I'm on my way to Washington D.C. for the March for Science, this Saturday. I thought I'd share with you all the images that will be on my sign. I tried to stick with mostly positive messages. Science is supposed to be the central theme, and politics are secondary. I wanted to stay away from anything too partisan. I wanted to think of some clever sayings, but I'm not clever. Maybe they'll give you some ideas for your own signs or memes. Anything I've created for the march is free for you to copy and rearrange if you like, but I didn't create many of the background images. So, caveat emptor.
Please read the notes under each before you decide to copy or download any for your own use.
I created several slides for this one, that appear one after the other on the sign. I think it works better that way. This is the last slide in that series. Some people have lately started to use the word "science" as if it means an outcome, or technology, instead of the way you come to those things. Sometimes they use to mean all the people and institutions that are associated with science, like colleges, laboratories, journals, and of course, scientists. But science is independent of those things. Science happens all the time. You don't have to be a scientist. There's been a lot of what people like to call "identity politics" associated with the practice of science lately, and there are people who both like that, and who hate it. But science isn't restricted to any sex, gender, national identity, race, religion, or political view. Although groups that don't have much power in any society may find that nobody much notices the science they do, their science still exists, still has value, and is just as well constructed (or poorly constructed) as anyone else's. There's no "men's science" and "women's science." It works the same no matter who is doing it. There is no "eastern science" and "western science" either. It works the same no matter where they are doing it.
Although it is probable Galileo never actually said this quote, it's probable it encapsulates his actual thought. Galileo asserted that the Earth moved round the sun, rather than the opposite. He wasn't the first person to think this, or even the first to point it out. He was building on the work of Copernicus. Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for us, he wrote about his findings. The church declared him to be a heretic because he contradicted Aristotle and the Catholic Church's teachings and ordered not to publish or speak on this any more. It wasn't until he published his Dialogues that Galileo was hauled before the court of the Inquisition and threatened with torture. He was placed under house arrest, where he eventually died. Of course, in time the church accepted that Copernicus had been right all along, as had Galileo, but that was long after his death. Galileo's story speaks to all scientists everywhere who are silenced for sharing their work when it contradicts the position of authority.
Some people misuse his example to represent dissent from the common belief. But the truth is, Galileo's beliefs were not really outside the mainstream, and he received wide support even at the time. After all, mathematics had already demonstrated that it was so. There were many scientists who had agreed with Copernicus. It was Galileo's refusal to defer to the opinion of the Church in this matter, that so angered the authorities, not the sentiments of his fellow scientists. His peers did not attempt to silence him, even when they staunchly disagreed. That was the role of the Inquisition. Galileo wasn't just disagreeing to disagree. He knew the facts demonstrated the correctness of his position. His works were widely reprinted even in his lifetime, and even as he was held under house arrest. The public did not need waking up, and scientific consensus was that the two positions needed to be compared. Consensus, in fact, was soon on his side when the data was made available to all. So Galileo wasn't the lone voice of dissent railing against consensus, he was the standard bearer against an oppressive agent of the government that tried to dictate scientific consensus from on high, and was proved unsuccessful in holding ignorance superior to knowledge.
Isaac Asimov is often seen as the father of robotics, though he never invented a single one. He is the author of the Foundation and Robot series, including the most famous I, Robot. He authored the three laws of robotics:
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
This quote reminds us that every decision we make affects the world going forward. And also, that the changes that occur in the world around us, will determine if the decisions we make are right, effective, or even make sense at all. Should we stick with coal and oil, or switch to nuclear? Should we invest more in solar and wind, and if so, how much? How quickly should we make these changes, and what will it mean for our culture, our economics, our people, and our environment? Can we even make the change? We have to consider not only how many people are here today, and the jobs they do, and the lives they live, but also how our changing Earth will impact these decisions. Will Global Warming make shoreline facilities more dangerous? Will it make solar a better option? Will a population increase or decrease mean we need more energy, or less? How will people earn a living? No question is ever as simple as activists and politicians, and sometimes scientists, may make it seem. Asimov understood this.
Bill Nye "the Science Guy" was chosen to be one of three special co-chairs for the March for Science. Bill Nye, an engineer by training, has spent years entertaining and educating kids and adults through television and numerous personal appearance. He's been the vice president of the National Planetary Society.
