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When Will Progressives Stand for the Scientific Method?

When Will Progressives Stand for the Scientific Method?
scientific method

Do you have march fatigue yet? The left, apparently, does not, so we’re in for some street theater on Earth Day, April 22, with the so-called March for Science.

It’s hard to think of a better way to undermine the public’s faith in science than to stage demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and around the country modeled on the Women’s March on Washington that took place in January.

The Women’s March was an anti-Donald Trump festival. Fine. I found it vulgar and demeaning to women, but it’s a free country.

Science, however, to be respected, must be purely the search for truth. The organizers of this “March for Science” -- by acknowledging that their demonstration is modeled on the Women’s March -- are contributing to the politicization of science, exactly what true upholders of science should be at pains to avoid.

When you read the organizers’ online statement, the purpose seems so utterly vacuous as to cause heads to nod:

The March for Science champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.

Yeah. I know loads of people who oppose the “common good,” don’t you?

So what is it really about?

As best I can make out (besides being a nice excuse to enjoy the April weather in Washington, when everything is in bloom), those planning to attend want to express dismay at President Trump’s policies on a range of subjects, including climate change and the travel restriction (which they label a “travel ban”).

On the matter of climate change, those who present themselves as champions of science, i.e., fact-based reasoning and commitment to the scientific method, ought to be very careful not to blackball everyone who offers a dissenting view. Even among self-described environmentalists, there are differing views on how best to combat global warming. Whether temperatures are rising dangerously is a scientific question. What to do about it is a political question.

When you lump the “travel ban” into the march, though, you really go off the rails. As Robert Young, an ecologist, warned in The New York Times, including such matters only serves to cement the image of scientists as “an interest group” who might “politicize their data, research, and findings for their own ends.”

A true “march for science” might tackle problems like the “replication crisis” or “confirmation bias.”

It’s a vanity of the left that they stand for science, “fact-based” policy and sweet reason as opposed to conservatives, who support superstition, “alternative facts” and denial. Jeffrey Anderson, an associate professor of radiology and bioengineering at the University of Utah, explained to The New York Times that he would fly to D.C. for the march because of what he regards as “the wholesale disregard of truth and fact by the president and his close advisers. Their devaluing evidence and the scientific method, is so extreme that I can’t be silent.”

Admittedly, this president has been reckless and heedless of the truth or falsity of his comments on a range of subjects. His endorsements of conspiracy theories about vaccines causing autism and climate change being a Chinese ruse to harm American companies were preposterous and worrying. But he hasn’t said those things lately, and the march doesn’t seem to have been provoked by them.

Note to the left: The above paragraph is what sincere people who are “fact-based” and willing to be critical of their own side write. Now, where is the acknowledgement that there is plenty of hostility to science among progressives? Who objects to nuclear power (despite its potential to combat global warming)? Who rejects evidence of male/female brain differences? Who stands in the way of genetically modified organisms -- but also argues that children should be hormonally and surgically modified if they say that they are of a different “gender” from the sex listed on their birth certificate?

When progressives are ready to admit that they sometimes cherry-pick the science they like and disregard the science that confounds their worldview, they will have taken a key first step toward the scientific method.

 

Mona Charen is a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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