Science Should Matter To Both Liberals And Conservatives

The revolution will be peer reviewed. Image credit Wonderful Engineering

Followers of popular science communicators like Neil DeGrasse Tyson like to say that, “The good thing about science is that it doesn’t care what you believe.” While they may have been taking stabs at individuals who believe in things like Flat Earth, Young Earth Creationism, and the ever-infamous Moon Landing Hoax, that statement could equally apply to Liberals and Conservatives when they seem incapable of agreeing on anything. Gravity will not turn itself off for anyone’s convenience if they are foolish enough to leap off the roof of a tall building.

That means politicians in Washington, D.C., would be wise to not ignore the March for Science scheduled for April 22. Not coincidentally, April 22 is Earth Day and attendees will include earth scientists who would very much prefer that politicians not ignore the results of earth science research endeavors. Those who work in any scientific field are tired of being treated like political footballs when the facts don’t changed based on where decision-makers stand on the political spectrum.

What Conservatives Need To Do

If conservatives care about being taken seriously in a world that is becoming increasingly connected and people are generally more educated, they need to quit pretending that science doesn’t know what the heck it’s talking about. The scientific evidence shows that Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old, species can and do evolve over time, the climate can and does change, and the universe is mind-bogglingly big. Ignoring this scientific evidence has made huge contributions to the poor image of conservatives.

Conservatives can turn this around by admitting that advances in science do not necessarily create an existential crisis for any religious beliefs they might hold or cause problems for private enterprises that are willing to remain flexible enough to adapt to a changing world. Christian Conservatives could stand to unbend enough to admit that God does not work on human timescales and it’s perfectly reasonable for Him to make tweaks to His creation over time. Just the fact that Jesus referred to “the Prince of this world” and, again, says that “My kingdom is not of this world,” should imply that there are other worlds that require God’s attention on a regular basis (which basically means that it’s a big universe).

The economy has benefited from innovations that would not have been possible without scientific and technological advances. The average consumer could be using products that have been impacted by NASA spinoffs right now without even thinking about it. The bubbles in the beer you drink could be brought to you by research into In-Situ Resource Utilization, a concept that could make space exploration more affordable by making use of resources found on other worlds like Mars. So if conservatives care about the United States remaining competitive in a world that won’t wait for everyone else to catch up before moving forward, conservatives should support scientific research and engineering efforts that make innovative new products possible.

What Liberals Need To Do

Diversity is a good thing. Really. However, diversity should not come at the cost of demonizing white people who wish to participate in the advancement of science. The March for Science does not suffer from a “white people problem” so much as it suffers from a false perception that the universe somehow cares about the color of someone’s skin when he or she makes a new discovery. Liberals may inadvertently be scaring women and minorities away from the March for Science with the implication that they might be unwelcome.

In a case like this, Neil DeGrasse Tyson was right to keep control of his brand. He has refused to give interviews to outlets like Ebony Magazine because he didn’t want to talk about the color of his skin. He wanted to talk about science. His insistence on control over his message led to an improved career as a science communicator and gave him access to opportunities like hosting Cosmos and StarTalk. People can see the color of his skin, but his core message is exactly the same as the lighter-toned Bill Nye the Science Guy: Science Rules.

That means liberals should show up and demonstrate that they are capable of putting easily reproduced scientific facts ahead of feel-good ideas, participating in a peaceful demonstration and replacing the pussy hat with something a bit more stylish like the knitted brain hat in the above video. Liberals might even be surprised by how diverse the community of science enthusiasts can actually be. Be a woman, be a person of color, and look stylish in the solar system necklace of your choice. Bring a list of the science questions that you always wanted to ask because the Washington, D.C., event will include speakers like the Iranian-American Anousheh Ansari, who is most famous for being the first woman civilian astronaut.

Science Bloggers Likely To Attend The March For Science

Will the mainstream media bother to show up, though? News channels like CNN and Fox are very good at showing up when a demonstration goes wrong. They’ll show the riots. But will MSNBC want to show up at an event where the most interesting thing that happens is a possible appearance by Bill Nye? Or will the mainstream media ignore science yet again because it doesn’t pull in the viewership?

This puts bloggers in the position where they are, yet again, the online influencers that the media-consuming public turns to when they are disappointed by what they see or don’t see on TV. Bloggers who are already involved include Ron Sparkman of the primarily space-themed UpportunityU, who is sponsoring the March for Science satellite event in Colorado Springs, CO. This outgoing former DJ is currently a college student majoring in astrophysics and naturally believes that career opportunities in the sciences are important. “There probably won’t be very many job opportunities waiting for me when I graduate,” he told me once. That can change if the science community draws attention to the fact that the voting public supports scientific endeavors with events like the March for Science.

As I joked in another blog entry about the event, “The revolution will be peer-reviewed.” President Trump has messed up rather badly by attempting to muzzle the social media accounts of government organizations like the National Park Service. Not only are National Park Service employees suspected of creating rogue Twitter accounts, but Trump’s attempt to silence them and cut the budgets of agencies such as NASA and NOAA, which are most responsible for government-funded scientific and technological research, may have triggered the idea of a March for Science.

Liberal or conservative, the most important part of participating in the political process is actually showing up. Science doesn’t particularly care where you stand on the political spectrum. It just cares about proven facts. That means that both liberals and conservatives, and anyone who considers themselves to be moderate or independent, should show up to make their voices heard on April 22 if they support science.

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