I suppose it was inevitable that controversy should intrude into Saturday's March for Science-Hawaii.
Though the international event is intended to be a non-partisan celebration of the scientific method and scientific innovation, it seems that some folks just can't handle the presentation of viewpoints that oppose their own, especially when the facts aren't on their side.
Yes, the anti-TMT (Tirty-Meter Telescope) and anti-GMO activists are all huhu that the Hawaii March organizers dared to invite speakers who represent the science side of these two issues. And in their typical “my way or the highway” approach to things, some of them are calling for a boycott –oh, boo hoo; your absence won't even be noticed — and/or actively trying to discredit and smear the participants they don't like.
Not surprisingly, their ranks include the Sierra Club's Nate Yuen and failed politician Gary Hooser, who huffed:
Uh, for starters, Joni Kamiya is hardly an “industry hack” — she's a health professional and the daughter of an Oahu papaya farmer — and it's kind of hard to see how the Alliance for Science can be a “Monsanto front group” when we don't get any money or other support from Monsanto. But then, when you have nothing real to criticize, you just make stuff up.
And truly, what could be less progressive than Hooser and his faux progressive group HAPA trying to stifle freedom of speech, open discussion, science and the presentation of various points of view? But as I've noted ad nauseum, the antis are afflicted with psychological projection, which is defined as:
Projection is a psychological defense mechanism in which individuals attribute characteristics they find unacceptable in themselves to another person. For example, a husband who has a hostile nature might attribute this hostility to his wife and say she has an anger management problem.
Of course, Hawaii Center for Food Safety had to chime in:
Sure, Ashley Lukens, come on down. Science deniers are always welcome at a science march. Sort of like the KKK crashing a civil rights rally.
Of course, this is nothing new. But what's really sad is how the University of Hawaii, which is hosting the March event, is cowering in the face of this controversy, rather than standing up to these bullies. Per usual, the antis started attacking Joni on the Hawaii March for Science Facebook page, which had posted an announcement about her planned speech, just as it acknowledged the other speakers in tomorrow's line up at UH.
Joni responded to correct the lies and other science-defenders joined in, pointing out the misinformation and lack of science that drives the anti-GMO stance.
The organizers —neophtyes to the ugliness that characterizes the anti-GMO movmement — were appalled and began deleting some of the nastier comments. This was followed by them asking Joni not to talk about GMOs or pesticides during her 5-minute talk.
Or as a friend quipped:
Dear Galileo -
We are looking forward to your speech at the Vatican. We all agree on the value of science. Just please don’t mention your idea about the earth going around the sun.
Love, the Catholic Church
Now, Joni hadn't actually planned on talking about GMOs or pesticides, but nobody likes to be gagged, especially at an event that is supposed to be about defending science.
But here's the really troubling part: the UH organizers said they didn't want any hot topics. Huh? Uh, guys, that's what the March for Science is all about. Defending scientific integrity and the increasingly critical need for evidence-based decision-making at a time when ignorant, anti-science demagogues and their sheep are making like beliefs and opinions are more important that facts.
Sadly, UH has been intimidated by the anti-GMO activists for quite a while, ever since Walter Ritte ranted and raged about GM taro in yet another one of his ill-informed self-promoting tirades. Never mind that the research involved Chinese taro, and was being conducted by a Chinese woman. It wasn't Haloa (the taro plant from which Hawaiians believe they are descended) at all. But UH was so cowed that it not only stopped the research, but destroyed all the lab work so that it couldn't be continued or replicated elsewhere.
That's a pretty sad stance for a publicly-funded university to take. And it's even sadder when you consider how far UH has fallen since the College of Tropical Ag (CTAHR) dean asked Dennis Gonsalves to come up with a solution to the ringspot virus that was destroying Hawaii's papaya industry.
In response, Dennis developed the ringspot-resistant papaya — the world's first public sector GMO food crop. Now UH has very little biotech research going on, and it keeps it down low to avoid the wrath of the antis.
I'm certain UH would not tolerate bullying in its classrooms, or among its faculty. So why does it allow the activists to bully its professors, its deans, its March for Science organizers, the people it has invited to speak at events it is hosting?
Unless the people in Hawaii stand up to this bullying, it's only going to get worse. And if the highly educated professionals at UH are too afraid to stand up to the bullies, then it really doesn't bode well for the future of science-based research and policy-making in the Aloha State.
Still, at the end of the day, Joni will be speaking at the March for Science and the antis will not. So let them stew at home in their own toxic juices as those who support science, not fear-mongering, stand up for what's right.
Events are planned on every island. Join the March nearest you, and stand up for science, agriculture and the values of the Enlightenment.
For a little extra inspiration, I'll leave with you this video from Neil deGrasse Tyson: "When you have people who don't know much about science standing in denial of it and rising to power, that is a recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy. "