But that's not why I wanted to make this meme of our hero and his ray guns protecting us from pseudoscience. It's his work in skepticism, and his willingness to change his mind. Nye was long regarded as a bit of a hippy. He freely admits this, and even takes some pride in it. Well, why not? He loves the Earth, champions recycling, green energy, and healthy food. A few years back I was dismayed to learn that someone I admired a bit had chosen to take a decidely unscientific position on Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs as they are more commonly referred to. For some reason, though he admitted they had never caused any health problems, he still thought they oughtn't be pursued, and that they needed to be labeled at the retail level. This was a head scratcher for a lot of us in the science and skepticism crowd, especially when we saw him take on the Creationist Ken Ham and clearly voice the willingness to change his mind if presented with new evidence.
So, some smart science types talked him into visiting Monsanto's GMO research lab. And what did Bill Nye do? He changed his mind! Yep, Bill Nye lived his scientific principles. Now, that doesn't mean he suddenly loves GMOs, or has stopped being a proud hippy. He just adjusted his view to take on board this new information. And for me, that's when he went from someone I kind of admired, to being a true hero of science. You don't have to agree with any of his points or conclusions. You can argue any of his points. But you can't argue that he doesn't understand the basic underlying premise of science... that the evidence drives the conclusion, not the other way round.
Now Bill Nye is taking on Climate Change deniers. I can't say I agree with everything he's ever said or done. But I can say that he has put himself right in the line of fire in standing up for the scientific consensus. Some old fans have turned against him. No few people have tried to discredit him. And at least one person has dishonestly edited video to make him seem unhinged. Nonetheless, like Galileo, he stands by the evidence and his conclusions. To paraphrase Galileo, Never the less, it is warming.
And speaking of Anthropogenic Global Warming... Brian Cox has a graph. He'll be glad to explain it to you. Oh, just watch the video. Then look up his many videos on YouTube or elsewhere. You'll be glad you did.
My introduction to GMOs came through research for my candy company, but only the second example I heard of was the Cavendish banana. Calm down, your favorite treat isn't a GMO, well not in the sense they were created in a lab with modern genetic engineering methods. The Cavendish is a monocrop. The Gros Michael, which was the world's most popular banana before the Cavendish. It was also farmed as a monocrop, and was wiped out by a fungus. Now the Cavendish is facing a similar infection. Scientists, botonists, geneticist, mycologists, and farmers around the world are scrambling to defeat this fungal menace, or breed a banana that can resist it, and which is as tasty and versatile as the Cavendish. One way they are hoping to do so is by breeding a new GMO version of the Cavendish, with fungal resistance built in. So far, they have had only limited success in killing the fungus, and none breeding a new banana by any means.
Enter a Creationist named Ray Comfort. He made a video with Kirk Cameron that used the banana and a Coke can in a form of the clockwork argument for Intelligent Design. This was what he touted as "evolution's worst nightmare" or alternatively, "the atheist's worst nightmare." I'm not going to get into Pali's argument here. It's been debunked enough that no self-respecting apologist dare use it around any scientifically literate audience, and this video completely disregards the fact that many religious people have no difficulty accepting evolution as true and don't find it contradicts their religious views at all. Confounding atheists with scientists is a bit of a dishonest tactic to try make both sound worse. Putting that aside, evolution didn't create the Cavendish. It was bred, intentionally and artificially, by a fellow in England not that long ago. Comfort went on to talk about how the Cavendish is the perfect food and so convenient, ignoring the fact that there are many kinds of banana of several shapes and sizes which certainly do not fit that description. And again, this is not a naturally occurring plant, but one bred by humans, for humans. After being roundly criticized for failing to understand any science at all, Ray backed down, and himself has since joked about the video. He's been rather a good sport about the whole thing.
Unfortunately, the poor banana wasn't done being dragged into political debate by science ignorant activists. Because it wasn't long before the anti-GMO crowd were claiming it was natural and GMOs were bad because of monocropping, apparently completely unaware of the history of the banana. Even before the saga of the Cavendish and the Gros Michael, bananas were being cultured by man for his enjoyment. The bananas we enjoy today, from the little lady fingers to the giant plantains, are all the product of domestication. We know this because the original wild banana is still in existance. And it's a mess, short and fat, thick skinned, and containing many large, hard seeds, the wild banana isn't very appetizing.
