March for Science un­der mi­cro­scope

Protests Trump’s agenda by ad­vo­cat­ing more fed­eral re­search fund­ing


Take the Women’s March on Washington, slash its at­ten­dance, throw in Bill Nye “the science guy,” and you have the for­mula for Satur­day’s March for Science, the lat­est in this year’s se­ries of an­tiTrump protests.

Framed as a de­fense of sci­en­tific inquiry, the Earth Day march of­fered a les­son in po­lit­i­cal science as speak­ers urged thou­sands of rain­soaked at­ten­dees to fight Pres­i­dent Trump’s “anti-science” agenda by ad­vo­cat­ing more fed­eral fund­ing for re­search.

“This is about last Novem­ber’s elec­tion,” said De­nis Hayes, co­or­di­na­tor of the first Earth Day in 1970. “Did Amer­ica some­how vote to melt the po­lar ice caps and kill the co­ral reefs and acid­ify the oceans? Did we vote to re­duce the EPA’s re­search bud­get by a whop­ping 42 per­cent? Did we vote to de­fund safe drink­ing water by one third?”

“Well, that’s what we got,” said Mr. Hayes, fol­lowed by a cho­rus of boos.

Thou­sands gath­ered in the shadow of the Washington Mon­u­ment prior to the march to hear from a lineup of speak­ers that con­sisted of sci­en­tists, pro­gres­sive ac­tivists and at least one poet, while oth­ers gath­ered at more than 600 satel­lite events across the na­tion and around the world.

Or­ga­niz­ers had in­sisted be­fore­hand that the march, while po­lit­i­cal, was non­par­ti­san, an as­ser­tion be­lied by the sea of anti-Trump signs and re­peated con­dem­na­tions of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee War Room sent out a blast Satur­day pegged to the event say­ing, “Don­ald Trump doesn’t be­lieve in cli­mate change.”

“To­day as Amer­i­cans across the coun­try march for science, say you’re ready to fight against the anti-science GOP,” said the email mis­sive.

Among those in the crowd Satur­day was Stephen Meyer, di­rec­tor of the Dis­cov­ery Institute’s Cen­ter for Science Cul­ture, who said the March for Science and its sup­port­ers made claims that science alone can’t sup­port.

“They’re con­flat­ing po­lit­i­cal claims about the need to fund the EPA or to pre­vent the Key­stone pipe­line with science,” said Mr. Meyer. “They’re con­flat­ing re­li­gious and philo­soph­i­cal claims about ma­te­ri­al­ism with science. And then they’re con­flat­ing par­tic­u­lar the­o­ries with the prac­tice of science it­self, such that if you dis­agree with those the­o­ries, you’re deemed a ‘science de­nier.’ ”

“So it’s mas­sive con­fu­sion be­cause of the con­fla­tion at all three of those lev­els,” he said.

The crowd was con­sid­er­ably smaller than that of the Women’s March on Jan. 21 but oth­er­wise strik­ingly sim­i­lar, with some pro­test­ers even wear­ing pink hats.

The over­lap was not lost on some speak­ers. “So to­day we’re back on the mall with a march,” said Megan Smith, who served un­der Pres­i­dent Barack Obama as the chief tech­nol­ogy of­fi­cer to the United States gov­ern­ment. “I brought my pink hat, but I also brought my pink lab glasses.”

There were cheers for Mr. Obama af­ter Christy Gold­fuss, a for­mer Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial now with the Cen­ter for Amer­i­can Progress, said he had pro­tected “more of the ocean than any pres­i­dent in his­tory.”

A trip with the pres­i­dent to the Pa­cific Ocean re­minded her of a pop­u­lar Dis­ney movie: “Be­ing there, I felt just like Moana, this in­cred­i­ble pull to the ocean, and as Moana says, ‘See that line where the sky meets the sea? It calls me, but no one knows how far it goes.’”

“Well, science tells us how far it goes,” said Ms. Gold­fuss.

Rep. La­mar Smith, chair­man of the House Science, Space and Tech­nol­ogy Com­mit­tee, challenged the march’s anti-GOP nar­ra­tive with a list of the panel’s re­cent pas­sage of bills sup­port­ing re­search on in­no­va­tion, weather fore­cast­ing, and space ex­plo­ration, as well as leg­is­la­tion pro­mot­ing women and stu­dents in science.

“I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to pro­mote sci­en­tific in­tegrity and a healthy, trans­par­ent and vi­brant re­search and tech­nol­ogy en­vi­ron­ment in the United States,” the Texas Repub­li­can said in a Satur­day state­ment.

De­spite be­ing ham­pered by a spring rain, the march drew a re­spectable crowd that num­bered in the low tens of thou­sands.

The se­lec­tion of Mr. Nye, a white male, as an hon­orary March for Science co-chair ig­nited a flap last month over di­ver­sity, but march-go­ers greeted him en­thu­si­as­ti­cally with chants of “Bill!”

“Some may con­sider science the purview of a spe­cial or sep­a­rate type of cit­i­zen, one who pur­sues nat­u­ral facts and gen­er­ates nu­mer­i­cal mod­els for their own sakes, but our num­bers here to­day show the world that science is for all,” Mr. Nye said. “Our law­mak­ers must know and ac­cept that science serves ev­ery one of us, ev­ery cit­i­zen of ev­ery na­tion and so­ci­ety.”


Thou­sands of rain-soaked at­ten­dees were urged by speak­ers to fight Pres­i­dent Trump’s “anti-science” agenda on Satur­day at the March for Science.

Bill Nye “The Science Guy” par­tic­i­pated in the March for Science on Satur­day, say­ing “our law­mak­ers must know and ac­cept that science serves ev­ery one of us, ev­ery cit­i­zen of ev­ery na­tion and so­ci­ety.”

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