Why I’m marching for science

33133813 - the word science written on sticky colored paper

I’m looking foward to partipating in the March for Science in Washington, DC this Saturday. I’m bringing my March for Science T-shirt, my rain gear and my passionate commitment to the value of science in improving the human condition. Therefore, I was disappointed to read Arthur Lambert’s piece in STAT, Why I’m not attending the March for Science.

Promoting the objectivity of science is NOT politicizing it.

Lambert is a postdoctoral researcher at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, MA. He’s spent most of the last 15 years devoted to science. So why isn’t he marching?

… I think that the march is a bad idea. It threatens to undermine the objective nature of scientific research that is so critical to its integrity…

And there’s no denying this march is political. It is a mistake to position the scientific method against the Trump administration or any other one, for that matter. That would serve only to undermine a central premise of the march: that scientific knowledge is apolitical…

Yes, science is apolitical. Many of us are marching precisely because we believe that and we want to register our disapproval of those who censor it, suppress it, twist it and deride it for political or religious ends.

According to its website:

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.

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.

Scientific knowledge is not the province of the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. It is not the province of any religion or no religion at all. It crosses borders, ethnicities and economic classes. It is truly apolitical, areligious and exists outside of economic philosophies. As astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson has famously noted:

The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.

But scientific knowledge is perceived as a threat by certain groups. Historically we have seen that most often in the case of religion. Galileo was condemned by the Catholic Church because his findings threatened the religious belief that the Earth is the center of the universe. Charles Darwin has been condemned, and remarkably continues to be condemned, by those whose religious beliefs are (as they see it) incompatible with the massive amount of scientific evidence supporting evolution.

When Galileo stood up for the helio-centric universe, he was not politicizing science even though he angered the politicians of his day; his critics politicized science. When Darwin stood up for evolution, he was not politicizing science even though he angered the politicians of his day and some of the politicians of our day; his critics politicized science.

How do we know? We merely have to look at the definition of political. The definition, according to Merriam-Webster, is:

1 a of or relating to government, a government, or the conduct of government
b of, relating to, or concerned with the making as distinguished from the administration of governmental policy
2 of, relating to, involving, or involved in politics and especially party politics
3 organized in governmental terms political units
4 involving or charged or concerned with acts against a government or a political system political prisoners

Neither astronomy nor evolutionary biology have anything to do with government, parties or political systems. Nonetheless, politicians and religious authorities insisted on using the instruments of government and religion to censor, suppress, twist and deride the scientific evidence that forms the basis of astronomy or evolutionary biology. The science is apolitical yet politicians insist politicize it.

Similarly, neither climate science, reproductive biology, nor vaccine science have anything to do with government, parties or political systems. Nevertheless, politicians keep insisting on using the instruments of government to censor, suppress, twist and deride the scientific evidence that forms the basis of these disciplines. The science is apolitical yet politicians insist on politicizing it.

Sure, the Republican Party has recently been far more aggressive in politicizing science than the Democratic Party but that doesn’t mean that efforts to affirm science as apolitical are anti-Republican or pro-Democratic. If history has shown us anything at all it is that science can threatened cherished religious and political values across the spectrum. Unable or unwilling to cope with the resulting cognitive dissonance, many find it far easier to use the tools of politics to censor, suppress, twist and deride the distressing scientific facts.

We are marching to stop the politicization of science and it seems to me deeply unfortunate to confuse promoting the objectivity of science with politicizing it. That view serves to delegimize science — inadvertently, I hope — by claiming its proponents are engaged in the same misuse of science as many political and religious authorities.

It’s a claim of false moral equivalence … and it is objectively wrong.

  • Platos_Redhaired_Stepchild
  • myrewyn

    My baby was finally born at 7 this morning! It took a long time to get labor started but once I started to really dilate it went pretty quickly. She weighed 8 lbs 3 oz at 37+4 (ultrasound estimates were way off!) and is mildly hypoglycemic but she qualifies for donor milk and that’s helping her out. I was happy to see they were willing to test her and supplement right away. She’s a little sleepy but when I can get her awake she latches and nurses great. She’s definitely a little floppy compared to my previous 39 and 41 week babies.

