Science really is non-partisan: facts and skepticism annoy everybody

Rafael Irizarry

This is a short open letter to those that believe scientists have a “liberal bias” and question their objectivity. I suspect that for many conservatives, this Saturday’s March for Science served as confirmation of this fact. In this post I will try to convince you that this is not the case specifically by pointing out how scientists often annoy the left as much as the right.

First, let me emphasize that scientists are highly appreciative of members of Congress and past administrations that have supported Science funding though the DoD, NIH and NSF. Although the current administration did propose a 20% cut to NIH, we are aware that, generally speaking, support for scientific research has traditionally been bipartisan.

It is true that the typical data-driven scientists will disagree, sometimes strongly, with many stances that are considered conservative. For example, most scientists will argue that:

  1. Climate change is real and is driven largely by increased carbon dioxide and other human-made emissions into the atmosphere.
  2. Evolution needs to be part of children’s education and creationism has no place in Science class.
  3. Homosexuality is not a choice.
  4. Science must be publically funded because the free market is not enough to make science thrive.

But scientists will also hold positions that are often criticized heavily by some of those who identify as politically left wing:

  1. Current vaccination programs are safe and need to be enforced: without heard immunity thousands of children would die.
  2. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are safe and are indispensable to fight world hunger. There is no need for warning labels.
  3. Using nuclear energy to power our electrical grid is much less harmful than using natural gas, oil and coal and, currently, more viable than renewable energy.
  4. Alternative medicine, such as homeopathy, naturopathy, faith healing, reiki, and acupuncture, is pseudo-scientific quackery.

The timing of the announcement of the March for Science, along with the organizers’ focus on environmental issues and diversity, may have made it seem like a partisan or left-leaning event, but please also note that many scientists criticized the organizers for this very reason and there was much debate in general. Most scientists I know that went to the march did so not necessarily because they are against Republican administrations, but because they are legitimately concerned about some of the choices of this particular administration and the future of our country if we stop funding and trusting science.

If you haven’t already seen this Neil Degrasse Tyson video on the importance of Science to everyone, I highly recommend it.