On April 22, 2017, an estimated forty thousand people gathered in downtown Chicago to support the scientific community. Gate US Editor Kirk Lancaster documented the scene on the ground.
Near the end of the march, I saw a sign that called for “Less Politics in Science, More Science in Politics.” While one sign should never serve as a voice for an entire demonstration, I would imagine that the majority of demonstrators would find these two ideas important. Given the vocal and passionate support from the marchers, I found that many of them believed that science must stay free from ideology to remain a politically disinterested guide for the rest of society. Additionally, evidence-based policy is crucial for the issues we face in the twenty-first century, ranging from climate change to energy issues. That science and politics are intricately intertwined is surely something most marchers could agree upon.
Taken together, however, these propositions leave us with a problem. Applying science to politics is never simple. In fact, it has been argued that doing so can even increase the degree of political controversy over key issues. We fret about the politicization of science, but is there something about science that lends itself to being politicized? Perhaps so. Ever since at least J. Robert Oppenheimer, American scientists have tried and failed to insert themselves into political discussions. When—and how—should scientists enter into issues of political concern? For the time being, that question remains unanswered. But the march goes on.
All of the photos in this article, including the feature image, have been taken courtesy of the author, Kirk Lancaster.