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story.lead_photo.caption Haleigh Eubanks, a Ph.D. candidate in the Interdisciplinary Biomedical Science Program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, speaks at Saturday’s March for Science rally outside the state Capitol in Little Rock. - Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun

Johnny Sain spent his childhood listening to the song of the whippoorwill, learning the difference between harmless and venomous snakes and examining "critters" that his grandfather caught for him and kept in a jar.

He didn't have a college degree or a white coat. Just his curiosity.

"I was an observer," Sain said. "Of course, I had no credentials. But I was, by the most basic definition, a scientist."

Sain, a conservationist and interim executive director of the Arkansas Wildlife Federation, joined many actual scientists at the Arkansas Capitol on Saturday afternoon as part of a global rally to promote science and reason. Outdoorsmen, engineers and medical researchers were among more than 1,000 people who participated in Little Rock.

Many were protesting the policies of President Donald Trump, who has called global warming a hoax and proposed cutting the budgets of the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent and the National Institutes of Health by 18 percent. The president has proposed cuts to most federal agencies, even eliminating some, to offset an increase in defense spending and to promote private enterprise in the public sector.

Dozens of rally attendees carried signs that were critical of the Trump administration. One said "Make America Think Again," a play on Trump's campaign slogan. Another sign called for "evidence, not alternative facts."

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Nora Simmons of Conway was among those who said Trump's policies on science and the environment were concerning.

"We believe in science, and without science everything around us doesn't exist," she said. "It's important that our government understands that we don't want science funding cut and we want our environment protected."

Rally participants chanted "science not silence" as they marched west on Capitol Avenue in Little Rock.

Researchers from UAMS Medical Center and Arkansas State University at Jonesboro were among those who spoke to attendees Saturday.

The Arkansas Sierra Club, a chapter of a national conservation group, organized the march.

"Yes, science matters," said Glen Hooks, director of the Arkansas Sierra Club. "But I'm not seeing that it matters enough to our elected officials and our decision makers. I'm seeing our elected leaders actively ignoring science and governing by anecdote instead of using facts and data. I've seen our elected officials actively deny that our human activities are causing the climate to warm, even though virtually every climate scientist on earth says that's what happening."

For Simmons, the march was more than political. It was personal.

She said her son was born with omphalocele, a birth defect in which a child's liver, intestines or other organs develop outside the abdominal wall.

It's a rare condition that's often fatal. But he survived.

"Without medical science," Simmons said, "he would not be alive."

Metro on 04/23/2017

Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun
People mingle Saturday after the March for Science rally on the front steps of the state Capitol in Little Rock.

Print Headline: Rally at Capitol promotes science

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Archived Comments

  • JakeTidmore
    April 23, 2017 at 3:54 a.m.

    From Washington Post editorial:
    Many of those organizing and participating in the March for Science say it is a statement of belief in the power of empirical discovery, and not an anti-Trump protest. It is fine to remain nonpartisan, but that should not mean being blissfully ignorant of the realities of politics. The battles to come in Washington over spending priorities could determine whether the United States will remain a global leader in scientific research.
    President Donald Trump's first budget, while declared dead on arrival in Congress, nonetheless starkly reflected his priorities. Along with cuts to environmental and climate science, he proposed to slash 18.3 percent, or about $5.8 billion, from the National Institutes of Health budget for fiscal 2018. That would send a wave of disruption through biomedical research efforts across the country and around the world. This research is a pillar of American strength in innovation and pays enormous dividends in fighting and preventing disease. As the Ebola research shows, the simple reality is that robustly funding basic science will save lives. That ought to be the basis for bipartisan agreement.
    **
    The Daily Iowan:
    Science is about finding the truth, regardless of the political implication. It’s about approaching the world with skepticism and a constant desire to answer the question “Why?” Scientists don’t have the luxury of injecting their personal beliefs into their work. After all, it would be far more convenient for scientists if climate change were not caused by human beings. Or, better yet, if rapid climate change did not exist at all. Science does not search for the convenient or the pleasant. It searches for the truth and when something — whether that be a person, a country, or an organization — stands in its way, it is the duty of the scientific community to oppose that force.
    The March for Science is, therefore, not a rebellion against President Trump, his administration, or even the Republican Party; rather, it is a rebellion against the destruction and the silencing of science. The march isn’t about tearing down Trump; it’s about tearing down the very idea that science, or even facts themselves, can be manipulated for political gains.
    **
    New Hampshire Union Leader (16Apr Letters to Editor):
    Scientists, educators, inventors, health care providers, geeks, nerds, and all the other individuals who believe the future of our planet lies in science will be there. We are a diverse, nonpartisan group calling for science to be used for the common good. As a father, grandfather, physician, and all around geek, I am marching to preserve our planet, so my children and their children can have what I have had.
    I am marching because I believe we are above politics and power and we all want a better future, education, food, shelter, health care and safety for ourselves and our families.

