To Change Politics, Do More Than March for Science

Apr 19, 2017

By the Editors of Scientific American

Earlier this year scientists announced that on April 22—Earth Day—they intended to, in their own words, “walk out of the lab and into the streets.” Organizers of this March for Science were dismayed by a new administration and a Congress pushing policies likely to increase pollution, harm health, reduce our ability to forecast natural hazards such as hurricanes—and toss accepted science out the window. The protests, planned for Washington, D.C., and other cities around the U.S. and the globe, quickly gathered support from major scientific societies, tens of thousands of volunteers, hordes of Twitter supporters and 800,000 members in a Facebook group.

It’s a start—but not enough to make a lasting impression on the president, Congress or state legislators.

“Don’t tweet at them. Don’t sign goofy-ass useless internet petitions. Call,” tweeted David Shiffman, a marine biologist at the University of Miami. He is right. People need to reach out individually to members of the government and make it clear that they will back their opinions with votes.

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4 comments on “To Change Politics, Do More Than March for Science

  • I see that there is a useful initiative on the media education front.

    Media group Sky has announced a multi-year $250m (£195m) co-production deal with US television network HBO.

    Sky said it would produce “high-end drama” and that the first projects are in development.

    It also announced a virtual reality project with Sir David Attenborough and the Natural History Museum.

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  • I would also suggest that universities only invite honest reputable speakers to present academic lectures or debate!

    Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter has vowed to speak at the University of California, Berkeley, after it cancelled next week’s event.

    Her visit was cancelled on Wednesday by administrators citing “active security threats”, but Republican students said it was an attack on free speech.

    “What are they going to do? Arrest me?” the best-selling author told Fox News.

    The campus has been the scene of several violent protests in recent months.

    Ms Coulter – author of In Trump We Trust – said the school, which gained prominence in the 1960s as the bastion of the so-called Free Speech Movement, had violated her rights.

    Speaking on Fox News, Ms Coulter urged US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate the matter because she had been “unconstitutionally banned” from speaking.

    Perhaps someone should tell this opinionated muppet, that speaking at a university is by invitation – and any inflammatory bigoted babbling idiot is not welcome to demand a platform or tarnish the reputation of an academic institution!

    She said the university had proposed several rule changes, and she had “called their bluff” by agreeing to the conditions.

    I think that explains an attitude towards civilised debate, which would raise questions about the competence of the “conservative” organisers to run an orderly debate!

    But college administrators later said they were unable to provide a “safe and suitable venue”.

    According to the Republican group sponsoring the event, the Young America’s Foundation (YAF), the university required Ms Coulter speak in the afternoon, only allow students to attend, and announce the location of the speech close to the time of the event.

    “Even after Coulter went along with their ruses and guises to shut down her speech, they simply announced, like Kim Jung Un, that it was cancelled,” the YAF said.

    That does seem to spell out the type of organisation involved and the expected level of “debate” they are likely to offer!

    Berkeley is not the only American university to face protests against conservative speakers.

    On Tuesday night in Alabama, hundreds of students protested against a speech by white supremacist leader Richard Spencer.

    I would suggest that bigoted rabble-rousers, seek to exercise their “free speech”, (or is that “hate speech”), in a venue with a rabble, somewhere other than in the respectable lecture theatres or halls of a university!

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  • Hi Alan4Discussion,

    I’d say the first mistake was inviting Coulter in the first place. Unfortunately Universities are often undermining their own respectability by handing out degrees in science for example for natural medicine. Just down my street is a sign advertising the services of (a lovely quack – and she is lovely but still a quack) homeopathy, she advertises on her sign that she has a diploma in science in homeopathy now I has assumed this was just fraud but a quick google search indeed found that more than one of our (previously esteemed) institutions offer courses in science in natural medicines by definition the opposite of science.

    I mourn for my country when I see that this nonsense can be allowed to be taught as fact, in an institution of higher learning (I have no problem with natural medicines being tested as medicine in a university if they stand up to this then they are medicine). Unfortunately Universities seem to be turning into mere companies for churning out students with not only useless degrees (that has often been the case in the past – at least in terms of getting a job at the end) but also degrees that attempt to undermine the the very institutions themselves. We laugh at the fraudulent Trump Universities and the likes but many of our mainstream universities now offer course no less fraudulent in my country subsidised by the tax payer (how exactly is this different from Trump? – only in that you can still do a decent degree in these institutions but you can complete a course of study just as fraudulent as any at any religious university or Trump).

    Pretty soon they could become like mainstream media, irrelevant. When people bemoan the loss of good quality journalism and blame new media for the take down I always argue that at least here in Australia they had lost good quality journalism long before new media came along, new media just gave them the same rubbish quicker and free. Higher education seems to be heading down the same track.

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  • It looks like some scientific and medical lobbying is making Trump’s dictatorship difficult! – But the rush to legislate with the brains (such as they are), switched off, and no proper evaluations of outcomes or costs, continues!

    The US House of Representatives has passed a healthcare bill, bringing President Trump’s pledge to repeal and replace Obamacare a stride closer.

    The American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed with a vote to spare, after weeks of cajoling within the Republican party to muster enough support.

    It has been opposed by Democrats and several groups representing patients, doctors and hospitals.

    The bill next heads to the Senate, possibly in June.

    Republicans needed 216 votes in the House and it passed with 217. No Democrats voted in favour.

    Its safe passage through the US lower chamber provides the new president with his first legislative victory, three months into his term.

    And it marks a remarkable turnaround after the bill was left for dead in March when Republicans were unable to agree on its provisions.

    But the speed at which it has been resuscitated since then, with several amendments aimed at winning over Republican rebels, has provoked criticism.

    It is not known how much the revised bill will cost, nor how many people will lose coverage, because the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not had time to assess it.

    Before the latest revisions, the CBO estimated 14 million more Americans would lose insurance in 2018 alone.

    About 20 million Americans gained healthcare coverage under President Barack Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act, nicknamed Obamacare.

    This bill may well encounter problems in the senate – given the marginal majority in the House!

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