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Faye Flam

Why Some Scientists Won't March for Science

A heated debate sheds light on how scientists see their role in society.
It takes all sorts to make a scientific community.

It takes all sorts to make a scientific community.

Photographer: Kena Betancur/Getty Images

When scientists disagree on something, as they do on the wisdom of the planned “March for Science,” they tend to disagree in an instructive way. Scientists don’t just sling mud; they examine the issue at hand and consider its possible repercussions and unintended consequences. Just by listening to scientists argue, it’s possible to learn something new -- about how they see themselves, and how they want to be seen by society.

While there’s no single reason for the protest march in Washington planned for April 22, many scientists have voiced concern over President Donald Trump’s apparent disregard for facts. In a recent interview, for example, Princeton University physicist and arms-control expert Frank von Hippel told me, “The Trump administration is saying facts and analysis don’t matter [and] that opinions based on nothing matter more.” He said he worries that the new administration will base policy “on fantasy instead of analysis and information,” which he thinks will get us into trouble.