Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Discussion of March for Science Analysis

In March for Science I analyzed the march organizers' own promotional materials to determine what interpretations of science they are predominately marching for. One conclusion was that the second highest motivation was influencing policy with science. That shouldn't be surprising as a March on Washington is quite likely to be about influencing policy. Influencing policy with science sounds like a no-brainer, but what are they really advocating for? There are different ways to look at influencing policy with science.

The truest interpretation of science is as a process. Not as a body of knowledge, or a community, or a philosophy or belief system, but as a method used to strain objective truth from the murky soup of human observations and beliefs. The most straightforward influence of science on policy making is to incorporate scientific inquiry into the political process. It is the scam of the modern era that our allegedly scientific society does not directly apply science to the task of policy making. How can we truly know the effects of policy in highly complex fields like healthcare if we aren't experimenting and measuring results? There is a single informal method of A/B testing in policy, which was granted to us by the Founding Fathers in the form of federalism. States' rights allow for the simultaneous implementation of various policy approaches that can be analyzed for effectiveness. Yet liberals who are organizing the march have very little interest in states' rights, except for when they provide immediate and narrowly scoped support to causes such as marijuana legalization and gay marriage. But those are exceptions to the rule. Liberals want a strong central government to dictate to all 50 states what the policies will be. You will not hear them argue for introducing scientific inquiry into policy making because then they'd have to admit the benefits of federalism.

Another way science can influence policy is when scientific results are considered during policy making. The reasoning is obvious. Maybe it's too obvious and that's the problem. For instance, if we spend millions of dollars for scientists to determine that AIDS is caused by a virus, clearly Congress should consider those results so they don't fight AIDS by funding a national antibiotics campaign. Anyone can see the benefit there. Anyone can take the stance of moral superiority on the issue. But those kinds of issues are often hijacked with ulterior motives. I've already shown that the March on Science is more about social & political issues than science or education. The ulterior motive in this case is promoting a social agenda, as well as finding any excuse to take action against Trump. Is it not remarkable that following Trump's inauguration a women's march was planned within a week and a science march within a month, when we had nothing similar during eight years of Obama? What is more likely, that the marches just happened to occur starting immediately with Trump's ascendancy, or that planner's have co-opted women's and education issues as a thinly veiled excuse for anti-Trump political action?

Another reason to be skeptical of their promotion of science to influence policy is the specific policies at play. While not mentioned, it should be obvious to anyone that the major issue at hand here is climate change. I do have to say that the organizers display great discipline in not naming climate change or other issues specifically. That is because climate change is a charged political issue, and they are trying to maintain a shroud of non-political intent.
Prediction: as the march segues from abstract concept to concrete event we'll see climate change become a dominant issue of the participants
What organizers are advocating for is not the promotion just of hard scientific results, but of a scientific consensus, climate change being the major example. What they are advocating is for scientific conclusions to have greater weight in policy making, but only when it fits their liberal agenda. Climate change is promoted because it complements the political narrative that Western culture is the primary evil in the world. In fact it so closely fits the narrative that we've now seen 3 scandals where fraudulent science was promoted for the purpose of supporting the preferred conclusion. What of other scientific results? Will they also demand that scientific studies of race-IQ correlations be considered when making immigration policy? They'd scream racism from the rooftops faster than you could say "statistically significant."

If the organizers are truly passionate about science, then they should incorporate the scientific process themselves. Hold marches in some cities, but not in others. Make relevant measurements of scientific literacy and achievement in those cities. Determine if marches for science cause those measurements to increase. By doing so they would not only be engaging in science themselves, but also publicly demonstrating the scientific process in action. But then they'd have to accept the risk of having to acknowledge the actual effects of the marches.

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