Last week's March for Science was inspiring and powerful. For those of us who actually do science, it's great to see such public support for our work. Trying to discover new things while at the same time fighting against persistent but wrong beliefs doesn't always get the credit it should. In fact, it can get downright discouraging.
I wonder, though, just how committed some of the marchers were. Marching for science is one thing. Marching for a political agenda is quite another. Science doesn't really care what your politics are. It doesn't care about your values. It doesn't care about your pet cause, your party affiliation, or your particular vision for a better world. It just cares about figuring things out.
True, much of what science has figured out makes secular liberals happy. Climate change is real, and human activity has a role in it. Evolution at both the macro and micro level is factually correct. The earth is about 4 billion years old. Same-sex attraction has a very strong genetic basis. There is no scientific evidence for supernatural phenomena. These and other inconvenient facts are all the inescapable conclusions of the best science humanity knows how to do.
But if you're going to cheerlead for science, you can't pick and choose. Supporting science means supporting the entire scientific enterprise, and not just cherry-picking the results you like.
If you're a liberal, science also has plenty of things to say that might make you uncomfortable. Sadly, I didn't see people marching for them last week.
For example, where were the marchers for sex differences? The overwhelming evidence from evolutionary psychology is that men and women are profoundly different, and not simply in the obvious biological ways. They have different goals in finding mates, different ways of thinking, different communication styles, different abilities, different strengths, and different ideas of happiness.
Yes, the evidence also shows considerable overlap and variability between men and women. Yes, just because differences are real doesn't mean they're sacred. It's wrong to use sex difference research to justify stereotyping and prejudice. But it's just as wrong to pretend sex differences aren't there.
Last week, did anyone march in support of scientifically informed discussions of sex differences? I doubt it. How about nuclear power? In terms of environmental quality, lives saved, and lives lost, nuclear power is thousands of times safer than fossil fuels. Based on the science, we ought to be building nuclear plants like crazy. Did anyone at the March for Science rally for nuclear power? I doubt it.
How about vaccines? We have overwhelming, rigorously tested scientific evidence that vaccines save lives, and that the "connection" to autism is not only nonexistent but delusional and dangerous. Did anyone rally for vaccines last week? I doubt it.
What about the "wage gap"? How many times have you heard that women make 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as men? That turns out to be, for lack of a better word, wrong.
Once factors like job preferences, lifestyle choices, marital status, age, hours worked, and time in the work force are considered, women make about 95 percent of men's wages. True, we're not yet at 100 percent, but if we're honest about the evidence, it's time for that stupid 77-cent myth to die.
Finally, since the rally occurred on Earth Day, did anyone rally for capitalism? The societies with the best environmental track records are rich ones that care about property rights. That's because their citizens are wealthy enough to care about and implement policies that protect the environment. Societies with environmental quality are wealthy societies. Wealthy societies, in turn, are capitalist ones.
We can argue all day about the ethics of capitalism. But what is not arguable is the scientific evidence: It is capitalism, private property and free markets that have made humanity richer, safer, and better able to care for its environment than any of the alternatives. Anybody rally for capitalism last week? Don't make me laugh. Maybe next year .
Barry Fagin is Senior Fellow in Technology Policy at the Independence Institute in Denver. Readers can contact Dr. Fagin at firstname.lastname@example.org.