Science is real

Science is RealLouise and I made the three hour drive into Denver on January 21 in order to join the Women’s March on Denver, an event paralleling similar marches all over America, all over the world. I wasn’t sure what to expect- a protest? A rally? A demonstration? Whatever name it might go by, it was, above all, a positive, joyful, affirming event that left me feeling better than I have since the nightmare of November. We had been told there might be 40,000 people on the streets. I don’t know how many there were- the organizers claimed 200,000, and maybe there were. Counting crowds is an imperfect science. But there were certainly well over 100,000 people, far more than expected, and a great many men alongside the women. The streets were almost too full for people to actually march! Just to know that there are so many people out there standing up to the regressive government, willing to fight against the harm and damage that we face over the next years, is an overpowering relief. The hope that we are witnessing the birth of a vital new movement and not just a day of marching is powerful and exciting.

Science > OpinionNevertheless, this was not a protest. It was not negative. The signs, the chants, the sentiments were almost universally positive. It wasn’t simply an anti-Trump demonstration, it was a pro-rights rally. Not just women’s rights (which were, of course, at the core of all the marches), but the right of children to education, the right of everyone to healthcare, the right of everyone to worship as they choose (and while I will always challenge the wisdom of theism and religious belief, I’ll never challenge the right of people to hold such beliefs), the right of everyone to clean air and clean water, the right of everyone to a fair wage, the right of everyone to marry whom they choose, the right of everyone to have their expressed gender accepted, the right of the people to transparency in their government. This was a rally for reason and for the principles of humanism.

One major theme that ran through the event was support for science. This response is primarily a reaction to the most visible anti-science aspect of the new administration (and broadly of the GOP), climate change denial. That position is so contrary to reason, so contrary to the interests of humanity, that its falsity is obvious to all but the most dogmatic. And happily, it isn’t simply being framed as just another lie, but as specifically anti-science. That tends to force people to think about science. People who would otherwise be apathetic towards the subject. And that’s a wonderful thing. We should not forget that the left is not immune to its own brand of science denialism. Not so dangerous to humanity as creationism or denying climate change, perhaps, but certainly not healthy. A good bit of the anti-vaccination movement originates from the left. Much of the anti-GMO movement is found there. Gwyneth Paltrow is out there encouraging women to steam clean their vaginas and then poke little jade eggs up there. Jenny McCarthy continues to spread dangerous lies about vaccines and autism. Left leaning people seem much more likely to buy into the snake oil peddled by Dr Oz and Deepak Chopra, or to look to homeopathy or chiropractic as legitimate medicine. This sort of nonsense- generally carrying a degree of personal harm, and sometimes societal harm- is best addressed by raising scientific literacy. And I’m optimistic that this will be a consequence of Trump’s outright war on science. I look forward to more articles and blog posts in progressive forums not just calling out examples of anti-science, but explaining in more detail what makes them that. Those explanations will demand much more discussion about what real science looks like, and what scientific thinking entails.

Critical thinking is also real, and the conscious recognition that science is real is one important path towards strengthening critical thinking skills. And without that, there is no future for the country.

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