The March for Science

By the time this blog is posted I hope I will have participated in the March for Science in Melbourne. As I get older I become more and more the reluctant traveller. Hopefully using my pensioners’ rail-pass I will have been in town a day or two, stayed with friends, and perhaps managed to do some unrelated research on Gippsland history.

Many years ago I spoke to a meeting on the Nungurner foreshore about climate change. “Trust the scientists not the politicians” was one appeal that the audience applauded. But there are exceptions to this generalisation such as the former science minister and historian Barry Jones who spoke at the meeting outside the State Library. The public address system was barely functioning so we heard little of what he said.

According to today’s Melbourne Age Barry commented that the political process is “driven by opinions rather than knowledge. Politicians no longer ask if it’s true, rather, whether it will sell.” Later after the disappointingly small crowd of about 3000 had dispersed we came across Barry by accident in Burke St and were able to shake his hand and thank him for his work.

As a layman my knowledge of science and scientists is limited. Nobel laureate Peter Doherty was the only speaker aside from Barry Jones I recognised. I have blogged on Peter here and the text of his  speech yesterday can be found here. As he noted in his A Light History of Hot Air (MUP, 2007) when commenting on science and public policy: “actions of presidents and prime ministers are best left to the measured judgement of history. Their policies often come back to haunt them.” In his speech he stated that “climate change is a human rights issue, not a partisan issue”.  All pollies take note!

There were lots of nice banners and slogans in the march. One in particular I liked “The good thing about science is that it is true – whether you believe it or not”. ‘Alternative facts’ after all are just lies.