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Opinion: Let’s march to stress the value of science for the public good, not to engage in partisan politics

  1. Catherine Ruddera,1
  1. aSchar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University, Arlington, VA 22201

Much has been made of the aims of the upcoming March for Science, which is scheduled to take place on April 22 in Washington, DC. Some have argued it’s a terrible idea (1). But the march could serve an important purpose—if organizers and participants succeed in sending the right message and reaching the right audiences, namely a public that’s sometimes wary or suspicious of science and public officials who are trying to further specific interests.

A march for science, done right, will underscore the critical importance of science literacy among the general public. Image courtesy of Dave Cutler (artist).

If the March for Science were meant as a partisan enterprise or an objection to President Trump’s policies in general, scientists would have reason to be reluctant to participate. In their statement of purpose, the organizers issue a “call to support and safeguard the scientific community” (http://www.danielhellerman.com), a somewhat nebulous phrase that could be interpreted in a variety of ways. The statement goes on to lament the “mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence” (http://www.danielhellerman.com). In other words, the event is meant to underscore that scientific findings should not be ignored by policy makers, not to favor one political party or another.

Scientists’ findings deserve respect specifically because they emanate from procedures that ensure neutrality. Even if researchers would prefer a specific outcome, those adhering to the scientific method do not alter the results to fit their preferences. Their ethical commitments, rigorous training, and professional standards all suggest they have well-earned credibility in their chosen field.

Neither partisanship, political predilections, or even religious beliefs affect the procedures followed by well-trained, ethical scientists. They may be Republicans, Democrats, Independents, or have no affiliation with a political party, but the scientific method, properly applied, …

?1Email: rudder{at}gmu.edu.

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