    So my baby friendly report for this hospital is mostly positive. They are pushing breastfeeding and there is no well baby nursery, but there’s also formula feeding information for moms who want it and the nurses are really willing to help out with baby care. It’s possible I would be seeing something different if I had wanted to exclusively formula feed but at least they haven’t removed all mention of formula as an option.

    • Box of Salt

      Congratulations and Welcome to the little one!

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      Congratulations!

    • maidmarian555

      Congratulations!

    • Mishimoo

      Congratulations!

    • Azuran

      Congratulations!!! ^^

    • Heidi_storage

      Hurray!

    • Nick Sanders

      A big welcome to your little girl!

    • momofone

      Congratulations, and welcome to your new little one!

    • StephanieJR

      Congratulations!

    • Christy

      Congratulations!!!

    • Daleth

      Congrats!

    • Platos_Redhaired_Stepchild

      Congrats!

  • Blair

    Went to my local march in support of science. My sign was a picture of Jonas Salk with a caption: “Remember polio?
    No? Thank a scientist.” A women who is a school nurse came up to me in her wheelchair to chat. She has post polio syndrome. It’s interesting how the extreme left and extreme right both are science deniers: the former with anti Vaccines, and the latter human influenced climate change deniers.

  • yentavegan

    I am interested in finding out if Dr. Amy felt the March for Science was worth the shlep to D.C.

    • myrewyn

      Maybe it will be Monday’s post!

  • mabelcruet

    OT a little, or maybe not. More trouble for UK midwifery-15 babies and 3 maternal deaths are being investigated in Shrewsbury in circumstances that sound very similar to Cumbria with ‘natural’ birth being pushed, failures to investigate CTG anomalies, medical staff not being called, midwives being unaware of GBS results. And the response from the Royal College of Midwives has been a resounding silence (although they did release a statement about the upcoming General Election).

    • Amazed

      And the doctor in charge of the hospital said something along the lines of, “Well, I don’t see what the big deal is. I mean, our mortality rate is on par with the rate in other such trusts.” I had to collect my jaw from the floor.

  • Elizabeth Inman

    I am glad you are marching for science. We all should.

  • myrewyn

    Update. Inductions are slow and boring but at least we are finally doing this.

    My night nurse launched into a long story about how there are two classes of midwives and the lay midwives are scarily undereducated and nothing like the hospital nurse midwives, and how she is supporting legislation that would limit/ban them because parents have no recourse when home births go wrong. This was literally the only time outside this blog I have EVER heard anyone who knows any of this, let alone express it freely. She is probably more aware, being a L&D nurse, but I’ve seen a lot of nurses and our conversations go more like this. “Are you planning to breastfeed? Yes? Yay!” (Side note: some of these nurses are impossibly young and beautiful. It’s keeping my OH entertained anyway. )

    So… go science! And please send me cervix ripening vibes because that thing is not cooperating.

    • Mishimoo

      Good luck! Hope everything goes smoothly and bub is safe in your arms soon.

    • momofone

      Good vibes headed your way!

    • Lilly de Lure

      Consider vibes sent! Best of luck and keep us posted!

    • Dr Kitty

      Good luck!
      Hope everything goes quickly, safely and smoothly for you and the wee one.

    • Amazed

      Good luck! May the god of boring look upon you and give you the most uneventful delivery ever.

    • BeatriceC

      Good luck! Hopefully things became producing but remained boring.

    • yentavegan

      Best Wishes for a easy birth.

  • Amy M

    My family and I are attending the MOS in Boston. I view it as a way to celebrate science and teach children that 1)science is fun and 2)scientific literacy is important.

  • rox123

    OT here but I am desperate to have all facts straight. Just found out I am 4w4d since the last menstration and I remember clearly drinking alcohol during this time. One evening, two weeks ago I had an entire beer. 5 days ago I probably drank around 2 glasses of wine. Ocassionally – probably 2-3-4 times a week – I drank at most one glass of wine, most of the times probably half. Did this increase the baby’s chance to have physical issues or any kind of developmental delays/behavior issues/autism? Any idea? I just read an article –
    which I’ll post as soon as I’ll be able to dig it up from my history – which says that alcohol, even in minor-moderate quantities increase the risk for autism/behavioral issues/intelligence issues which will be visible only later.
    Oh, I also drank an insane amount of coffee.