The banana is everything wrong with half-baked, ill-thought out arguments about science. Whatever your feeling about evolution, atheism, or GMOs, it would only take a few minutes on a reputable banana site to learn that it's not the best example to use to make those kinds of points. Maybe it's time for everyone to stop picking on the poor banana, and let some other fruit have its day on the political ticket? This slide speaks to the failure to do proper first order literature research and making ad hoc fallacies as a result.
I am a paid member of two of these organizations. Can you guess which two?
Anyway, I like the cheekiness of this one. They've posted several on their own page for all of us to download, if we like. Check them out here.
This slide was actually created for the sign when I gave a little talk to a school near Yellowstone. I want to encourage students to realize that every scientist was once sitting where they are, a student, trying to learn and dreaming of the possibilities. I want every scientist to realize that every student is looking up to them, and to remind them of when they were in that student's place. Maybe the scientist could help the student along? And importantly, I'd like to point out to every politician and taxpayer that the money you invest in schools, comes back to us when those students grow up to build the next space shuttle, nuclear reactor, or computer, or pioneers the new medical procedure that could save your life. Money spent on education at all levels is money well spent. Recently it's become de riguer to point out that many successful people didn't need college to get there. Fine, as far as it goes. But I don't think anyone would like a heart bypass surgery conducted by a dropout, or their nuclear reactor peopled by Homer Simpson and his friends. Not really.
Ok, we've all heard it, and some of us have even said it, "This is made without chemicals." Yeah, no, it isn't. There are few things on this Earth that aren't chemicals. Food, is never one of them. Something about that word, it sounds threatening, doesn't it? But it's not any scarier than sugar, eggs, milk, and flour. Yes, some chemicals are hard to pronounce. Some are made through natural processes, and some only through careful laboratory procedures or industrial processes. But the way they are produced or how hard they are to pronounce aren't what determines how dangerous a chemical is. It's kind of fun to think about things like cake as really just being a form of complex chemical. When you think of it that way, the distinction between a Little Debbie and a gourmet souffle seem less important. I would like to tweak people into rethinking their knee-jerk reactions and automatic rejections of "artificial" foodstuffs, and start considering what really makes something good or bad for us.
For the record, I don't know anything much at all about chemistry. I had to look up this chemical formula, and I may have copied it wrong. To me, it's just an illustration. If you understand it, maybe you can explain it to me!
Ok, this is the first one that is truly political. When I read that Donald Trump wanted to make a rule that for every new regulation approved, the agencies in question would have to come up with two to get rid of, my jaw hit the floor. After picking it up, I tried to mentally process exactly what that could mean. This sort of blanket rule makes no sense. Some agencies have lots of unnecessary regulations, but others have almost none. You can't just put an arbitrary number on regulations that way. What happens when a regulation is really, really necessary, and after months or years of wrangling between safety advocates, government bean counters, engineers, the public, and various people with financial interests at stake, a regulation is finally deviced that will meet all needs and will get through the regulatory acceptance process... and then no one wants to name two to get rid of? Are you prepared to say that all that work, all those hours of negotiation, are for nothing? Are you prepared to cause potential harm because you wanted your political ideals to dictate how many regulations we have, rather than how good and justifiable they should be? And how exactly does this work if the regulations are complex, and rest on many other regulations, and have other regulations that rest on them? How do you pull one of these complex regulations out, Jenga-like, to meet this arbitrary requirement? What incentive does the agency have to really name the one that is least valuable, rather than the one that is most onerous for them to enforce, or the one they never wanted controlling them anyway? I've always leaned libertarian, and I am not at all fond of government red tape and unnecessary regulation. But this seems like a really stupid way to go about the pruning process. How about this... if you want to remove regulations that you think are unnecessary, first identify what is unnecessary, and then remove those? I know, crazy idea. But it just might work.
The first image tries to make the point in a way people might relate to. FAA regulations may deal occasionally with things like whether you can make phone calls while in flight. More often they deal with things like how often the pilot and crew have to sleep, how many flight hours they must have before flying solo, how many gallons of fuel a plane must carry, how much excess weight they must be capable of carrying, and what sort of training mechanics must have. Which regulations, exactly, should we get rid of? Should we just let them decide which two to jettison? Are you sure? Phones. Flying. Think about it.
The second makes the same sort of post by reminding people of the need for clean water regulations. I was hoping to jog their memory of Flint and other towns whose water supplies were jeopardized when politics were considered over safety and regulations were not strictly enforced. The EPA like many other agencies are only as good as the people in the field doing the work. If you tell them they don't have to do the work, they won't. So tell them they don't have to check water purity, and they'll be too busy doing other things to get around to it.
