From the August 2017 issue

Cassandra smiling

Science, politics, and a march in the rain.
By | Published: August 2, 2017
On April 22, I was one of 40,000 people who gathered near the Washington Monument for the March for Science. The weather that day was rainy and cold, a good match for the concerns that had brought us together. Even so, spirits were amazingly upbeat. It felt more like a party than a protest. Not even the occasional heckler promising eternal damnation could provoke much other than a smile and a wave.

Hand-drawn signs were as nerdy as they were ubiquitous. I think my personal favorite was, “At the start of every disaster movie, there’s a scientist being ignored.” Marching down Constitution Avenue toward the Capitol, people joined voices in call and response to a drummer’s cadence. “What do we need?” “Evidence-based policy!” “When do we need it?” “After peer review!”

Hardly a pithy political slogan, I know. What can I say? Political activism isn’t really our gig, and to be honest, scientists aren’t very good at it. It’s nowhere near as cool as the stuff going on in the lab! But more and more scientists are discovering that even they have their limits. When it sinks in that the White House prefers “alternative facts” to the real thing, and will fervently declare that 2 + 2 = 4 is “fake news” if they want it to equal 5 instead, a scientist’s head is likely to explode. When that happens, the next question is what to do about it.

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