    • Empress of the Iguana People

      two weeks ago you were either not actually pregnant or the fertilized egg had only just implanted. Nervewrecking when the CDC says things like “women who MaY get pregnant shouldn’t drink,” but really, i’d guess it’s pretty common among women who weren’t actively trying. Try not to worry about it too much.

      • rox123

        Thanks for telling me to not worry, however I can’t to help it. From what people above said after the implantation happened at week 2 which means I shared a blood stream with the embryo for almost 3 weeks.
        Edit: These are some articles that say what I’m afraid of: https://www.decisionpointcenter.com/news-blog/early-pregnancy-and-alcohol-consumption
        https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2015-05/uoh-cda051315.php
        I know it’s about mice ….

        • myrewyn

          Make sure you’re taking into account that when they start counting your weeks pregnant, they count from your last period and not the day you conceived. So when you say you’re 4 weeks 4 days pregnant, two weeks-ish of that was before you even conceived.

          • rox123

            Yes, I know; but this still leaves 2w4d of possibly intoxicating the embryo with alcohol… What if this was enough?

          • Azuran

            I wouldn’t be worried. The link about mice doesn’t even specify an amount of alcohol drank. And whatever limited research we have about pregnancy tends to be overly dramatic. Since we can’t ethically tests things on pregnant women, whenever anything might slightly raise the risks of anything they completely ban it, no matter how small of a risk it is.
            Thousands of women probable take varying degrees of alcohol before they know they are pregnant every year. My SIL got drunk while she was 4-5 weeks pregnant (she did a pregnancy test the morning, it gave her a false negative) Her baby is fine.

          • Amy

            Nope, I don’t know how long the stage lasts, but when you first conceive, the embryo is nourished by the yolk sac, NOT the placenta. It takes time for the zygote to implant for for there to even BE a placenta. It is literally impossible for you to transfer any alcohol t your unborn child before there is a placenta.

            As a parent of a nine and eleven year old, trust me…..there will be plenty of opportunities for you to feel guilty over the next decade about various parenting decisions you’ve made. Drinking before you know you’re pregnant shouldn’t be one of them. Your baby will NOT develop FAS over this.

        • Empress of the Iguana People

          *hug* My honey has anxiety pretty seriously, & my pregnancies drove him up a wall with worry.

    • myrewyn

      I’m not a medical professional but I’ll share with you for solidarity. I conceived last August… in Rio… for the Olympics. I don’t drink to get drunk but we were definitely drinking more than usual with the festive atmosphere. What I was told is that in early pregnancy heavy drinking can cause a loss but you’re not sharing blood with the baby until later. Hopefully a nurse or doctor will chime in here 🙂

      • rox123

        Thank you!

    • Juana

      Behavior issues require having a brain. If you actually are 4weeks along, your baby doesn’t have one yet – merely a neural fold that will become the brain later. Baby is still in the phase of its development when it’s “all or nothing” – anything that went wrong until now either did no damage at all or would lead to non-viability.

    • Sheven

      Do you know you’re pregnant? The first step here is to go to a drugstore and buy a pregnancy test.

      • rox123

        Been there, done that, also confirmed by dr.

        • Dr Kitty

          Deep breath.
          The six units of alcohol you have had and the 12 hours hour body took to process them will not be a problem.

          You didn’t know you were pregnant, you drank in moderation, there is no evidence that this will cause harm.

    • crazy grad mama

      The rule of thumb in trying-to-conceive circles is that you can “drink ’til it’s pink.” (“It” being the pregnancy test, and pink meaning it’s positive, and 4w is about the earliest you can get a positive test.) They mean in moderation, and your level of consumption is fine.

