Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The March for Science

On Saturday tens of thousands of people who couldn't score a two if they took the AP Chemistry exam tomorrow and haven't read an NEJM article in their lifetimes gathered to denounce their political opposites as anti-science.  Over at Slate, FOAMcast's Jeremy Faust (who moonlights as a physician at Brigham and Women's) summed it up nicely:

Being “pro-science” has become a bizarre cultural phenomenon in which liberals (and other members of the cultural elite) engage in public displays of self-reckoned intelligence as a kind of performance art, while demonstrating zero evidence to justify it. 

It's tempting to read both too much and too little into any one march or protest.  I'll limit my observation to this: the March for Science is the clearest sign yet that the peak of American progressivism as an intellectual movement is behind us.

There have been hints of this in recent years, such as when Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century became a top-selling book, with vanishingly few purchasers making it past page 70 of 700.  I'd venture those who are among the "seriously, I'm going to finish when I have more free time," group were disproportionately represented at the March for Science, where the burdens of hefty white papers could be brushed aside in favor of hefting white posterboard.

Not unrelatedly, the March for Science speaks to the influence reddit (or whatever site succeeds it as the internets staple open forum) can have on the future of progressivism.  The idea and momentum for the March, after all, were both begotten on reddit.  In this form, the new progressivism consists of sharing headlines that affirm important ideological tenants.  Anecdotal affirmation and pithy quips ensue, with the best being upvoted in the comments.  Links to the underlying articles are appreciated. Clicking through, however, is really not necessary.  It is in this disposition that the semi-official mission of the March for Science referenced the importance of scientific inclusiveness twice as often as science eduction, and the best coverage of the March were photo albums of the cleverest posters and profiles of science celebrities.

I doubt many progressives would take kindly to my interpretation, but it could be seen as the consequence of an otherwise healthy evolution that the home base of progressivism is becoming more accessible as it becomes more popular.  While Brookings blogs wane, Bernie bros wax.  Young college grads crowding into gentrified neighborhoods seem more and more than willing to put their faith in designated technocrats with thousand page rulebooks as their preferred form of government.  The Trump administration will push more into that camp, without exactly necessitating any deeply intellectual opposition.  Facades of intellectual detachment will increase in value as a tribal countersignal to Trump's unconvincing embrace of hokey Americana.  Intellectualism itself will be championed, in spirit, from afar.

No comments:

Post a Comment