Contra: "Marching for science might be a bad move"

"As a young scientist, I should be delighted about the March for Science. But it might be a bad move the way it’s planned. Even though the basic idea is honorable, I see three major dangers: First of all, I’m concerned by the politicization of science. Forming an alliance against Trump might strengthen the Republican narrative: Researchers would become lobbyists instead of being nonpartisan, as they claim.

Second, delivering truths is just part of the purpose of science. In times of fake news and alternative facts, science is depicted as an objective authority to deliver the truth. In a broader sense, facts are objective, verifiable observations. Hypotheses and theories, though, seek to relate those facts to each other. They ultimately can’t be verified, just falsified.

As a graduate student at the University of Oxford, Johannes Müller studies evidence-based policy evaluation. His primary focus is the conviction that politics should be based on science. © Johannes Müller

An example: It’s a fact that the earth’s temperatures are rising rapidly. That global warming is accelerated by humanity is merely a theory. Even though most climate scientists are convinced that something has to be done quickly due to their research results, it can't be conclusively proven. Unlike alternative facts, there are alternative hypotheses.

Thirdly, an inaccurate understanding of Evidence-Based Policymaking (EBP) is prevailing. An impression has emerged that the opposite of Trump’s policy would be a policy that’s based on evidence and rational analysis. But that’s misleading. The goal of EBP is to collect and communicate evidence to justify political decisions. The job of democratically elected parties, however, is to decide based on hypotheses and priorities.

I’m not saying scientists shouldn’t be political. We need our hypotheses to be heard by politicians. Just because there are competing theories doesn’t mean all should be treated equally. Nor does it mean  that political decisions should be based on faith. We need to celebrate successes and progress and we need to fight for transparency, independence and integrity. But Trump shouldn’t be the reason."

Edited by: Alina Schadwinkel