Quit Yelling About Facts
We have been railing for the last 200 years about the public’s lack of support for scientific endeavors. Has this worked? I will give you a hint: if being angry and yelling about facts had changed anyone’s minds, we wouldn’t be organizing this march.
There is a volume at which you cannot be heard, and a tone in which you will be ignored. We cannot insist our voices matter more than others. This march absolutely must demonstrate that science is a welcoming community for all people, not just those we deem “smart”.
Facts are not making a difference, and if they are not, why do we continue to ram them down our audience’s throat? Let’s start with the concept that nothing is an absolute, that as scientists, we deal in probabilities. Absolute truth does not exist, so quit pretending it does.
The best way to get someone to listen to you? Listen to them. Do not insist they change their moral framework to understand what you consider important. Instead, couch your argument in terms they will relate to.
Leave Religion Out of It
Do not make this March confrontational. There are hundreds of thousands of scientists that consider religion an important part of their lives. Do not marginalize anyone’s intellect on the basis of religious belief. We cannot afford to continue the ridiculous battle of science vs. religion. These concepts are not mutually exclusive. For example, Richard Rhodes describes in Making the Atomic Bomb how Neils Bohr was guided by Soren Kierkegaard's theological existentialism when he formulated his model of the atom.
Showcase Women and Minorities
The scientific community has continually marginalized the contributions of women and minorities. This is a chance to take the moral high-ground, and stand up for our fellows. While we moan about the lack of scientists, we seem to have missed that our hallowed institutions have not been receptive to retention and recruitment of female and minority scientists. If we are asking for the public to support us, we need to support our public.
Ask Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson to take a smaller role.
I love Bill and Neil. They are hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners advocates for science.
My conservative friends hate them. They’re “smug”, “arrogant”, “condescending”, “anti-religious.”
Don’t let their rhetoric overpower inclusivity. They have great energy, and can speak to a large audience, but this March cannot be just for those of us who understand their snark and gleefully revel in their obviousness. This March has to reach legislators who view science as a liberal cause and who do not fully comprehend the impact our research has on their constituents.
Nye's visible frustration and condescension during his debate with the creationist Ken Ham was incredibly distressing to many viewers. His enthusiasm is undeniable, but having him headline the March would be a demonstrable act of our lack of respect for those who do not understand science. Likewise with Neil. Choosing Christmas Day to tweet about the birth of a remarkable man (Isaac Newton) was designed to do nothing more than flippantly criticize Christianity. That kind of communication has no place at a March designed to change minds.
I know I said there are no absolute truths. However, turning this March into Revenge of the Nerds will destroy any good will we have built with the general public. Please do not shoot us in the foot.
Opinions expressed are my own and do not represent the opinions of organizations I am affiliated with.