Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Marching for Science.

“The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson

“Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge.”

Carl Sagan
Distrust and violence against science is one of the standard post-apocalyptic themes in science fiction: civilization collapses, due to either a pandemic, thermonuclear warfare, drastic climate change, or d) all of the above, and the remnants of humanity turns their anger on the scientific community for either causing the catastrophe or failing to stop it.

The current situation is an odd reversal of this plot.  Rather than an angry mob venting its rage upon scientists after the world has fallen apart, instead there has been a sort of general denial of the validity of science as it attempts to warn the world of potential future disasters.

For the most part, this seems to be an American issue - I don't think of science denial as being as strong in any other part of the world.  However, the degree to which anti-science has become prevalent in the USA certainly makes up for any shortfall elsewhere on the planet.

But what is science?  It's more a question of what science does rather than what it is.  The scientific method allows us to develop an understanding of the nature of the universe, from the smallest particle to the ends of the cosmos, with a basis in fact rather than belief.  Experimentation proves or disproves theories:  every experiment advances our knowledge of how things work, and that knowledge allows us to advance as a species.

And yet, somehow this crucial foundation of our society has fallen into disrepute - the Trump government has slashed funding to the sciences, climate change denial is widespread, anti-vaccination exemptions have become commonplace, and apparently there were dinosaurs on Noah's Ark.*

The March for Science is a celebration of science.  It's not only about scientists and politicians; it is about the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.  

This coming Saturday, a total of 517 Science Marches in support of science are taking place in 54 different countries all around the world, including one here in Vancouver.  (For complete information about the March for Science Vancouver, visit the event's Facebook page.)  It's gratifying to see such a widespread display of support for science and scientific research - but more than a little sad that it's necessary to call for such a display in the first place.

- Sid the Science Kid

* Adolescent dinosaurs, so that they wouldn't take up too much space and crowd out the other animals. No, seriously.

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