Mandatory suggestions

Mandatory suggestions April 27, 2017

Last Saturday, April 22, people around the world took part in the March for Science to defend the discipline against political interference.

From climate change and pollution to medicine, men and women who support science were motivated on Saturday by the coverage of the recent Women’s March and are mobilising to make their concerns heard.

You would think any opposition to such a march would come from the churches or the right or both, but there was some from the left, though it’s not a “left” I want anything to do with. It’s the branch of the left that was mocked by the Sokal hoax in the 90s, the branch that flirted with quackery like “women’s ways of knowing” and treating origin myths as just as epistemically valid as history or geology. It’s the branch that wants to interfere with science every bit as much as god-botherers and oil executives do.
It’s the branch that can write things like Dear Western White Cis Male Scientific Community.
What follows that friendly greeting is a list of 19 “suggestions” (scare quotes theirs) on how the scientific community can do better. Let’s examine some of their non-optional suggestions.

1. We need a great deal of healing before the scientific community can be credible to the general public in terms of equity and “inclusivity” (inclusivity is a white supremacist term, implies that they are doing minorities a favor instead of simply doing the right thing).
2. In order for the scientific community to begin regaining trust of POC [People of Color] and marginalized people, they need to openly acknowledge how they have failed us for decades with their inaction on climate change. They must openly acknowledge that they have failed the Global South, POC, poor people, Indigenous peoples, and Womxn.

Only the second item and already they’re deep in the weeds of Obviously Wrong. It’s a complete reversal of reality to say that science – or “the scientific community” – has failed everyone for decades with their inaction on climate change. It’s science that has informed us that there is such a thing, and what it is and how it happens and what the likely consequences will be.
It’s science that has been collecting data on the subject for decades. It’s science that makes the effort to lobby governments and educate people about climate change. The fault for the inaction lies with politicians, corporations, shareholders, consumers, voters.
Science as a discipline is our only (ever-fading) hope of slowing climate change and mitigating its effects. There are of course individual scientists who work with lobbyists and CEOs to block action on climate change, but the broader field of science as a whole is about getting at the truth of the matter, as opposed to coming up with plausible pretexts for not doing anything about it.

4. In their values they say “Science is the BEST method for understanding the world”. This will greatly offend Indigenous communities, POC, and faith communities. This divisive messaging should be muted to “Science is an EXCELLENT method to understand the world”.

Deep breaths, deep breaths. It’s hard to read that kind of thing without going scarlet with rage and forgetting how to breathe, but let’s make the effort.
First of all, notice how massively insulting that is to indigenous communities and people of color. Notice how it assumes that all non-white people, to a person, are hostile to the epistemology of science, an assumption which implies that they all to a person prefer stories and beliefs and “spirituality.”

A participant in New York City’s March for science demonstrates President Trump’s attitude to planet earth: Source: Daily News‘ March for Science picture gallery.
Second, notice that whether it insulted anyone or not, it’s wrong. “Faith” is not any kind of method for understanding the world, and neither is ethnic or racial identity.

5. Earth Day is EARTH DAY, not “Science Day”. This must be openly acknowledged and they need to be humble in their messaging to honor Mother Earth. Co-optation of this day for the ego of the scientific community will not be tolerated by POCs or Indigenous communities.

No. Scientists and fans of science do not need to be humble in their messaging to honor Mother Earth. “Mother” Earth is not real. Earth is a planet, not a female human being with children. Earth the planet doesn’t need to be “honored” nearly so much as it needs to be protected from the effects of human activities. Furthermore, it is again insulting to assume that all people of color and indigenous communities agree with that nonsense.

15. They must demand investment into research on types of healing and healthcare that are NOT based on pharmaceutical drugs.

Such as…homeopathy? Detox tablets from Prince Charles’s bespoke pharmacies at only £500 the gram? Shamanism?
Telling science to demand investment in anti-scientific research is a non-starter.

18. No GMOs. This is non-negotiable. They must demand massive investment in organic, non-GMO food forests, permaculture, and urban farming.

They have no idea. No idea. That’s a demand for more famine, more pesticides, more vitamin A deficiency, more crop failures.

Photo: Erik McGregor/Pacific Press/ Lightrocket via Getty
They prefaced the list of demands with a narrative of how they tried to improve everything but were cruelly turned away.

