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The 'March for Science' Is Actually a Threat to Science Itself

Scholars in the fields of biology, ethics, environment, and economics attacked the upcoming "March for Science," scheduled for Earth Day this coming Saturday, as a threat to the public appreciation of science. They argued that a politicization of science following the rhetoric of the "Women's March" against President Donald Trump would be disastrous.

"When they behave like partisan hacks in the name of science, they politicize science and undermine trust in science," Marlo Lewis, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), declared at a Heritage Foundation event on Wednesday. "When you use your expertise as a license to regulate others and tax others ... ordinary people are going to get very skeptical, not only about your expertise but about your motives."

The "March for Science" started as a form of opposition to President Donald Trump, whom many have accused of launching a "war on science." The march's original statement declared "certain things that we accept as facts with no alternatives" such as "the Earth is becoming warmer due to human action," and "the diversity of life arose by evolution."

In other words, the march is promoting the "consensus" around climate change and evolution, two developing areas of science in which there is actually good evidence and debate on both sides. While the organization's website has since minimized these hot-button political issues, it is likely activists will wave signs attacking climate and evolution "deniers."

Lewis focused on the issue of climate change and the tactic of stifling debate by labeling skeptics "climate deniers." He noted that when an atmospheric scientist, John Christy, presented evidence of "an increasing divergence" between climate models predicting "more and more warming and the data showing less and less," this testimony was dismissed as "antiscientific climate denialism."

Keith Seitter, executive director of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), wrote a letter of protest to Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, declaring that "to suggest that humans are not responsible for most of the warming we have experienced over the past 50 years indicates a disregard for the scientific process" (emphasis added).

Lewis argued that Christy was following the scientific method, while Seitter was just "making an appeal to authority which is not a scientific argument at all."

Indeed, this attempt to stifle disagreement seems reminiscent of the push to use RICO laws to investigate climate skeptics. Senate Democrats led a "web of denial" inquisition last year, aimed at stifling debate on these issues.

"This is an attempt now to silence and chill speech through the threat of litigation and prosecution," Lewis explained. He warned that this kind of politicizing of science delegitimizes the public view of science as neutral and focused on truth rather than an agenda.