.
Hats off to all the marchers around the world making a difference today in defending science in the service of enlightening mankind.