So, I marched for science on April 22, like many others; but in my heart I didn’t really know WHY I was marching.
It’s taken a few days to really sink in — but I think I’ve got it. The reason why I marched is this: because I want people to question themselves and their world. Just like I did, this week.
Let me explain. This is a reasonably new thing for me — learning to question myself and my core ideals — and it’s something that I’ve only truly learnt through studying science, and particularly from learning about the scientific method. I believe others can learn quite a bit from wading into the cool waters of science and maths — particularly how to be a more open-minded, inquisitive person with a broader perspective of the world.
At the core of all good science, there’s something called ‘the scientific method’. There’s something quite beautiful about the scientific method. In many ways, it’s pretty simple: observe something, hypothesise why something happens, test whether your hypothesis is true, and then re-evaluate the outcome, before starting over again.
The thing is, the scientific method isn’t just for scientists. It’s a way of evaluating any problem — whether it be brewing beer, choosing a shampoo, or riding a skateboard. The scientific method is simply about understanding things better, and is a learning model that can be applied to all aspects of life. What I love most about the scientific method is its objectivity — accepting when your hypotheses are wrong, but then refining your view to correct for this.
As humans, our innate biases make true objectivity almost impossible — and that’s probably a good thing. But objectivity is perhaps something we can aspire to in some way, because being open to correcting your world view is important. As I listen to politicians, advocacy groups, or even just regular folk around the world talk about their motivations and support for important, world-changing decisions on immigration, health, and the environment, I am frightened by the absence of much willingness to learn, or to admit their mistakes or misunderstanding.
The scientific method is also a model for life-long learning, as it requires you to always test your world views; always to be gathering more data. More data also means more dots to connect — more information you can draw upon to generate higher-resolution pictures of the world. This means you should always be learning. Always growing. Always curious and questioning, but building upon solid knowledge — facts, not fiction — and joining all the dots between all the different things you’ve learnt to arrive at an informed perspective.
For many (including myself), this means challenging yourself, and questioning your views about why some topics are ‘scary’ or ‘too hard to learn’. I failed maths (and nearly flunked basic science) in high school because it was weird and abstract, and too ‘hard’ for me to bother. After a career in music, I’m now a PhD student, researching soil biology and biochemistry, all because I challenged my world view.
Dismissing abstract concepts as ‘stuff I’ll never need’ completely misses the point about learning science and maths, or learning anything, really. The point is: you should generate all the dots you can, and it just so happens that science and maths have some of the most crucial dot points you will ever need.
Why I Marched for Science
The scientific method can change anyone’s perspective. It’s about a curiosity, and an openness to see things from a different perspective, even if it opposes your current world view. I want more people to experience what I have experienced — even a little bit.
For that to happen, we need a society that’s accepting and open to this. We need governments who support science growth, and research in the long term. We need scientifically-literate people in all facets of society, including government, industry and the arts; not just research. We need everyone to embrace their curiosity. We need everyone to question their reality, but to also be ready to accept what is fact, and to move forward. Build upon the shoulders of giants.
That’s why I marched.