First of all, we wish to humbly say to our POC communities and Indigenous friends and relatives that we do not wish to speak for all POC or Indigenous peoples. Resisting this white supremacist system, however, means that we #WoCSpeakOut sisters continuously put ourselves on the frontlines of white fragility in order to serve our own communities. We are trying, through our presence, to uplift the voices of our people.
In that vein, we attempted, multiple times, to reach out to the March for Science-Seattle organizers (with other POC and some of our white allies) to advise them on how to make their event less racist/elitist/colonialist/sexist. We put forward a list of detailed strongly worded “suggestions” to help make the March for Science have an actual positive impact for the social justice movement. We hoped to help make the March more in line with the true values of our grassroots community.
Our list was not ALL the MfS organizers should have done, it was a list of suggestions on how to begin this process.
The March for Science organizers REJECTED our suggestions and REFUSED to work with us because they wanted to only work with “evidence-based people”. Our lived experience meant nothing to them. Our perspective as POC meant nothing to them. This elitism, racism, sexism, and classism is why we will not be at the MfS tomorrow and why we reject and denounce the MfS in Seattle and around the so-called United States.

I’m right there with the organizers. I would have rejected those twerps too. Their putative “lived experience” would have meant nothing to me too, because that’s not what the march was about.
The left at the moment seems to be swamped by a hideous form of narcissism that can’t seem to see a millimeter past the edge of the Self. Self-obsession is not a form of politics, it’s the opposite of politics. You know how the Greek word idiotes meant a private citizen, an individual, ie someone who took no part in politics, the affairs of the polis? The narcissistic branch of the left is idiotic in that sense.

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  • Smokey

    I’m suddenly reminded of Tim Minchin’s “Storm”.

  • Steve

    “We demand the March For Science be unscientific!
    Not complying makes you racist! Possibly a Nazi!”
    Utterly ridiculous.

  • StephenJP

    A powerful article. I am really in despair at some of the attitudes displayed by the Regressive Left. Apart from anything else, their infantile self-obsession not only provides an excuse for the likes of Trump to ignore the issues that they claim to stand for, it also undermines the entire point of the March itself. Maybe that’s what they really want.

  • Rob Andrews

    These are the children and grandchildren of the hippies. My generation of the 60s. We just wanted to live close to nature n and eat Peyote buttons.
    They must have merged–maybe even married–the radical left of the college campuses, of the same era. Because when you hear them speak it sounds to me like a stew of the two beliefs.
    Pharmaceutical drugs are ‘bad’ because they represent “capatalism” and “unatural healing.”. and don’t take into account “native healers”.

  • Lady Mondegreen

    “we wish to humbly say”
    *falls down laughing*
    What’s not so funny, though, is the way both the left and right are sinking ever deeper into narcissism and dogma.
    It scares me.

  • What do we want?
    When do we want it?
    “Solidarity Forever” is so last century.

  • L.Long

    I too see this anti-science stuff everywhere.
    The loss of or lack of trust in science and medicine.
    Most of what I hear though is actually the fault of the speaker being lazy and because of the media!
    The media is there NOT TO REPORT but to get people to give them money! So to get the mindless public to pay (one way or the other) they sensationalize everything to the point that within 3days science sounds and looks stupid!
    1st we were going to freeze and now climate is getting hot! 1st eggs are bad, now they are OK! These were all media crap but reported as science.

  • Brian Jordan

    An excellent article, Ophelia.
    I must destroy my liquid chromatography columns at once. They’re not only clearly male supremacist phallic symbols, but they’re filled with white gel and I can’t get coloured.
    (not me, far grander than mine)
    Still, I suppose I could at least replace my sheets of white chromatography paper with pink blotting paper. It won’t work very well, but perhaps it might help a bit?

  • Peter Sykes

    “evidence-based people”. WTF. Is this something like POC, EBPs. And what’s with all quote marks, I give up , going for a cyder…

  • John the Drunkard

    They are as entranced with their ignorant opinions, and as locked-in to their info-bubbles, as Donald Trump.
    Large portions of the public regard the most reactionary, irrational, anti-democratic forces on Earth as ‘progressive.’

  • sailor1031

    It’s my didtinct impression that a major factor in scientists getting involved in this, as opposed to various brands of SJWs, was in an effort to maintain the funding of climate science. But if the science is settled, as Obama insisted for years that it is, why do we need to pour more billions down this rathole? Time to find some real solutions and incidentally stop enriching a bunch of government-subsidized “alternate energy” robber barons.