I had the privilege of speaking at the Santa Rosa March for Science in April. Here is some coverage by the local media. I have included my prepared notes although my spoken remarks deviate somewhat from them.
It is encouraging to see so many folks here to support and defend science. Thank you for your time and effort. We are all here to defend science because science defends us. We are here to reaffirm that as citizens we want science. Science fights disease, ignites our imaginations, and feeds our economy. To do this science requires the cooperation of society to flourish. We need a society that can defend science and defend itself from attacks on science.
To have a society support science, we must have people that understand the power and promise of science. That's where I come in. As a public servant and educator, your taxes support me and my colleagues as we educate students to be responsible citizens. My goal is to help students discover their intellectual power and the power of science, reason, and evidence. My job is to develop the habits of mind for students to achieve this. Among the important lessons are to learn to think like a scientist. This means to be curious, to ask questions, and to create a way to collect evidence to answer those questions, and to behave in ways that are consistent with the evidence. It also means to look out for bias in our thinking.
This isn't always easy. To support science is to support surprises and revolutions. Like the honey badger, science doesn't care about our beliefs. Science brought us the steam engine in the 1700s and the Industrial revolution. This resulted in an explosion of technological progress. By the end of the 1800s the scientists Fourier, Tyndall, and Arrhenius had laid the scientific work to establish the greenhouse effect and predicted global warming from fossil fuel use. Science was completely indifferent to this conflict and its partisan effects.
This conflict gives us a choice, accept the evidence and change our way of life or attack the science. These attacks are nothing new and they weren't invented on January 20th. Just ask Galileo.
How do we attack science? We can reduce its resources. We can attack scientists and their findings. We can attack the idea of science.
Science is an investment, and if we reduce our spending we reduce our future benefits. If you take away Galileo's telescope or satellites for climate science, you can prevent the gathering of data and the discoveries. Early this decade Canada endured a "War on Science" that included funding cuts that closed research centers.
Casting doubt on the integrity of scientists or their findings diminishes science. This often happens when scientific evidence threatens powerful interests. The Canadian government also ordered government scientists not to talk to the media about their work. Climate scientists are frequently subjected to harassment in private and public. Powerful industries fund experts to contradict evidence and create doubt. The book Merchants of Doubt, describes these tactics for tobacco, pesticides, and the ozone layer.
The most fundamental attack is on the value of evidence and science itself. My greatest fear is that if we create enough doubt around science, citizens will decide that we can't know anything for sure. Seeing all of you here supporting science gives me hope that this won't happen.
So now, how do we defend against these attacks? What do we do tomorrow? We should defend science's role and legitimacy of science and evidence in your private life and in public life.
Support the role of science in your own life by thinking and acting like a scientist. Be curious, ask questions, and be open to surprises. Learn about scientific discoveries and share in their wonder. Ask yourself what evidence you have to support your own beliefs and behaviors. Resist gathering your knowledge only from people that look and think like you. Ask yourself if you are prepared to accept a scientific discovery that contradicts your beliefs and behaviors. If folks you disagree with have a scientific view different than yours, approach it with curiosity. Demand that our young people get quality science education that teaches them how science asks questions not just what the answers are. Defend yourself against techniques that distort evidence or the scientific method. When the fake news and science is aimed at you, what will your defense be? Will you recognize your own bias and resistance to uncomfortable ideas?
Support the role of science in government to continue scientific progress and to give us the best policies. Ask for support for the scientific questions that matter to you. Support the mission of the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health to support research. If you don't see science supporting you or your community, ask for its help. Ask your elected leaders to maintain support for scientists. Ask lawmakers if their views are consistent with our scientific understanding. If not, ask them why. Ask your elected leaders to create policies consistent with our best evidence. If you see attacks on science by our elected leaders, call them out. If you see policies that are inconsistent with science, call them out. Remember that we have the most control locally. California and Sonoma County have some of the most progressive climate policies in the nation. Lets build on that excellence and show that our policies promote healthy people and healthy economies.
Science cannot continue to support us if we don't support it. Today and tomorrow, lets continue to march for science.