Once upon a time, a small group of atheists declared that not believing in gods was not enough — that atheists should also stand up for justice, fight for equality, and oppose the fascist tendencies that were even then becoming apparent in government. They decided to set themselves apart and call their movement Atheism+, and the goal was to organize people to do more than promote the separation of church and state, but also to oppose sexism and racism.
They didn’t last long. The howls of opposition were prolonged and vicious…how dare anyone proclaim that, as atheists, they had wider, deeper interests? They were harassed out of existence. The knives came out, and the regressive, tribal atheists launched constant hate campaigns that linger on today. I still get frequently accused of being the wicked instigator of this perfidious attempt to organize SJWs who were also atheists (I wasn’t, but the idea that it was women who actually did the work was unthinkable, so I have been promoted to Atheism+ General). If you look in some places, especially YouTube, you find instead that anti-feminist jackholes rule the roost, and they do so by specifically ridiculing anyone who believes in the equality of women and minorities.
I wish Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Sarah Tuttle, and Joseph Osmundson luck with their manifesto, We Are The Scientists Against A Fascist Government.
Science, even just within the United States, is an international enterprise; it’s an intricate multinational dialogue and financial ecosystem. The scientific community in America contains — indeed relies on — immigrants from countries around the world. We recognize that there are hierarchies of power — as with every other facet of society — within the scientific community. We must stand with those at the greatest risk, including people of color, women/gender minorities, immigrants, and those at the intersections of these identities. Attacks on those at the margins — both within and without the scientific community — are attacks on human knowledge, on the very advancement of our society.
They are attacks on all of us.
As scientists, we cannot accept this new status quo. While we are deeply concerned about what the future holds for scientists — especially scientists from traditionally-excluded communities — we are also concerned about the impact of the administration’s agenda on the broader U.S. population, the global population, and our planet’s entire ecology. We understand in this context that it might seem simpler for scientists — especially those from backgrounds that have been more readily welcomed into the scientific community — to “reach across the aisle” and work with the new administration.
But we believe it is imperative that scientists pause and consider the profound implications of this proposal.
They’re aware of the pushback they’re going to get, and have already received.
Already we have heard our scientific colleagues murmur about trying to keep our work and ourselves “apolitical.” We even saw an early, now-retracted statement from the American Physical Society (APS) that sought to capitalize on Trump’s racist dog-whistle slogan “Make America Great Again.” While APS eventually recanted their statement, we understand that it reflects a deeply flawed, but broadly held belief among scientists that bipartisanship is always the answer, even if that means power-sharing with an administration that intends to cause financial and physical harm to vulnerable members of society — many of whom are scientists, the very people doing the work they claim to want to protect.
We have also heard private rumblings about what type of scientific funding might be spared in Trump’s America: Climate change will go, but cancer research must be safe. Even if they come for cancer research, particle physics merits an independent defense. Max Planck, for example, similarly argued that Jewish theoretical physicists were different from other kinds of Jews, in an attempt to spare Jewish scientists’ lives. As we know, this protective presumption was swiftly disproved by the Holocaust, which targeted the already marginalized Roma and most widely known, European Jews.
Science has never been apolitical. The only people who claim it is are the privileged ones who benefit from the status quo.
They have a list of action items so there are things scientists can do. At the very least, sign up for the cause. This is important, every level of society must mobilize to oppose the Republican dystopia, and scientists don’t get to hide behind that cowardly ‘apolitical’ canard.
Be better than the atheists have been.