The last one presents a quandary to make the point. Rivers and streams, air and the ocean, they don't stop at one state and start again at the next. What you do at one end effects the other. We simply can't allow the states to each have their own rules and hope for the best. There is a reason we formed a federal government. Our states need that framework in which to operate so that interstate commerce is possible. We are one country, not fifty separate ones. We need clean air and water. Which regulations don't we need? Why should coal companies' profits, and coal miners' jobs take precedence over our lives and health? Let's find them jobs in industries that don't dump their slag or waste water into our waterways. Can we do that, instead?
The Global Warming, or Climate Change, or human caused climate change issue is one of the most politically contentious currently being debated between scientists and our government. But while politicians may be divided on this issue, scientists and scientific institutions are not. The consensus of the evidence, as well as the plurality of scientists and their organizations agree, it is real. It is happening. I has been documented. So when President Trump declared global warming to be a hoax of the Chinese... well, a lot of us were plain flabbergasted. I realize we may argue over what to do about global warming. But we shouldn't be so foolish as to suggest that it's not only not real, but a jest put over on us by the Chinese... who had to be convinced of its existence by the US, among others. I mean, the Chinese must be experiencing some serious "what the fuck" right now. It would be funny. It would be hilarious, except that he is our president, and he really believes this.
This image comes from NASA. It's a photo of the largest break of this ice sheet in years. A great big floating iceberg just calved, while deniers continue to claim not only is the ice not melting, but that it is somehow actually growing. No, no it isn't. There's a reason Donald Trump and his cabinet want to stop NASA from doing any Earth sciences anymore, why they don't want them sending out ships, or collecting ice core samples, or aiming their satelites at the Earth's polar ice, or cooperating with NOAA and international climate research partners. They don't want you to see, with your own eyes, the plain facts. The Earth is warming. Everything else is just a distraction. It is warming, and that's no joke.
I took this picture while walking the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Not only does it express the truth that climate change is real, it demonstrates that we are well aware that climate change has happened in the past as a naturally occurring event, and that this is actually how we can tell that our current warming trend is not in keeping with these more natural events of the past. Plus it gives a shout out to the beleaguered National Parks.
It was not that long ago that I knew less than nothing about GMOs. I didn't know what they were. The last time I had read anything about them was in an old Omni Magazine article about this cool new thing scientists were doing with plants. But the science isn't new. We have been eating genetically modified corn and soy for well over a decade now. The result? Fat people. That's about it. Food prices have gone down or held stable. Farmers are able to make a living. Farming techniques continue to evolve with our increasing knowledge. And not one person has ever been found to have suffered a single ailment from consuming GMOs. True facts. You can look those up for yourself. Oh, there have been the usual scaremongering stories about "cancer clusters" and rats fed their weight in food developing tumors because they are tumor prone rats, but not a single documented case of a human ever suffering any disease or ailment due to their consumption of GMO corn or soy, or anything else. In fact, most people little knew that nearly all the papayas sold in America are GMO. The Rainbow papaya replaced Hawaii's previous preferred cultivar because of ring spot virus. And if they hadn't, those farmers would have gone bankrupt, and we would be buying our papayas at twice the price and importing them. Now celebrities in Hawaii and on the mainland are vilifying the Rainbow papaya and all GMOs. And once again, it is the farmers who stand to lose the most. It's scaremongering. And it is unscientific nonsense.
I took a photo of this corn field while I was traveling. I think this one was in Missouri. Everywhere I go, I take pictures of the native crops in the fields. I have pictures of corn in Texas, Missouri, Illinois, New Mexico, and New York. I challenge you to look at those fields, and tell me which are GMO, and which are non-GMO without reading the signs.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is a great escapist movie for kids and adults. It's not depicting anything like reality though. If you think it is, perhaps a few hours online at a science page, maybe an agricultural college website, might be in order.
James Randi's work in skepticism inspired me to dig into some of the phony claims being made today, that are really not that different from the ones made decades, and in some cases centuries, ago. From his first major skeptical detective work, which he revealed on the Johnny Carson show (look it up, you will be amused and possibly enfuriated) James Randi has been a thorn in the side of the fakers and takers of pseudoscience and televangelists and faith healers. He has recently retired, but not before taking on the behemoth of the homeopathy industry. Homeopathic remedies are often sold side by side with other over the counter medicines in pharmacies and grocery stores. But homeopathic "remedies" are not medicine. And if you don't believe me, watch James "the Amazing" Randi "overdose" on homeopathic sleeping pills.
