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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 17, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsElephant in the Room

Science cannot be partisan

As I waded through the crowds at the Washington, D.C., March for Science on April 22, I was reminded of Earth Day events in my neighborhood as a young child. People didn’t care about the politics of their neighbors for those cleanup activities. We were all working toward the same goal of beautifying and protecting nature. The March for Science felt much different.

While the march was advertised as a nonpartisan movement in support of science, the organizers and attendees seemed to lack a coherent vision of what they hoped to accomplish. Advocating for sustained and increased levels of funding for scientific research is a commendable goal. Attempting to politicize science by saying one political ideology has a monopoly on it, however, goes too far. Science is critical for the future of our nation and the planet, but it certainly doesn’t belong to a political party. I’m afraid the March for Science failed to convince any science skeptics to change their minds, but instead made science appear to be a liberal cause. And that’s just as much the fault of conservatives as it is liberals.

While I’ve critiqued Republicans for their dubious stance on climate change, they have generally supported scientific research. In the 2012 presidential race, Mitt Romney reconfirmed his support of federally funded research, critiquing then-President Barack Obama for directing funds to failed green energy businesses that could have been awarded to university research programs. Conservatives must communicate that science is a benefit for people of all political backgrounds. And most importantly, Republicans must stand up to those in the party that promote false scientific claims. Science cannot become a political tool for the left to wield. Science is about challenging perceived notions with rigorous testing and studies, not about catchy political statements. Americans may lose trust in scientists if they see them as ideologically motivated. We must ensure this doesn’t happen.

As a middle schooler, I spent hours reading Neil deGrasse Tyson’s books on astrophysics, struggling to understand complex concepts. I kept reading because I loved science. Whether it’s the cosmos or life here on Earth, science is incredibly intriguing and useful. For the sake of science itself, let’s ensure it remains above the political fray.

Kyle Stewart can be reached at kstewart1@ithaca.edu or via Twitter: @KyleStew107