My head is full and my internal battery drained, true to my introvert tendencies. But, I’ve also had an important dose of hope. I participated in the March for Science today, making my way down Market Street with thousands of fellow science advocates. I have to say, if nothing else, this group sure has their pun game on point. And nerds love their inside humor. I carried a sign that said “Alternative facts are √-1”, which I admit to stealing from a photo of a march in another city. Being on a late time zone sometimes has its benefits.
If you’ve never been to a march, it may seem like a waste of time or not really “doing” anything. I maybe was one of those skeptics before I participated in the Women’s March in January. There’s something powerful about coming together in solidarity around a cause you believe in, even as people have their different ways of believing. It’s inspiring to know you’re not alone. In what seems like an unprecedented era of negativity and battles, a burst of positive energy is much-needed. Yes, I realize I can say that because these marches are for like-minded people. But you know what? I think we deserve a break of just a few hours to recharge. It is exhausting trying to explain that vaccines are essential and climate change is real and research needs funding and the earth is round. Scientists perhaps haven’t caught up to the partisan sentiments in this country and indeed the world. We perhaps don’t know how to debate science because, until now, we haven’t had to. The very notion of debating facts is quite nonsensical, to be honest. A fact isn’t up for debate, because it’s a fact – it is, by definition, true. The debate comes in interpreting the fact in the context of what actions need to take place because of that fact.
So we’re in a bit of uncharted territory it seems. Instead of debating the best way to lower carbon emissions, we’re debating the reality of climate change. Instead of debating the best way to ensure all children have access to vaccines, we’re debating the reality of their life-saving abilities. How do you debate something you know to be true? I have brown eyes; if someone was trying to tell me that I’m wrong and they’re blue, how could I respond? When presenting the facts isn’t enough, how can you argue? Is it even worth the breath?
It is worth the breath if that person also had the power to make a rule that all blue-eyed people had to pay an extra tax.
Scientists know things to be true that lay people don’t have the specific expertise to test themselves. Just like plumbers can fix toilets and mechanics can fix cars and politicians can fix… well… anyway. You get my point. We trust experts every day to make decisions based on facts that we can’t see. And yet, politicians and many who vote for them suddenly think they know better because of an article they saw on the internet or because of a story their uncle told them about chemtrails. More research goes into what cat video is trending than into verifying if you can, in fact, cure cancer with tea.
Science sometimes presents us with uncomfortable truths. Truths that could change the way we live our lives and approach the world. In a time where quick-fixes for weight loss and getting rich are promised, having someone tell you that you need to give up conveniences for the good of a long-term goal is a hard pill to swallow (pun definitely intended). Plastics are good for me now, so why should I give them up? Oh, you have a reason for that – I will put my fingers in my ears and scream and pretend you’re not talking rather than change my behavior. And worse, I will find someone in a corner of the internet that validates my response.
One of my favorite quotes from Neil deGrasse Tyson is, “The great thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.” I usually balk at the phrase “believe in science,” because science isn’t Santa Claus, but maybe the interpretation should be “believe in the process of science.” Just like I believe in my mechanic or my plumber. I know that, just because I don’t understand what they’re doing, that they have the training to do their job and to make decisions. Everyone, no matter their education level or other beliefs, can trust scientists to know their field and inform decisions based on their specific training. I march to show that we have a voice and a community and, if nothing else, that we’ll get through this together with a bunch of punny signs.