Standing up for Science: Reason & Resolve on a Rainy Day
I went to the Providence, R.I. edition of the national March for Science yesterday.
And why not, you ask? Science is threatened, bizarre as it sounds. Any sane dog with a little time on her paws would turn out for this one.
My reservations? Do I have to point out that there is a long and uneasy relationship between medical researchers and dogs?
As a group, we dogs have been subject to some pretty squirrelly laboratory activities, and it's not like anyone asked us for permission.
Sure, there have been some beneficial results. Open-heart surgery was tried out first on us before surgeons moved onto young kids – operations that for both groups of patients initially didn’t always go as hoped.
And that's science, for you. We have to start somewhere, and pioneers, whether they travel in covered wagons or are decked out in hospital johnnies, don’t have a 100 percent survival rate. The payoff is what counts, in lives saved, lives improved, in footprints on the moon.
Also, if you are a dog (or a dog owner) what first seems like a medical “miracle” for people soon finds parallel applications in veterinary practice, which can result in some pretty super outcomes for dogs and some shocking bills for our owners.
But, in the end, there was little choice.
Climate deniers are in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency; the proposed budget wants to cut back on all sorts of research. Data is disappearing from official Websites. And the president is a serial liar. If he says a crowd is a certain size, check the photos. If he says an aircraft carrier is on its way, check the satellite imagery.
I’m just grateful that people cared enough to stage this demonstration, just like the Women’s March the day after the horrible inauguration, and just like the big, noisy turnouts at “town halls” by the shrinking number of Congress-people with enough gumption to hold them.
Democracy is in the balance, and while big protest marches aren’t the only answer, they are crucial proof that citizens care, which is the essential step in any reform.
And what really impressed me about the Providence March for Science was that a lot of people (and quite a few dogs) showed up at the Rhode Island State House, despite the fact that the conditions were New England Miserable: drizzling, bone-chilling rain, dirt-gray skies sloppy sidewalks and slippery grass.
It took some resolve, is what I’m saying.
One lady that I liked - Yes, lady scientists, there were LOTS of them - acknowledged a real gap between ordinary people and scientists, who seem tucked away in their laboratories, talking their own peculiar language. It's up to scientists to do better, she said.
And then she showed some real passion for how important it is for her and her colleagues to do their work on the basis of facts, not politics or greed. No bureaucrat, no politician is going to dictate the results of her work.
I didn’t stay for the whole event.
People think dogs don’t mind being wet; maybe some PhD candidate can do a paper or two investigating that canard. Hypothesis: A miserable day for a person is a miserable day for a dog.
But what really gave me the chills yesterday is that there had to be a march like this in the first place.