It was cold and rainy, and my morale was starting to waiver, I’d been standing in the same spot for about two-and-a-half hours listening to people speak. I was ready to go home, and the march hadn’t even started yet. Then Bill Nye the Science Guy took the stage to offer words of encouragement, and to remind the 1,000-plus people attending what we were there to accomplish.
We were there to march, March on behalf of science. In particular, we (the crowd) were there marching in protest to the proposed budget cuts to organizations like the EPA, NIH, climate change denialism, or the idea that vaccines cause autism.
I’ve never been much of a protest person. My opinions have always been my own, and however strong they might be, I never really could be bothered to stand up for a change. In fact as I marched through our nation’s capitol I felt uncomfortable. This was new to me, it wasn’t something I would normally do, and admittedly I felt a little embarrassed doing it.
I made the trip from Michigan with my younger brother, who has been my go to traveling companion for a number of trips. As we marched, my brother admitted to me he also felt awkward. Both of us were a bit new to this, and neither of us were really screaming alongside the others in the crowd.
We both agreed our apprehension to commit fully to the moment is that we don’t like the idea of group thinking. Despite our aversion to the idea, we both played on team sports for most of our young lives, but even then the sort of team camaraderie people participate in just seemed stupid.
What changed for us though was the cause, it was one that we both felt was important. “SCIENCE!” As Bill Nye would say, shouldn’t be partisan, and it also offers a path forward for humankind in not only our thinking, but also in how people live their lives from day-to-day.
Whether it be the car a person drives, the cell phone they use, how we defend our country or how doctors treat their patients Science plays a role. Although, I think defense has been covered in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget. A thing that isn’t covered though is researching ways to stop climate change, which seemed to be the issue most addressed by the day’s speakers.
I by no means am a scientist, and neither is my brother, but I am an enthusiast. I see the value in science as a whole, in particular science education and literacy.
I don’t know why, or even how it began, but there seems to be a public distrust of science as a concept. This all comes in spite of most people not realizing that everything they seem to know about the world is a result of such a concept. In particular the scientific method, which is a beautiful way to test assumptions and beliefs to find out whether there is or is not some truth to them.
The most apparent result of this is technology. Technology in general might not specifically be a field of science, but it utilizes scientific concepts to created devices or computer software that improves life in some way or another. Take for example the GPS app on your phone. GPS technology strongly relies on the Theory of Relativity. A concept in physics that states that time appears to run slower under greater gravitational forces.
As we marched through the city and up to the nation’s capital building, I was surprised to only see one person protesting the march. One person on the side of the road held up a sign and screamed about how Christ is the one true science.
Although, science to many spiritual people is seen as the antithesis of the religion, I’ve always struggled with these people. Largely because they are ignorant, and because they lack the capability for reason.
A reasonable way to maintain religiosity while still acknowledge discoveries made in the last several hundred years would be the following example: god created the sun, the moon, the stars, life, and basically everything; therefore god created science.
This is not of course me saying I believe in any particular god or religion, but this was the rationale I used as a preteen when I was struggling with my faith. It is also a logical way of maintaining your beliefs while, also accepting the cold hard truths that have been discovered using the scientific method.
Kevin Kelley, founder of WIRED Magazine, writes in his book “What Technology Wants” about how people only view things as technology when it comes after their birth. Everything before it isn’t viewed this way, although things like handsaws, eyeglasses, and bicycles are all forms of technology. I believe the same can be said about science, things that were discovered prior to one’s birth (with wiggle room of about 100-years) just seems like common sense now i.e. gravity, the earth revolving around the sun, and etc. All of those things though were products of scientific discovery.
Another thing that was somewhat shocking, but was a welcomed relief, is that the march was nonviolent. With violent protests being reported in California a week earlier, I was fearful that something bad would happen during my trip to Washington D.C. Although, science is considered non-partisan, a science march is very much an anti-Trump event. Mainly, because it was formed in protest to his goals to gut the budget to just about any and all government agencies that do research (except maybe NASA). Also because the speakers constantly tried to get liberal street cred by bringing up their connections to the LGBTQ community. One speaker went so far as to talk about their gay transgender daughters as examples.
This would have been fine at a separate march, and these are issues I care about, the problem was is that it confuses the message. A message that is supposed to be about science in general and not gender politics. Stressing those issues could be a turn off for anyone who might have been on the fence when it came to funding things like the EPA, NIH or Department of Energy.
Regardless, the trip went off without controversy, and despite the cold, rain, and my general lack of team spirit it was a trip worth making.
But like any of these so called protests or marches there looms the question of “where do we go from here?” That is a question I find myself asking myself. These types of events are basically feel good pep rallies, a realization that came to me mid-march, but the reality is that nothing will change because of a single march. I feel aimless and without direction, and I’m not entirely sure what I can do. I suppose I could volunteer, give money, or save up my money for an electric car.
In truth, I feel guilty for even having these thoughts, or shitting on the parade of anyone who marched and honestly thinks it meant something. It may alert some politicians to the growing dissatisfaction of a few thousand people across the United States, but the reality is that this was likely just another bit of theater for the media to cover.
My hopes, is that the March for Science will grow into a movement beyond what took place on April 22. That it will advise people in ways to be better stewards of the environment, how to increase science literacy and appreciation, and how to better vent our frustrations to lawmakers to get actionable change.