Accept or Deny: A March for Science Story

Like many of my fellow educator-scientists, yesterday I had the honor and privilege of joining a March for Science. Since I live in a small town in the middle of “what mountains? they told me there would be mountains!” Colorado, I had to travel to Denver to join up with the big city folks and their March. 

Bright and early yesterday morning, I packed up my daughter and her friend (both currently my biology students) and we hit the road for the 2 1/2 hour drive through the moonscape that is eastern Colorado. We were rewarded for our efforts with a pretty steady sprinkle of rain the entire drive, which is a blessing in these parched high plains. 

We decided to take the RTD commuter train from near the airport, so I suppose we did our part in using public transportation on Earth Day, but mostly I didn’t want to try to fight thousands of people for parking downtown.  A smooth 1/2 hr later we pulled into Denver’s Union Station at which point we headed down the 16th Street Mall towards the Capitol. 

While on the ride in, I’d felt a little self-conscious about carrying a big sign on a stick, but once we hit the Mall we fell in with lots of other sign-carriers of all ages who were heading in the same direction. 

Our timing was spot on and we managed to cross paths with the March just as it got underway. 

We joined in the March and headed towards the Capitol plaza where the size of the crowd really became apparent. 

We stopped by several tents set up for the “teach-in” on the Capitol grounds and got to see some fun demos with Tesla coils, liquid nitrogen, and the classic crush-a-can with air pressure. We were surprised at the heavy presence of secular humanist organizations and wondered where the religious scientists’ tents were.

We wandered up the Capitol steps just in time for some of the major speeches of the day, most given by state reps. 

The crowd up at the top of the Capitol steps by the speakers seemed strangely sparse, but then I realized that we had beaten the crowd up the hill so they were behind us. 

One of my key takeaways from the speeches was that we collectively need to move the conversation away from belief vs nonbelief for the biggies like climate change and evolution. Instead, we should use the terms Accept or Deny, as several speakers did.  

Belief is something to be treasured, something to fight for because it’s important to how we view the world. But belief is inherently non-falsifiable. This is fundamentally different from how science operates. 

Science requires us to provide proof that certain phenomena operate as we think they do. Piles of evidence are put forward, sorted out by peer-review, and modified over time as new evidence arises. This results in a Theory built by consensus across multiple individuals, many of whom have competing beliefs about the issues at hand. But in this scientific consensus, the opinions don’t matter, the data does. Individuals, corporations, and elected officials can either accept the reality of the world as measurements indicate or they can deny the validity of that data.

Is the Earth warming up over time? I might wish that it were not but countless observational studies tell me it is.  Do species change over time to become different than their ancestors? Absolutely, even though we can hold different opinions about Who or what is behind the mysteries of why certain species exist today. 

As I wrap up another school year with a major Evolution unit in my biology classes, I’ll try to use this Accept or Deny language a lot more and try to help students do the same. 

If only we could do something for those folks who proudly deny every inconvenient truth…

4 thoughts on “Accept or Deny: A March for Science Story

  1. Jeremy Salo

    “But in this scientific consensus, the opinions don’t matter, the data does.”

    As a legal adult attending an accredited university with other legal adults, you’d be surprised how refreshing that sentiment is.

    Still love your writing Chris, and I figured you can always use some encouragement before the May Craziness begins and you’ve got a fresh mountain of barely spellchecked blog posts to grade.

    1. Jeremy Salo

      *Also here’s an official “sorry, my b” for being a regular contributor to that particular blog post problem back then

      1. Chris Ludwig Post author

        Nah, it’s cool. The system is supposed to allow for flexibility in due dates. Some of y’all just take it to the extreme. Thanks for the good vibes!

  2. Brian G D'Auteuil

    Thank you for this perspective, Chris! I have not yet heard about altering our language to use “accepter” and “denier” instead of “believer” and “non-believer”. I agree that it is very important as educators, especially science educators, to present our material in a way that does not cast out students who come into our class with differing beliefs. I have yet to teach any of these more “controversial” topics, but I can imagine a student being labeled “a non-believer” would ostracize said student and would create a class environment that is not conducive to this student learning the facts of the issue. I really think it can be powerful to stay out of the debate as the teacher, and present the facts. Whether or not you come into the class an “acceptor” or a “denier,” you need to know facts about what is happening. I like how these speakers are using these terms, because it leaves room for someone to have their own beliefs, and yet still accept facts. I appreciate your blog about this experience and I hope we can get more students involved in science social activism in the future.


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