March for Science rallies are being held across the country Saturday in response to what organizers and attendees see as increasing attacks on science.
“When scientists were told on January 25 to be silent, this rally was conceived,” poet Jane Hirshfield told a rain-soaked crowd at a rally near the Washington Monument, footsteps from the White House that President Trump took over on January 20.
Trump critics see the president’s proposed cutbacks at the Environmental Protection Agency and his administration’s skepticism about what is causing climate change and related issues as threats to science.
However, organizers say the march is political but not partisan — promoting the understanding of science and defending it from attacks, including a proposed 20 percent cutback at the National Institutes of Health.
“It’s not about the current administration,” said co-organizer and public health researcher Caroline Weinberg. “The truth is we should have been marching for science 30 years ago, 20 years, 10 years ago. … The current (political) situation took us from kind of ignoring science to blatantly attacking it. And that seems to be galvanizing people in a way it never has before.”
The rallies, coinciding with Earth Day, are being held in more than 500 cities worldwide including New York and Geneva.
Marchers in Geneva carried signs that read, “Science — A Candle in the Dark” and “Science is the Answer.”
In London, physicists, astronomers, biologists and celebrities gathered for a march past the city’s most celebrated research institutions. Supporters carried signs showing images of a double helix and chemical symbols.
The protest was putting scientists, who generally shy away from advocacy and whose work depends on objective experimentation, into a more public position.
Signs and banners readied for the Washington rally reflected anger, humor and obscure scientific references, such as “No Taxation without Taxonomy.”
Taxonomy is the science of classifying animals, plants and other organisms.
Scientists involved in the march said they were anxious about political and public rejection of established science such as climate change and the safety of vaccine immunizations.
“Scientists find it appalling that evidence has been crowded out by ideological assertions,” said Rush Holt, a former physicist and Democratic congressman who runs the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “It is not just about Donald Trump, but there is also no question that marchers are saying ‘when the shoe fits.”