      Certainly any alcohol you consume before implantation (which happens at roughly 3w “pregnant”) is fine, because the embryo has no connection to your bloodstream until then.

      • rox123

        But I had two, maybe a bit more at w4 … it was Easter. When I took the test I was already 4-5 days late

        • crazy grad mama

          That’s still really early, and well within the normal range for finding out you’re pregnant.

          Have you talked to your doctor about this? He or she should be able to reassure you with more authority than us internet folks. I also recommend the book Expecting Better, by Emily Oster. She does a good job compiling the human studies and talking about what evidence we have and don’t have.

          Finally—and if I’m way off base here, I apologize, but I’m a really anxious person and can sympathize—looking for concrete guarantees during pregnancy is going to drive you nuts. So much of what happens during pregnancy is out of our control, and bad things can happen even when you do everything perfectly by-the-book. Your child might have behavioral issues, but it won’t be because of the two glasses of wine you had at Easter, it’ll be because of some combination of genetics and other factors that we don’t understand. Even external risks can be impossible to avoid: for example, when I am pregnant, I avoid lunch meat etc. to lower my risk of listeria. Except what carried the listeria outbreak the summer I was pregnant with my first kid? Peaches, which I’d been eating a ton of. (We were fine and did not catch it, thankfully.)

          All that is to say that you should make healthy choices during pregnancy, but you shouldn’t worry or feel bad for small deviations like this. You drank a perfectly reasonable amount and stopped when you found out you were pregnant.

          • myrewyn

            That is an awesome and thoughtful response.

          • rox123

            Thank you, @crazy grad mama! I appreciate your reassurances. I will ask my dr. H says he is very supportive and this helps me a lot as well to cope.

            Later edit: Oh silly me, misunderstood your name! Apologies!

          • crazy grad mama

            I didn’t notice any name mix-up, so no worries! I wish you all the best for this pregnancy and everything.

          • crazy grad mama

            I didn’t notice any name mix-up, so no worries! I wish you all the best for this pregnancy and everything.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      The brain doesn’t develop that early. During the first two weeks of pregnancy, there aren’t even mature tissue types so no risk at all then. And stationary neurons don’t even form until about the 7-8th week. Also, the risk of FAS with the amount of drinking you did is low to nil and the other risks are less well established. In short, I wouldn’t worry about it.

    • MaineJen

      You’re fine. Same thing happened to me; a week before I found out I was pregnant (~5-6 weeks) I went to a St Patricks Day party. ……there were jello shots involved. I had implantation spotting which I thought was my period the week before, so I had no idea I was pregnant.

      Happens all the time. 🙂

  • Gene

    I’ll be there as well!!! Amy, email me. I’d love to meet up!

  • Roadstergal

    I couldn’t agree more. And just to add – I’m also marching to push back against the anti-science side of the left wing. It doesn’t have the same clout in the higher echelons, but it’s a cancer that I don’t want to spread.

    Finishing up my sign tonight for the SF march… the front side is Nasty Women Have Control Groups, and the back side is a quote from The Skeptical Liberal – All Food Is GMOs, Everything Is Chemicals – Science, Not Fear.

    • Sheven

      This is important. “We’re not substituting your bullshit for their bullshit!”

      • Amy M

        I’m so bad at coming up with catchy signs. I’ll have to think about it…..

  • J.B.

    Not a catchy sign, but I’m thinking of a quote from a former department head: “what you do with the science is policy”. Being an engineer type person, I recommend things and try to describe the pros and cons. Those above me should have the best information possible to make decisions.

  • Amy

    Love this!

    Although I kinda wish you’d be in Boston with the rest of us locals 🙂

  • MaineJen

    I’ll be marching along in Portland Maine! Rain or shine…(most likely rain) The kids and I are making our signs tonight 🙂

  • Mark

    Beautifully stated

    Science can not hide from this world, it is part of the world and belongs to everyone.

    Those who say let us stay out of politics are in a sense saying why do we care what the masses of stupid people think. We are scientists and are above that.

    No you are not above that. It is your duty to promote science in this world and to uphold its objective place in society and to see that it is not politicalized or denergrated in the public’s eye.