Why we March for Science in Bordeaux on Saturday, 22nd of April

In a period of unprecedented global challenges, knowledge is more than ever a common good, instrumental to the freedom and prosperity of humankind and of all peoples.

  • 20/04/2017

The so-called 'Fake News', alternative facts and other post-truths undermine the founding alliance of our democracies. The democratic debate must be based on a nonpartisan body of knowledge, upon which points of view can be validly discussed. Knowledge and opinion are two elements of public decision that shall be respected, but never compared and much less assimilated; knowledge is not an opinion. On April 22, on the occasion of Earth Day, the March for Science will celebrate the much needed independence of scientific knowledge.

The March was initiated in the United States, in response to the increasingly overt "post-truth" claims. This concern is shared by europeans and all citizens around the world. Anti-vaccination movements, expertise manipulation, climate change denial, revival of creationisms and flat earth myth, etc. : all this is not about harmless anecdotes, but rather a fragmenting society that is losing its references under the blows from obscurantists of all sorts.

The scientific methods, carefully elaborated then systematized during the age of enlightenment, offers a peculiarity : the means to criticize knowledge are produced and shared at the same time as knowledge itself. Thus each and everyone - scientist, citizen or decision-maker - is in a position to take a critical look at the conditions in which knowledge is produced, and thus at its limits and value. This confers the scientific method its universality, indispensable to a dialogue built among individuals, among opinions and among people, thereby making it an extraordinarily emancipatory project. To defend it on 22nd of April is not at all a question of scientism, but rather the recognition of this essential principle of modern day democracy.

Conversely, the current attempts, on both sides of the Atlantic, aimed to restrict the ability to produce or disseminate knowledge are actual threats to our democracies. In face of the growing commonplace of “post-truth" placing facts and opinions at an equal level, silence is no longer an option. Like the American scientists and citizens, facing the health and environmental sciences takeover by their new administration, we must state together that science shall not serve special interests, or otherwise be rejected or falsified on the pretext of partisan convictions.

Just like the invention of writing first, and later printing, allowed to record and spread knowledge, today the digital transition allows to share broadly not only knowledge itself but also the underlying data, methods, tools, and criticisms, in sum the whole scientific process. Science must have a dialogue with civil society; citizens shall be able to get involved in the scientific process if they wish to; scientists must be prepared for this inclusion; public policies shall facilitate it. Science must come out of the laboratories and open itself to the world in order to create lasting conditions for an ambitious democratic debate.

To march for science in large numbers on April 22nd is to show one’s commitment to the principles of independence of the scientific process; is to uphold the methodic construction of knowledge opposed to opinions and ideologies; is to assert the need for a dialogue between sciences and societies; is to demand that knowledge and its limits are taken into account in public decisions.