March For Science And A Better America


AUSTIN, Texas—“We are here today because the importance of science in our nation is in dispute," Dr. Art Markman told the assembled crowd outside the Texas State Capitol. "And I have to lecture a bit because I’m a professor.”

Further Reading

The campaign to put science and tech leaders in public office starts nowEvidently, professors weren't the only ones compelled to act at this weekend's March for Science. Activists, writers, engineers, scientists, coders, kids, dogs, religious leaders, a PhD student preparing to give his dissertation next Friday, and a joke-telling robot named Annabelle gathered side-by-side among thousands ready to march at the Austin event.

Everyone seemingly had a different reason to attend: support for clean energy, the banishment of junk science from Texas education, increased belief in forensic evidence for the criminal justice system, or simple declarations like "No Science? No Beer." Here, where congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) has challenged the very principles of the scientific method from his nearby district office, the messaging came across as clear and unified.

"The next time we see some politician talking down to someone who's devoted their life to research, we're going to stand up for science," said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network (an organization devoted to battling junk science in state curriculum).

Scenes from the Austin, Texas March for Science.Nathan Mattise

Pro-science Texans did score a tiny victory earlier in the week when the state legislature approved changes to the education curriculum that "moves away from language that openly questions the theory of evolution," according to the >San Antonio Current. Though celebrated briefly at the rally, even that small change leaves plenty of room for interpretation going forward. And with the state legislature still in session, speakers regularly implored the crowd to continue reaching out to their representatives. After all, it was just this week that Texas appointed Kelcy Warren—the CEO whose company stood behind the Dakota Access Pipeline—to the Texas State Parks and Wildlife board.

"He was appointed by people in this building instead of someone who may actually know something about conservation," said Dave Cortez, a local activist with the pro-environment Sierra Club.

  • Seattle's march began at its famed Cal Anderson Park. Former EPA climate change advisor Michael Cox, who was recently in the news for loudly drubbing the Trump administration when he resigned from the EPA, took the (hard-to-see) podium to rally "we the people" to take action against man-made climate change. Sam Machkovech
  • Magic School Bus posters were apparently all over the nation during the March for Science, as evidenced by this handsomely illustrated take at the Seattle march. Sam Machkovech
  • The marquee on Seattle's Cinerama movie theater, owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, displayed pro-march signs, include quotes from scientists, philosophers, and even Calvin & Hobbes. Sam Machkovech
  • Not such a sweet sign in Seattle. Sam Machkovech
  • This giant globe required multiple people to carry it along the entire Seattle march route, seen here just beneath the Space Needle. Sam Machkovech
  • The Seattle march concluded at its Seattle Center fountain, where marchers hung around and showed off their signs. This one stood out. Sam Machkovech
  • In San Francisco, this sign came with credentials. John Timmer
  • Looking back over the march towards San Francisco Bay. John Timmer
  • Anti-sense DNA can base pair with another strand, just for context. John Timmer
  • A lot of science is cooler than any magic trick I've ever seen. John Timmer
  • The front of this man's sign asked if people would be nervous to see him (a turbaned Sikh) get on their plane. The back explained why they shouldn't. John Timmer
  • This is true, but sadly has to be reiterated. John Timmer
  • The sign in the background is the focus here. Anybody who's ever procrastinated on their thesis knows what he's saying. John Timmer
  • The implication here is that if the Oregon Trail settlers had more medical science, things would have gone better. John Timmer
  • Since it was a science march, this woman came with data. John Timmer
  • In Boston, the event started with an assembled crowd listening to a diverse set of speakers, a little music, and several winning student essays. Scott K. Johnson
  • Not the only Beaker costume in Boston, believe it or not. Scott K. Johnson
  • A youthful Santa Claus popped down to Boston with a message. Scott K. Johnson
  • It's (not) funny because it's true. Scott K. Johnson
  • A knitted brain hat and a big question. Scott K. Johnson
  • I heard they ain't afraid of no ghost. Scott K. Johnson
  • Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy provided the rally's thickest Boston accent. She had harsh words for proposals to drastically cut EPA's funding and staff. Scott K. Johnson
  • The Boston rally filled a sizable section of Boston Common. Scott K. Johnson
  • Rainy weather caused many people in Boston to swap signs for umbrellas temporarily. Scott K. Johnson
  • A brass band keeps the Boston crowd warm. Scott K. Johnson
  • Hard to argue with that. Scott K. Johnson
  • This is what Galileo is supposed to have muttered after publicly recanting his claim that the Earth moved around the Sun: "And yet it moves." Scott K. Johnson
  • Can't have a science rally without Spock memes. Scott K. Johnson
  • There were puns. So many puns. Scott K. Johnson
  • Lessons from Rick and Morty. Scott K. Johnson
  • These were popular sentiments at the Boston rally. Scott K. Johnson
  • Rick and Morty graced several signboards. Also vaccines. Scott K. Johnson
  • There were plenty of lab coats in the crowd. Scott K. Johnson
  • In Philadelphia, the march started at City Hall and totally blocked Market Street for most of a mile on its way to Penn's Landing. Andrew Cunningham
  • As the Philly contingent marched, a single flag-waving Trump supporter attracted some jeers and some light sign-based trolling, but otherwise it went without incident for as long as we were there. Andrew Cunningham
  • "You are entitled to your own opinions. You are not entitled to your own facts." Andrew Cunningham
  • Light rain did not deter a friendly crowd—a favorite sign pointed out the fact that people were protesting on behalf of the climate with giant disposable paper signs, for instance. Andrew Cunningham

Beyond Austin, Ars staff showed up at gatherings far and wide—Seattle, DC, Denver, Austin, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, and Chicago just to cite a few. Each had some local character to color an overall message of activism and the essentialness of science. Solar panels powered a concert set in Colorado, folks on the streets of Texas chanted "No Science? No Barbecue," and DC had the most overtly activist feeling with bigwigs like Bill Nye addressing the crowd beforehand (Questlove was apparently waiting for him offstage). Many of the events featured high profile guest speakers who worked at the peak of US science: former EPA climate change advisor Michael Cox addressed crowds in Seattle, former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy talked in Boston, and former NASA astronaut Garrett Reisman led the movement in LA.

Further Reading

Op-Ed: Why we need scientists to run for public office now

Crowd sizes in many areas reached the tens of thousands, with an estimated 40,000 participating in Chicago and crowds around 15,000 in DC and LA for instance. Reports from Newsweek and Reuters note that at least 600 events took place worldwide. For an event that began as Reddit fodder and grew to the point of internal conflict among its proponents, the scope exceeded what anyone could've dreamt up.

If the images above don't give it away, the affair showcased the incredible diversity and creativity science inspires in us. Signs depicting Darwin or Marie Curie felt as likely as Rick and Morty or Spock, and several marchers brought out degrees or formulas most Ars staffers would need to ask John Timmer about. So for at least one afternoon in a country where leadership has been openly hostile to good science, everyone definitively took notice. Naturally, even President Donald Trump felt compelled to chime in: "My Administration is committed to keeping our air and water clean, to preserving our forests, lakes, and open spaces, and to protecting endangered species," Trump said in a statement yesterday, according to >The Hill. "Rigorous science is critical to my Administration’s efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection. My Administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks."

Kyle Orland, Nathan Mattise, Megan Geuss, Andrew Cunningham, Aaron Zimmerman, Sam Machkovech, Scott K. Johnson, and John Timmer contributed to this story.

Listing image by Nathan Mattise

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Source : https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/04/science-keeps-america-great-and-the-march-for-science-reminded-us/

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