Global March for Science: No room for irrationality
On the occasion of Earth Day, a global March for Science took place on April 22, 2017, in Washington and spilling over to more than 600 cities around the world. The march was considered a celebration of science, highlighting the crucial role of science in our daily lives and the need to give back respect to evidence-based research that builds on our awareness and understanding of the world around us. The march was inspired by the 2017 Women’s March and fired by the refutation of Trump’s threats of cutting funds to scientific research including that of climate change, along with other health and human services. The goal behind the march was to stress the fact that “science upholds the common good and to call for evidence-based policy in the public’s interest.” It is “a pillar of human freedom and prosperity,” as mentioned in the march’s mission statement.
The organizers who argue that politicians are hijacking science for their own interests, further say that science is not a product but a process, one that constantly raises and revises our knowledge of the universe.
It is a process indeed, and it’s the safest tool to validate that what we have discovered around us is physically real and rational based on the weight of evidence. It is true that, as one of the march’s slogans says, “without science it’s only fiction.”
It’s also a human process. It’s conducted by a diversity of people who try to answer what we seek and to understand and extend our knowledge of the world in hopes of building a more coherent, informed society. It thus doesn’t work alienated from culture and community. And despite its imperfections, as with everything in life, it is still our most operational way to get to know any common truth.
However, when facts and evidence, and thus science and research, are under attack, we need to react. It is not a political thing but a human one. It’s becoming life or death in the world of the 21st century. We do not want to go back to the time of darkness because of personal convictions and irrational decisions made by powerful leaders on policies that ignore scientific evidence or peer review and thus threaten our present and future human life.
Science is here not to impede but rather make and influence policies. The best way to guarantee that is for science to reach out to communities. Let the people engage with science, through education, communication and dialogue between scientists and communities. Let us take science out of the labs and share it with the people at every level, beginning at home, school, university and the workplace, and only then formulate policies and conduct decision-making, i.e. from the grass roots upward.
Bad science policies are no longer tolerated by the millennial generation, which is now standing up for our environment not to be harmed by climate change, our bodies not to be dismantled by weakened public health choices and our careers not to be replaced by computerization.
We need to change history once again. We once had a scientific revolution, toward the end of the Renaissance period, which made sense of the natural environment we live in and ultimately engendered the many civilizations across history and borders, improving the place and the way in which we live. It was that “scientific renaissance” that unmasked the laws of motion and universal gravitation, allowed for the grand synthesis of Isaac Newton, and gave way to the Age of Reflection whereby scientists relied on acquiring knowledge of nature in scientific discovery as a way to understand humanity as well.
Today, we need another scientific revolution that reaffirms the rationality behind our existence and the need to go back to sanity, making our brains producers and not mere consumers within a system controlled by a few privileged people at the expense of our silent wisdom.
The global march for science presented a scientific community that values diversity in thought, able to bring a whole planet together to defend the brain in every one of us humans. The week of action following the global march is also one more step toward building a global spontaneous movement in response to the global challenges that are now gradually and directly threatening our daily lives on both the macro and micro levels.
As the slogans in the different streets speak out: “We need to defend the place of evidence in our lives,” “Evidence not arrogance,” “Science not silence.”
It is time to change history again and restore sanity – in many parts of the world.
Dima El Hassan is the director of programs at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.