Sometimes a protest sign is a protest sign. This one is the most political of the images I put together for this march. The sheer gall of standing up before national news reporters and pretending to be generous by handing over a few thousand dollars, after cutting the National Parks Service's budget by millions is nauseating. That Trump attempted to make his legalized theft from the American taxpayer seem like his generosity by handing over his presidential paycheck, while refusing to divest himself of his hotel that is making millions off the abuse of his offical position is just kicking us while we're down. Thanks anyway, President Trump, you can keep the check, we'll take the change. Divest and restore funding to the agencies you've cut, resign, or stop pretending and wait for us to kick you out.
That the NOAA is the agency most directly responsible for providing us hurricane warnings, tsunami warnings, blizzard warnings and all the weather your weather man uses to make their own predictions, should be known to everyone. Unfortunately, in my opinion, they've done a terrible job in the last few years with educating the public about what they do. People have even been heard to say that they don't need the NOAA, because they have the weather channel, little realizing that the Weather Channel gets their news from the NOAA. Hurricane Sandy (or Superstorm Sandy, if you prefer) cost billions of dollars in damage. But that storm would have cost thousands if not millions of lives and even more property damage, if our weather tracking systems and early warning systems were not in place. Before the turn of the century, a storm very like Sandy hit the eastern seaboard, and the result was a devastating loss of life all up and down the coast. People did know a storm was coming, but they simply had no idea how big and deadly it was, or exactly when and where it would hit. These days we complain that they can't tell us to the hour when a storm will strike land, and exactly at what force. Then, they were lucky if they had minutes to react, and they were lucky if the storm warnings could accurate predict which day a hurricane would strike land. Today we complain that the Weather Channel and the NOAA scared people with warnings that were too dire ahead of a storm that struck the lower part of the eastern US and then traveled north. But the complaint is that they weren't pinpoint precise, rather than that they didn't see it at all. Their accuracy has grown so good, that we take it for granted and curse it when it fails in any small way, rather than being grateful for the amazing progress we've seen in weather prediction, and storm warnings. Yet, despite their unquestioning value to the our citizens, and at times to the world, many today are only too happy that the new administration's budget halves the budget for the NOAA, instead of increasing it as we should do if we really cared about the security of our country.
Weather radios save countless lives every year. If your life was spared because you got adequate warning before a large storm, flood, tsunami, hurricane, or other natural disaster or weather event, why not thank NOAA by letting your representatives know, NOAA should not be cut. We need that.
If you still believe we never landed men on the moon, just hang around. We'll do it again real soon. If you have enough money, you can buy a ticket on a Space X rocket. Or you can wait, and if you live long enough, you might get to be among the first tourists to visit the red planet. Honestly, if you believe this conspiracy theory, I just wish Buzz Aldrin could be paid by the round. And speaking of round things, the Earth is not flat. Even Donald Trump doesn't make this mistake, but some rappers and ball players do. Yikes.
Many years ago, when NASA was much younger, Robert A. Heinlein and others were invited to Congress to make their cases for why the program should be kept around. A common tactic was to describe all the great things it does for us, right here on Earth. Today, Donald Trump says he wants to increase NASA's budget for space exploration, but complete eliminate Earth Sciences programs. It's a topsy-turvey world. While perusing NASA's web page, I found this neat little article on a chip they had created that was making dental work better. Isn't that crazy? What a weird connection. So this throwback meme was born.
Evolution is true. The Earth is not a mere 6,000 years old. Evidence is everywhere. The National Parks Service, the NOAA, the Geological Society and every imaginable field of science has documented evidence of the process of evolution, and the age of the Earth. I can't believe this is still a matter of debate.
This last image is obviously a combination of many similar images online and elsewhere. It's a little misleading, because evolution is not a straight line from apes to man. But it is highly recognizable, and it makes the point that we have not reached any pinnacle of evolution. It continues. We are not finished evolving until he all die. Not evolving, not adapting, is death.
Nope, not wasting time or space arguing this point here. They don't. Trump and any other politician who still believes this nonsense are just willfully ignorant and are putting our children and the whole population at risk and fearmongering. I won't entertain such idiocy. Vaccinate your damn kids, according to the recommended schedule. Dr. Trump is a quack.