A message to our science allies on the day after the March for Science

I know this isn’t about games or nerdy things, and it has been a really long time since I posted, but I want this message out on more than just regular social media.  For those of you who don’t know, I’m a Science educator with significant training in the hard sciences and science education.

Thanks to all non-scientist allies who marched yesterday! You did a GREAT thing by supporting science and I want you to feel great about supporting an important aspect of our world.

What are the biggest contributions you can make, as an ally?

1) Confront science deniers with actual facts. Confront is kind of a strong word. Be respectful. If you need help making a case, turn to verified sources or actual scientists please. Don’t try to make the case yourself if you don’t have the training. Example: climate.nasa.gov is a great source. Also note that science is NOT a collection of facts. It is a way of thinking about the world. It doesn’t matter “how much” you know. What matters is how you synthesize what you know into a deeper understanding of a question.

2) Try to understand science deniers. To some extent, science deniers don’t care about the facts. They care about what they are afraid of or how they perceive they’ve been hurt. Don’t expect facts to work. You have to work harder than that. If your base state upon facts not working is to throw your arms up and call people names, you need to try harder. Scientists struggle with this too. I struggle with this. But we all need to get better. Deniers and conspiracy theorists do what they do because they CARE so much that they sometimes refuse to accept the simplicity of the truth and the facts. They don’t WANT a simple explanation to be true, because the simple explanation hurts. Try to sympathize with their perspective if facts don’t work.

3) Keep your own sense of humility. The spreading of misconceptions is a big threat to scientific literacy. I will never begrudge anyone a sense of humor. But I cringe whenever any of you post “science joke memes” that are inaccurate and misleading, because it makes my job harder. Politically, if you are a Leftist, and think yourself an ally, please check yourself before you wreck yourself. I am also on the extreme Left of the political spectrum.  I know many a Leftist who thinks they are an ally and don’t even realize they are participating in denialism. Leftists have a tendency to “because science” their arguments when they are actually making arguments from emotion and arguments from ignorance. Leftists also have a tendency to confuse political and economic positions with scientific positions. Example: Monsanto is terrible. Monsanto being terrible does not mean that genetic modification is categorically bad. Finally, Leftists have a tendency to be staunch causal determinists. They think that all questions of the world can be answered by science. They cannot. Get over it. You do not help us when you treat science as an ivory tower. That FEEDS our enemies, it doesn’t stop them. We really need people on the Left to stop acting all smug about their perceived affiliations to science when they are actually just enthusiasts/tourists. Sorry (not actually sorry) if that hurts your feelings. Rightists do all of the above too. Just don’t think that because you are on the Left that you are somehow automatically a better scientific thinker.

4) Just like an ally of a person of color should not be giving advice to a person of color from a perspective of privilege, neither should an ally of science be telling a scientist their business. I don’t give a crap how big of a science enthusiast you think you are, professional respect should be your base state. Now, this is a bit different in that the oppression that scientists receive isn’t comparable to the oppression that people of color, and people of different sexual or gender orientations experience. I acknowledge that. But intelligence and creative thought are targets of bullying in our society. Please acknowledge this whenever you attempt to science-splain something to me.

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