March for Science, Geneva, 22 April 2017 / by James Beacham

Remarks at the March for Science, Geneva, rally
22 April 2017
Jardin Anglais
Geneva, Switzerland

I am very happy to see you all here, because the fact that you are all here is reliable evidence — that I’m not crazy.

And this is good, because over the past several months and years, I have occasionally felt like I was going crazy.

I feel like I’m going crazy when I hear someone suggest that robust funding of basic scientific research is an optional budget item, like one extra bench in a public park.

I feel like I’m going crazy when I hear someone suggest that global warming due to human activity — is *not* the consensus of the scientific community.

I feel like I’m going crazy when I hear someone state that trivially falsifiable claims of visual physical reality, are actually “alternative facts”, more traditionally known as “lies”.

I feel like I’m going crazy when I hear someone claim that vaccines aren’t safe, or that they cause autism in children.

And I feel like I’m going crazy when I hear, in 2017, someone say that people of color are genetically or culturally predisposed to poverty and hardship.

But the fact that you are all here with us, right now, thrills me, because it reminds me — that I’m not crazy.  Nor am I alone.  We are all in this together.  Everyone.

We’re marching because science — belongs — to everyone.

My name is James Beacham, and I’m a member of the March for Science, Geneva, organizing committee.

I’m also a particle physicist working at CERN.  And every day I work with brillliant scientists from around the globe, from Iran, Mexico, France, Israel, Slovenia, South Korea, Germany, Nigeria, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Romania, Norway, China, Brazil, Australia, and Morocco to search for evidence of things like dark matter, quantum black holes, and Higgs bosons.  It’s the largest science experiment ever mounted, a big, ambitious project that pushes the boundaries of human knowledge, and it’s only possible with two key things: 1) A truly global, multicultural group of physicists and technicians to bring a multitude of perspectives and healthy skepticisms to our research and 2) the universal tenet that logic and reason, applied in controlled, experimental conditions, are humanity’s best tools for determining truth from falsehood.

This second one is also known as science.

And these two key things, multiculturalism and scientific thinking, are currently being undermined and vilified to an alarming degree around the world.

The March for Science, Geneva, serves two purposes:

One: We march in solidarity with the hundreds of marches taking place today around the world, from Japan to Nigeria to Iraq, to affirm that science is essential to a healthy society and that current trends in governments and populations around the world, toward anti-scientific thinking, are unacceptable.

Two: We celebrate the Swiss government’s long-standing dedication to scientific research, and we embrace the Geneva region’s global reputation as the home of big, open, inclusive science for the peaceful, common good of humanity, and hold this up as a shining example to the rest of the world.

We’re marching because science — belongs — to everyone.

This also means that science is the responsibility of everyone.

We’re marching because we can understand why certain groups of people may not have the best reaction when they hear the word “science”.  And not just because of atrocities committed using the tools of science, such as the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.

Not just because of horrifying misuses of technology inspired by bigoted misunderstandings of biology and psychology, such as electroshock procedures performed on gay men and lesbians.

And not just because of the repeated use of scientific-sounding but patently and maliciously pseudoscientific ideas such as phrenology and racist social pseudoscience that seek to justify institutionalized prejudice.

We’re marching because our entire society is responsible not just for these easily excoriated horrors, but also for the subtler, more pernicious things, like the persistent lack of women and persons of color in science and technology fields, and the conspicuous deficit of the same groups of people in representations of science in the public eye.  Our entire society is responsible for this situation, and we seize this opportunity to recognize this past and present, and to demand a more equitable future.

And starting today, starting with this initiative, we affirm that science belongs to everyone, and that Switzerland, Suisse romande and Geneva are laudable examples of dedications to science that other communities around the world should emulate.

We’re not just marching as scientists, but concerned citizens.

We’re marching because science — belongs — to everyone.

We’re marching because facts are immutable, empiricism is the best method we possess to differentiate truth from falsehood, and science, free from partisanship and prejudice, benefits humanity.

On behalf of the March for Science, Geneva, organizing committee, we welcome you — to march!

-- James Beacham