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March for Science Is Going to Be a Hell of a Mess — Bring It On

David Klinghoffer

March for Science

Coming on April 22 to the Mall in Washington, DC, plus hundreds of other locations around the country and the world, the March for Science is gloriously misnamed. The word “science” has many meanings, but most people think of it as the evidence-based search for truth about the natural world, with no holds barred.

In this understanding of science, there are no preconceived conclusions, no sacred dogma, no repression of disfavored thinkers or politically incorrect thoughts, no politics, no parties, no agenda beyond teasing out the truth. The March for Science isn’t really about all that.

Sure, it pays lip service to this common conception of science, derived for many people from science classes you took in high school and college. But judging from the coverage we’ve seen up till now, it looks like the march is set to be an exercise in self-congratulation and virtue signaling, political axe-grinding, a veiled grab by ideological partisans for power and funding. We venture to predict that most marchers won’t even be scientists but, instead, people looking to seize hold of the prestige of science for their own ends.

There’s been much talk of diversity, as organizers have revised the diversity statement on their website multiple times, so that nobody — no possible sexuality, ethnicity, or other identify — feels left out. This rainbow coalition, however, expects lock-step agreement with its views on controversial scientific claims.

The organizers, meanwhile, have been racked by infighting, and some clear-eyed scientists have warned colleagues to beware of conflating science with political agendas.

To all appearances, it’s going to be a hell of a mess, and we say: Bring it on.

Why? Because Americans are going to get a look at something we’ve been telling you about for years. And it’s not going to be pretty. Science, more and more, has been hijacked. Rather than glorying in freewheeling debate, it increasingly insists on conformity. It’s in step with the times on university campuses, where intellectual diversity is frowned on at best, or, at worst, drowned out by screaming, sometimes violent young people.

Advocates of the theory of intelligent design have been protesting for open discussion for two decades now. We’ve seen the closing of the American mind up close. We were the canary in the coalmine, as Darwin skeptics became among the first scholars to feel the impact of the insistence on intellectual conformity.

The academy and the media ignored our warnings. Evolution’s apologists claimed there was no controversy about evolution. They denied the existence of the rumblings going on in peer-reviewed science journals.

On the issue of evolution, Stephen Meyer in Darwin’s Doubt (2013) documented the growing discontent among mainstream scientists with orthodox Darwinian theory. He was dramatically vindicated this past November when the august Royal Society in London met to consider “New Trends in Evolutionary Biology.” The very first speaker, Austrian evolutionary theorist Gerd Müller, stood up and acknowledged that evolution lacks explanations for three major mysteries of life’s history, what most people think of when they think of “evolution.” See my article with Paul Nelson, “Scientists Confirm: Darwinism Is Broken.”

But the media covers all this up. As Meyer notes in Darwin’s Doubt, “Rarely has there been such a great disparity between the popular perception of a theory and its actual standing in the relevant peer-reviewed science literature.”

Rather than candidly acknowledge dissent among scientists, the media together with the academic community insists on assent from the populace in favor of what Douglas Axe calls Darwinism’s “self-righteous monoculture,” or what Jonathan Wells describes in a new book as “zombie science.”

The March for Science promises to be a massive demonstration of that monoculture, applied to several areas of scientific, political, and cultural disagreement. The marchers will demand an end to that disagreement. And if recent episodes on campuses such as U.C. Berkeley and Middlebury College are any sign, we should not be surprised to see violence.

The March’s website includes a “Statement on Peaceful Assembly and Nonviolence.” “We do not condone violence,” they say. But if they weren’t well aware of the possibility, they wouldn’t need to have a statement on it.

We take no pleasure in saying “We told you so.” But…we did tell you so. This monoculture with its intense dislike of debate seems set to be exposed in all its ugly quasi-fascism. Getting an eyeful of that, for the public, may be a step on the road to recovering intellectual freedom.

Jonathan Haidt of Heterodox Academy hit the nail on the head in a Wall Street Journal interview this past weekend. He spoke specifically of campus disorder and disrespect for genuine diversity. But what happens in Washington, DC, will likely be an extension of that.

“What I think is happening,” Mr. Haidt says, is that “as the visible absurdity on campus mounts and mounts, and as public opinion turns more strongly against universities — and especially as the line of violence is crossed — we are having more and more people standing up saying, ‘Enough is enough. I’m opposed to this.’” Let’s hope.

Indeed, looking forward to April 22, that could be the best outcome for the March for Science.

Photo: Lincoln Memorial, National Mall, by Erich Robert Joli Weber (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.



academic freedomDouglas AxeGerd MüllerJonathan HaidtJonathan WellsMarch for SciencePaul NelsonRoyal SocietyStephen MeyerZombie Science