My Thoughts on the March for Science

I just shared some articles about the March for Science. It’s an interesting movement, one I’m decidedly on the fence about participating, especially should I end up staying in town this weekend. 

Science has an important role in society for sure – without it I wouldn’t be typing this blog post into a $40 Smartphone or sharing it on the web. Basic research, funded by the American government is essential for moving society forward. Everybody should accept facts based on the scientific method but realize that facts alone can not justify any public policy. 

Science is good at quantifying specific actions, it can illuminate the likely  outcomes of public policy. It can give us estimates of deaths caused by a specific action or predict lives saved. But science can not place a value on human freedom or choice, it can often not quantify the things that make us happy as humans. Science can never tell us what’s right or wrong. 

I worry about people using science to create self evident truths. I am fine with accepting facts but facts must always be put in context and our society’s  values considered in the bigger picture. Just because science suggests a particular  bad outcome to a public policy, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. 

We should fund public science and make sure that the knowledge gained by science is widely distributed. But we should also expect scientists to be non-political, abide by the Hatch Act, and provide nothing but the facts. Scientists who choose to include context to their research should always try to provide the widest context possible and present opposing views. 

It’s important as a society to invest in science and use science to weight the pros and cons of public policy.