  • JakeTidmore
    April 23, 2017 at 4:01 a.m.

    From LATimes:
    ....what did I learn? 
    Mostly, that scientists trust in the scientific method and the peer review process, and they think you should too. 
    Science has helped us combat so many of humanity's greatest threats, and it holds the promise of helping us even more in the fight against cancer, Alzheimer's and climate change. 
    Also, having a solid working  knowledge of the periodic table is a major plus when making signs. 
    **
    From Bill Nye's speech:
    Greetings, greetings, follow citizens!
    We are marching today to remind people everywhere — our lawmakers, especially — of the significance of science for our health and prosperity. The process of science has enabled humankind to discover the laws of nature. This understanding has, in turn, has enabled us to feed and care for the world’s billions, build great cities, establish effective governments, create global transportation systems, explore outer space, and know the cosmos.
    The framers of the Constitution of the United States, which has become a model for constitutional governments everywhere, included Article 1, Section 8, which refers to promoting the progress of science and useful arts. Its intent is to motivate innovators and drive the economy by means of just laws. They knew that, without the progress of science and useful arts, of engineering, our economy would falter. Without scientifically literate citizens the United States — any country, in fact — cannot compete on the world stage.

  • TuckerMax
    April 23, 2017 at 6:57 a.m.

    It is really hard to believe that America has to protest the fact a substantial part of the public doesn't believe in facts. I'm dumbfounded and appalled at the rank stupidity of many, many Americans.

  • RBear
    April 23, 2017 at 7:47 a.m.

    Great crowd at yesterday's Arkansas March for Science. I loved seeing the signs with some very creative twists to emphasize the challenges science faces today. Peaceful march all the way to the Capitol and during the rally on the steps. Only shouts heard were in support of the scientists at the podium and the points they made.
    ...
    In reflection, science has always seemed to have had a hard time with the naysayers. Just think if we had stifled Columbus' journey because there was no way the earth could be round. Reading back on Sir Isaac Newton's history, religion and politics often interfered with his work. Now we have those with similar attitudes dismissing global warming and asserting that it's the work of God.
    ...
    I hope we wake up from this nightmare mantra of "God will provide" when dealing with climate science.

  • Skeptic1
    April 23, 2017 at 9:34 a.m.

    It would mean something if these lovers of science had the same passion about our failing public schools that are not producing great scientists.

  • RBear
    April 23, 2017 at 10:03 a.m.

    Libertas, they do and many spend time mentoring and helping focus on improving education where they can. The challenge is that we keep cutting programs, especially STEM related studies. I know several who work with some schools to help promote computer science.

  • Skeptic1
    April 23, 2017 at 10:11 a.m.

    Rbear...our public schools have been in steady decline for at least the last thirty years. The teacher's union keeps bad teachers in the classrooms and to feed administrative costs programs are cut. Most schools no longer have gifted programs and technical training is no longer available to non-college bound students. We have to import scientists and engineers from other countries because we are not producing them...the dumbing down of America is a reality.

  • wildblueyonder
    April 23, 2017 at 5:35 p.m.

    Yeah....junk science....that's all it is!

  • ARMNAR
    April 23, 2017 at 6:59 p.m.

    GOP: Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent and Kid Rock.
    Democrats: The vast preponderance of the world's scientific community.

    Not a difficult choice for a sane person to make.

    Sorry, libertas. You side with Pussygrabber McTinyhands.

    I side with smart people.

    I win.

  • Packman
    April 23, 2017 at 9:42 p.m.

    Armnar says "I win". BWAAAAAAAAWWWAAAASHAAAAAAHAAAAAAAA AA! This after promising Hillary would win and saying "losers vote for losers". By your own definition, you're a loser, armnar. L.O.S.E.R.

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