Why I am Marching: Robert O’Connor

Robert O’Connor is Head of Research at the Irish Cancer Society.

Why do I support the March for Science, Ireland ?

One of the most remembered TV shows from my teenage years was a Sci-Fi programme called “V”.  It’s a bit nerdy but it was about an alien invasion of earth, trust me the original series was better than it sounds and the more modern facsimile.  It had a killer soundtrack by the way too!.  The story was simultaneously dramatic but clever as well. The reptilian aliens ingratiated themselves with the common man while they targeted scientists and influencers to gain control.  “Spoiler alert” – the Earth regained freedom when the scientists bandied together and found a way to overcome these nasty invaders.  The show tried to illustrate subtly how societal disasters like the growth of the Nazi’s happened (which precipitated the globally disastrous World War 2).  Resistance and standing up for what was right was a key continuous theme.

It may sound dramatic but I believe we are now at a pivotal time for science.

We have come so far in many aspects of science and much of our health, economy and basic communications now rely on the inventiveness and creativity of generations of people employing the scientific method.  For example, global life expectancy has doubled in under a century, and we have had a time of unprecedented relative peace and prosperity. But storm clouds are looming and we face real, practical and cultural challenges on an unprecedented scale.  Much of our basic economy has moved to focussing on services, travel and free movement.  All dependent on continued scientific and cultural advances. Climate is clearly changing due to man’s malign influence.  Non-communicable diseases are on the rise (because we are living longer and have more wealth much of it from exploitation of scientific developments).  Ignorant & manipulative people spread fake news, quackery, fear and rumour on the back of those very communications advances that science has gifted us.

I firmly believe, that if we are to tackle the real problems of our global society, we will have to employ and support scientific rigour.  Scientists must collectively stand up for what is right and work collectively without account for race or creed to find and lead us to solutions to the challenges we face. In my own experience I’ve seen some of those spreading anti-science and medicine propaganda indicating that they believe in reptilian overlords who are controlling us from the 4th dimension.  It’s kind of funny how the Sci-Fi shows of my formative years now link in with the challenges I see daily around us.

Finally, I’m motivated by the words attributed to the Irish philosopher, politician and statesman, Edmund Burke “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.  We are good men and women, we are black we are white, we are big and small and we cannot stand idly by and do nothing.  We have come so far and have so far to go.  We must be led by evidence and the processes and rigour of science in that journey.

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