“Damn right, I’m in this march,” said Eddy Fischer, 97, professor emeritus of biochemistry at the University of Washington and Nobel Prize co-winner in 1992 for physiology or medicine. He was among thousands gathered at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill.
They were a patient, low-key crowd of several thousand that gathered Saturday morning at Cal Anderson Park to March for Science.
They didn’t seem to mind the light rain that greeted their march at noon through downtown Seattle and on to Seattle Center. Hey, climate!
College students, doctors in their white coats, parents with baby strollers, your gray-haired liberal types all marched.
Crowds showed up in hundreds of similar marches around the world — and a dozen others in this state — as scientists feel besieged by what they see as the Trump administration’s disparagement of their work.
In Seattle, they held up homemade signs: “Climate change is real.” “No ‘alternative facts’ in real science.” “There is no Planet B.” “Funding science is patriotic.” “Mr. President, science gave us Rogaine.”
Right in the middle was a 97-year-old man in a wheelchair. He can walk slowly with a cane, but had family to help out. He was Eddy Fischer, professor emeritus of biochemistry at the University of Washington and Nobel Prize co-winner in 1992 for physiology or medicine. He still goes to the school twice a week to meet with colleagues and discuss research.
“Damn right, I’m in this march,” he said.
Of the Trump administration, Fischer noted, “I know very little about politics. I’m appalled by some of the statements coming out of them.”
He talked about Trump’s proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health (lose funding by 18 percent) and the Environmental Protection Agency (budget cuts of 31 percent, and elimination of a quarter of its workforce).
“It’s awful. It’s tragic,” said Fischer. “These are people who don’t believe in climate change, don’t believe in pollution. It’s frightening.”
Fischer was co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for something few of us can grasp: the key discovery of reversible protein phosphorylation.
That work has led directly to help for diabetics, cancer patients and recipients of transplanted organs. But reversible protein phosphorylation might sound like another boondoggle to an alt-facts congressman.
Miles Greb, one of the march organizers in Seattle, creates science comic books and does computer engineering. He couldn’t make an estimate about crowd size, just that it took 1 hour and 45 minutes for the park to empty out, and that the march extended for 10 blocks.
“It was a good family event,” he said.
Those attending tried their best for a memorable sign to hold.
There was Julie Smith, of Mountlake Terrace, who had taken the bus to the march with her husband.
Her sign said, “Survived cancer? Thank science!”
Smith said, “I have a lot of friends who survived cancer. They wouldn’t be here if scientists weren’t investigating cancer.”
She perceives an anti-science movement among some politicians. “I don’t know why,” Smith said. “I guess they play to their base, fundamentalist Christians.”
A group of infectious-disease researchers had signs for the march.
The one from Bridget Fischer was worthy of attention: “I got 99 problems … but smallpox ain’t 1 of them thanks to science.”
The one from co-worker Matthew Wood wasn’t quite as catchy: “Science is to accept the broad weight of evidence on any topic.”
The thing about scientific types is that they need to switch from phosphorylation to an easy chant.
This one was a good effort:
“What we do want? Evidence-based change. When do we want it? After peer review.”
When asked about what they perceived was behind the anti-science sentiment, a number of the participants searched for answers.
Dana Ramquist said, “Big industry.” She added about the current political climate, “It’s frustrating.”
She is an environmental scientist from Carnation. She was holding a sign that said, “Make America smart again.”
She had driven to the park with Robert Jones, an excavator. He was holding a sign that said, “Darwin blew my mind.”
Taking the heat in Washington, D.C., President Donald Trump issued a statement hours after marches around the country kicked off. He said “rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.”
In the D. C. march, it was Seattle’s own Bill Nye the Science Guy who was the honorary co-chair.
In a phone interview, he said that what he sees as anti-science crosses the political spectrum. There are plenty of liberal types who are anti-vaccine, he said.
“They’ve lost all memory of polio or the Spanish flu,” said Nye.