March For Science Warns that Without Truth and Transparency, Authoritarianism Can Take Over

Posted April 12, 2017

MP3 Interview with Dr. Sarah Evanega, director of the Cornell Alliance for Science and a U.S.-based organizer with the March for Science, conducted by Scott Harris

science

Alarmed by the anti-science stance of the Trump administration – in sync with many Republican Party leaders in Congress and across the country – scientists and their allies have organized the March For Science, which will take place on Earth Day, April 22 in Washington, D.C., and over 400 other major cities across the U.S. and abroad. Organizers of the action say their mission is to: "Unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.”

Inspired by the recent success of the Women’s March, one of the largest political protests in modern American history and the 1970 Earth Day protest, those organizing the march say they hope the outpouring of support for science will deter efforts by the Trump administration and the Republican controlled Congress to discredit or defund their research.

Since taking office, President Trump and his Cabinet appointees have initiated dozens of policy and budget proposals that would gut funding for basic research on climate change and undermine enforcement of existing environmental protection regulations on clean air, water, carbon emissions and limit the use of dangerous chemicals and pesticides. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Dr. Sarah Evanega, director of the Cornell Alliance for Science, who talks about the principles and objectives of the April 22 March For Science. [Rush transcript]

DR. SARAH EVANEGA: It's an unprecedented time, certainly truth itself is under threat and that really threatens the very tenets of democracy. Science, one could argue, and democracy go hand in hand because truth is essential for reason to debate and democracy – without truth and transparency, and the methods inherent to science, democracy is debased and potentially, a creeping authoritarianism can take over. So, it is a challenge, and it comes at a time where we have unprecendented challenges. Never before have we needed science and innovation in light of the challenges we face around climate change and global food insecurity and so, this sort of threat to science comes at a time when we need science and we need fuel innovation more now than ever.

Well I think you have to meet people where they are. I think most people do acknowledge the value of science. Again, as the great giver, without it, we would no cure for polio. We'd have no microchips. We'd have no cell phones, no artificial hearts and we would certainly not have had any rockets to the moon. So, science is agnostic. It transcends the political divide and it's driven by methods, not by partisan politics. And I think that there's something in science for everyone. And if we can meet people where they are, they recognize that, and they understand the value of science and the need to support it as Americans.

BETWEEN THE LINES: I wonder if you believe there is a relationship that we've seen unfold in recent years, where the term "fake news" has come into use, and there's a real shaking of faith in many institutions across our country, including the news media, some of it well-deserved. What do you think the wider fallout is of that reduction of faith in science, science research and facts – or truth – as you've termed it just a moment ago?

DR. SARAH EVANEGA: Right, so we're living in this sort of post-truth era at the moment. But I actually think about it a little bit differently than the way you framed it just now. I actually am an optimist, and I think that this sort of valley of darkness, if you will, that we're in right now is actually going to have a net positive effect, and that this whole movement is going to refuel people's interest in promoting science and really ensuring evidence-based decision-making. So I feel like, even though it might feel like we're in a crisis moment, ultimately, this is an opportunity, and if we work together, we can turn this around to really turn the tides and ensure that moving forward, we're really fueling innovation, fueling science, and that this activity and this momentum that we're experiencing with a march for science ultimately will translate into sustained action.

So I'm actually optimistic that this is a net opportunity, not a net crisis.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Dr. Evanga, now's a good time to lay out what exactly will be happening on April 22? Maybe describe what our listeners can get involved in themselves locally, here, or certainly abroad as you've described, there's some 400 marches and rallies taking place across the globe.

DR. SARAH EVANEGA: Right, so as you say, there's over 400 marches happening globally, and so, folks can go online for to the March for Science website, MarchforScience.com and they can find the nearest march to them. I mean, they really are happening all around the country in tiny towns to our nation's capital. They're happening in countries all around the world, across Europe, across Africa, across Asia, so it's an exciting time. Go on the website, find the satellite march nearest to you, and there you'll find all kinds of teach-ins, exciting speakers that will be speaking at these events. Personally, I'm really thrilled that Bill Nye, the Science Guy is someone who we all grew up with, will be speaking at our national march in D.C. Find the nearest march near you and get involved, print out your sign, make a sign, and hit the streets in support of science.

For more information on the March for Science, visit MarchforScience.com]], their Facebook page at Facebook.com/marchforscience and follow them on Twitter at ScienceMarchDC.

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