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‘Science is universal’: Silicon Valley joins the March for Science

Science is political but not partisan, said speakers at the San Jose march — but there was no avoiding the “T” word.

Eric Johnson for Recode

Today’s March for Science in locations around the world is drawing an obvious comparison to the Women’s March on Washington in January, the first act of mass protest against the Trump administration. But at the official satellite march in Silicon Valley, which drew several thousand people in downtown San Jose, Calif., organizers and speakers were split on how much to use the “T” word.

“I was told that this rally is political but not partisan,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren from the rally stage at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown San Jose. “So I struggled with what to say. I will say that we are no fools here in the science community, and we can use deductive to reasoning to understand: We have a political problem, and we can solve it.”

Others onstage at the rally — including the emcee, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” star Rachel Bloom — were less guarded. Jokes about “alternative facts” were rampant, and Twitter-ready signs punctuated the crowd: “I’m With Her,” with an arrow pointing to the Earth; “Make Earth Great Again”; and “Keep Your Tiny Hands Off Our Data,” with the word “Tiny” spelled out in the elemental symbols for titanium, nitrogen and yttrium.

Eric Johnson for Recode

“We’re going to come at the red states so hard, they’ll turn blue!” Bloom said, quoting a joke she had heard backstage. “Because of blueshift, right? If you have to explain a joke, that means it’s really funny.”

“I was told backstage that there are 10,000 people here today!” Bloom added later. “Of course, you’re all being paid. Your checks are coming in the mail on Monday, so rest assured.”

Co-located with Silicon Valley Comic-Con, the San Jose satellite march started as a Facebook event created by PhD student Jennie Richardson. She said she had participated in the San Jose Women’s March and wanted to bring that experience to mobilize “a demographic that is not typically involved with politics.” The organizers stressed in an email to Recode that theirs is a “nonpartisan effort.”

“Our mission is to celebrate science, advocate for nonpartisan support of evidence-based policy and make STEM more accessible both in terms of diversity and the public’s access to quality information from scientists,” volunteer organizer Marika Krause said. “This is not an attack on any one person or party.”

“I'll add on a personal note: I grew up in a swing state,” Krause said. “I think it's easy to vilify members of ‘the other party’ when they're not your neighbors or friends. This movement is bipartisan because science is universal. It affects everyone and everything. If that feels like it's not the case, we've messed up and need to fix it fast!”

Krause noted that tech executives are in a “unique position” to speak out now, acknowledging “there hasn’t been a big statement of support from the most prominent leaders.” She declined to comment on the efficacy of the Silicon Valley exec closest to President Trump, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, because “it’s really too soon to tell.”

“Our leaders must step up their advocacy for science and technology,” Krause said. “Getting involved in politics can feel like risky business, but it’s the right thing to do. We can’t afford to look the other way while science and truth are slowly eradicated. How will we innovate without facts and scientific observation?”


This article originally appeared on Recode.net.