Why I am Marching: Phil Smyth

Phil Smyth is a physicist, engineer and broadcaster. He presents children’s science shows on RTÉ and is the Head of Public Engagement at Cool Planet Experience.

I’m marching because there’s a problem. It is detrimental to our lives, the lives of our children and our planet.

The problem is the miseducation that opinion has equal value to that of fact. The issue alongside it is… How do we convince people who believe opinion and showboating rather than evidence?

So, do scientists need to get more jazz hands? Should engineers be more sensationalist? In my opinion, no they don’t but then again I’m not sure of the facts. This is a difficulty for scientists because we don’t deal in absolutes, we deal in probabilities. We work in an iterative manner, taking a hypothesis, testing it out and evaluating that test before formulating a new hypothesis. In this way we are always working towards an answer and a deeper more factual understanding. This takes time.

What doesn’t take time is jumping to a made up opinion that suits what you want to hear. In a society led by consumers who digest their news in bite size chunks, fewer people are conditioned to read things in depth or to take the time to ask the question WHY? They just want to hear the “facts” in 140 characters or less.

So this brings me back to the question: Why am I marching? Well, to be honest I’m marching to be part of something, part of a large group of people who want the best future for our planet. This march is a act of leadership, one where a community within our global society is demonstrating what they believe to be true. My belief is based on our process not just on personal opinion. Science works! That’s how we’ve got planes, medicines, phones, predictive models and everything else. These things aren’t just plucked from the air… but then again people already know that. Scientists are scientists because they follow the process. The answers are in their DNA, their data, numbers and analysis.

So what’s the point? Why march if we’re already known for that. I’m marching because I want to part of this group of people shouting that they are open to interact. Open to explain and to debate with anyone about how we work and think. This march is a platform for scientists, technologist, engineers, mathematicians, artists, parents, children and anyone who believes in the process to advertise themselves and lead. We are here to share, influence and impart. There is no point in having ideas, solutions and expertise if the rest of the world doesn’t know about it. We need to lead by example not by telling but by doing and presenting the evidence.

This is why I’m marching and I hope you will too.


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