On one of those cold drizzly days, the sort you’d much rather sleep in or curl up with a herd of sheep and a good book, I found myself walking to MUN. I knew the where and what of my soggy stroll, I just wasn’t entirely clear on why I was bothering to show up for a March for Science.
St. John’s, like hundreds of other cities, held satellite events to coincide with the March for Science demonstration which took place in Washington, because “An American government that ignores science to pursue its own agendas endangers the world.”
I, like so many other participants, trundled to our respective gatherings with confused expectations. Would there be hey hey ho ho truth is kind of true yo! chants? How had we arrived at such a place where we feel reality needs to be defended?
All demographics seemed represented, the young and old, men and women, all walks of life. There were dogs wearing lab coats, colourful signs and witty slogans. The atmosphere was of friendly fun with lots of smiles exchanged, grateful nods. Everyone was calm, reserved, tentative, with many soft conversations trickling on in pocket corners. Wafting through this otherwise congenial atmosphere were the unmistakable notes of shyness, sheepishness.
Don’t misunderstand, no one was embarrassed to be present, most seemed proud to be there, proud to stand up for something important to them. You see the crowd was not small, it wasn’t enormous either by any stretch, but nor was it three cranks yelling at squirrels. And therein lies the embarrassment, for in this respectable crowd filled with reasonable people, a tacit acknowledgement is made, that reality does need defending.
We marched, waved signs, passing cars honked support, a hey hey ho ho chant started and fizzled and finally speeches were made. It was all calm, orderly, and over seemingly as soon as it began. I felt happy that I went, proud that I went, but I still wasn’t sure why I went.
Science is the understanding of reality, one single, objective reality. A March for Science is a defence of that reality. Unfortunately, we are all subject to our personal perceptions and individual delusions, I guarantee you think a number of things which are not correct.
When looking at the exact same colour, we all experience a different shade unique to us. They may be asymptotically close, but every single human will see a different colour, that’s perception. As for delusions, we all carry these around with us as well, some are small and charming, others great and grotesque. You can create whatever world you like if you can bend your will towards it.
With everyone inhabiting their own personal bubble, why should we bother defending reality? It needs defending because of our individual distortions, because reality is our sole point of commonality, we may see the same colour differently, but it is the exact same wavelength of light for everyone. Reality is the bridge between human experience, it’s what allows people to connect. An agreed upon reality is what allows compassion, empathy, and understanding for and of each other. If we cannot agree upon one objective reality then we are lost.
It dawned on me later, why I showed up for a March for Science, and it turned out to be rather simple: I showed up because people are all we have.