Why I marched for science

5 May 2017

Written by Tangyao Zhang

Earth Day, April 22, 2017

On this day, scientists and science-loving people marched in more than 600 cities across the world. They came together to celebrate the discovery, communication, and the public awareness of science.

I was fortunate to be able to attend the March for Science in Canberra, since I am studying here in the Australian capital city.

The march was non-partisan. However, it was not apolitical. Marchers believed that policy makers should be scientific literate. Their decisions should be guided by peer-reviewed hard scientific evidence.

I think when people refused to accept emergent scientific truth, scientists will take a stand.

Because Science is not Silence.

That’s why I marched.

Why we need a march for science

It is true that science is the foundation of our modern society: from the nation and government, to you and me. And science is not like something you can accomplish in one day.

Here is an example.

Currently we use GPS for location services on our phones.

To make GPS accurate, we need to calibrate atomic clocks in those satellites because the Theory of Relativity tells us that when orbiting Earth time will run faster than when on the ground.

This idea was proposed by Albert Einstein in his paper On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies in 1905, and Einstein’s work was based on a discovery by a young mathematician named Riemann in the 19th century.

It is just one example: to enable the location service in your phone, scientists need centuries of hard research.

Certainly, science-loving people won’t be happy when others enjoy the benefits of science while others don't trust it.

When people deny science by saying “genetically modified food is danger”, “evolution is not the truth”, “climate change is a lie”, scientists should, and will have a voice to tell people the truth, like Neil deGrasse Tyson says:

This is science, it's not something TO TOY WITH. It's not something to say I choose not to believe E=MC2. You don’t have that option.

It’s about having the right conversations

For my PhD, I am researching the public perceptions of risk associated with GM foods at ANU, and I believe that when communicating science is not about just saying, “Hi there, let me tell you, GM is good”.

When people are confused about scientific related issues, we need to have honest conversations. In doing so, I hope people will have the tools available to make their decision with scientific knowledge.

That means scientists should communicate their science, and policy makers should listen: not only to scientists, but more importantly, to emergent scientific truth.

Doing science means committing to a long and tough journey, and the strength of an individual is insignificant. However, when people lose their sense of judgment on science, I believe that scientists will come together again.

Just like this march.


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