What I thought was a fairly innocuous post about why I wasn’t participating in the Science March—but also didn’t discourage others from participating (mine was a personal decision that I didn’t want to foist on others)—turned out to inspire a lot of good discussion about what such a march should be, but also a fair amount of acrimony and arguments that I should be participating. Some people accused me, for instance, hypocrisy, as when my claim that Bill Nye wasn’t the best honorary chair for a science march was characterized as my own deployment of identity politics. Of course there’s a difference: while you may think that Nye would be a good chair as a science popularizer, I don’t demonize people who favor Nye. It’s a suggestion, not a purity test!
So be it; with a public presence on this site, I draw criticism, and I can take it when it doesn’t verge on incivility. But these Facebook comments, posted by Lucas Lynch in response to my own post, are not only uncivil, but demonstrate exactly what’s wrong with the Science March and its infiltration by the Regressive Left:
Apparently I should not only leave science, but I “treat women and minorities like shit”. “M. K. A.”, whoever she is, apparently reached that conclusion solely because of my criticisms of the Science March. Unfortunately, I share the Leftism of most of the organizers and advocates; I just object to their excoriation of science itself for being a tool of bigotry, oppression, and murder.
This is the kind of demonization of the ideologically impure that divides the Regressive Left, and is sadly characteristic of the Science March. I’m not having it. As a friend said, “Criticizing the March is like being critical of Hillary Clinton. It’s not enough to vote for her, you have to vote for her enthusiastically and with a big happy smile on your lips and a song in your heart.”
When I talked to a reporter yesterday about my problems with the March, he said at the end that I sounded a tad defensive. That took me aback for a minute, as I didn’t think that I’m at all defensive about my position, and I don’t feel beleaguered by my critics.
But thinking about that statement, I realized that there’s one thing I am defensive about vis-à-vis the Science March. It’s both the air of sanctimoniousness surrounding the whole thing, which is manifested by “purity tests” (as when the Science March was excoriated for using the word “female” instead of “woman” in a tweet asking how “females” could be brought into engineering), and the censoriousness manifested in the first and third responses above, as if I’ve failed some kind of test. In my profession I’m used to free and open discussion of scientific ideas, and no suggestion is taboo. But that’s not true in Regressive Leftism: some positions aren’t just wrong, but taboo to mention, and if you do mention them you’re tarred for life (viz., Sam Harris’s remarks on torture and Hitchens’s support of the Iraq war).
We can do better than this. Inclusivity should encompass tolerance (discussion, not acceptance!) for not only human diversity, but diversity of ideas. It’s the censorship that I’m defensive about