• Antiscience hijacks the Science March

    Since Donald Trump assumed the presidency of the United States, his meager week in power has been an assault on the Enlightenment, and we still have four years left of this savagery —unless the Republicans overcome partisanship and help an impeachment… which does not seem very likely—. In addition to his assault on reproductive rights and immigration from seven Muslim countries that are not the largest producers of Islamic terrorism, the new White House occupant began to wage a fierce war on science.

    Among many of the responses to this battlefront of the Trump administration, a group of people began calling for a March for Science. So far, so good: we agree that science is important and deserves to be defended from the onslaught of obscurantism.

    The problem arises when we scratch the surface of this March. Although it was created first on Facebook, they also activated a Twitter account and a blog. Then things got messy.

    First, the Twitter account posted a tweet announcing that one of the core principles of the march was intersectionality.

    As you will recall, intersectionality is an absurd hypothesis, refuted by the most basic science, and even Christina Hoff Sommers pointed out to them that the concept is nothing more than a conspiracy theory, since anyone who says anything against it, is  automatically an agent of the system, a privileged know-nothing, someone who has been brainwashed or a traitor to his or her group. As you can see, a tons of ideology and no facts.

    Turns out, the promoters of the March are still convinced of intersectionality. In one of the first versions of their blog they doubled down on their commitment to this idea:

    We are taking seriously the many important criticisms regarding (lack of) diversity on social media
    stating that for this march to be meaningful, we must centralize diversity of the march’s organizers
    (both in leadership positions and at all levels of planning), speakers, and issues addressed as a
    principal objective for the march.


    We recognize that many issues about which scientists as a group have largely remained silent –
    attacks on black & brown lives, oil pipelines through indigenous lands, sexual harassment and assault,
    ADA access in our communities, immigration policy, lack of clean water in several cities across
    the country, poverty wages, LGBTQIA rights, and mass shootings are scientific issues.

    Science has historically – and generally continues to support discrimination.
    In order to move forwardIn order to move forward as a scientific community, we must address
    and actively work to unlearn our problematic past and present, to make science available to everyone.


    If these are the advocates of science, Trump has already won.

    Yes, many of these issues are pressing, and yes, many of those issues affect many people’s ability to enter science programs, but so do many other factors that are not what the march should be about. This should be a march to defend science, the method by which we approach the world, we know it, and interact with it, benefiting from that knowledge. A system that by its very nature increasingly perfects its protection against biases and heuristics

    Not all marches can be about diversity. And that doesn’t mean that diversity loses importance, it only means that not all marches can be about diversity. Scientists must fight for facts.

    The idea of a pro-science March was born mainly because Trump deleted the White House’s references to climate change and put a media gag on government agencies: it was not a direct attack on diversity, but an ideological imposition on science. So it strikes me as absurd that the promoters of the March are doing the same thing.

    Wanting to include diversity is praiseworthy, but if they want it to become the central part of the March, it is no longer a march for science, but of “diversity”, and it becomes an ideological issue, where there will be reasonable stances as well as postmodernist follies (such as intersectionality) — and although Sokal and Bricmont had made it clear, it is worth repeating: the essence of postmodernism is unscientific because it denies that there are objective facts, which are what science seeks to know in the first place..

    The worst part of it all is the accusations that historically and to this day science has supported discrimination. WTF?!? Normally, who makes accusations of this type is your run of the mill pseudoscience/conspiranoic peddler trying to delegitimize and undermine our knowledge of the world, not someone who claims to be for science. And one usually replies that forced eugenics, racism, social Darwinism, and the atrocities of Lysenkism —to name the classical tropes— have in fact always been examples of antiscience and pseudoscience, privileging ideology over facts.

    If someone says that science “historically – and generally continues to support discrimination”, I want evidence of that, because what can be claimed without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. We know that the planet faces climate change and that it has a huge anthropogenic component because the evidence is overwhelmingly clear in this regard — when it comes to issues such as police brutality with a bias against African Americans, though, people hardly look at the full set of facts. The same goes for the Standing Rock pipeline.

    We have very good science on human genetic variability as well as science about LGBTQ population that has served to counter racist and homophobic claims, and keep them from infecting public policies — which, for starters, shouldn’t have to be: all people deserve the same rights and opportunities, even if science proved the opposite of what we know and there were any objectively significant and relevant biological, anatomical and/or cognitive difference between people with different skin colors, sex, gender, or sexual orientation.

    And it is thanks to science that we can even talk about “clean water”, or make life easier for people with many types of disabilities —from people with diminished hearing to people who could recover their sight, to people who have lost their limbs and are running marathons—. Without science there would be none of that.

    And it is thanks to the scientific mindset that we can measure and quantify rape and sexual assault rates, to see that —contrary to what so many activists claim— the rates for these crimes have been reduced greatly, and we can keep on doing that, and thus guarantee the sexual autonomy of all citizens.

    And it has been in subjects like economy or possession of arms (or basically any of the humanities) where ideology, however well intentioned, has hindered the scientific work, and we have two (or more sides) shouting what we should and shouldn’t be doing, without being able to go far beyond simple statistical correlations.

    The blog was edited and they removed that part, but that doesn’t mean that they are not still thinking it. The organizers of the March still insist that their moral priorities are “scientific matters”.

    Having an ideology, and certain moral preferences is not bad. Neither it is desiring to fight inequality. Nor marching for any of this. But when it comes to science, let us understand that it is a matter of defending research wherever it may take us, and that sometimes it won’t support our beliefs. “Fighting against injustice” is a beautiful slogan, but it is not a scientific issue; to pretend otherwise only helps to disguise as science the many very popular anti-scientific hypotheses that have hijacked the struggle for equality.

    (vía Steven Pinker | imagen: March for Science)

    Category: PhilosophySkepticism and Science


    Article by: Ðavid A. Osorio S

    Skeptic | Blogger | Fact-checker