Marchers rally in front of the Oklahoma capitol.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

‘Mad Scientists’ at Oklahoma March Urge Lawmakers to Stop Underfunding and Undermining Research

  • Joe Wertz

Oklahomans joined thousands of people in more than 600 cities on Saturday in a march for scientific freedom organized to send a message to state and national lawmakers.

The March for Science in Oklahoma City was a political rally and science fair, and marchers came from all across Oklahoma and assembled near the front steps of the state capitol. There were meteorologists showing off phased-array weather radars and doctors wearing lab coats. Engineers impressed children with robots, students and teachers pled for education funding.

Shannon Williams, a dentist who studied biomedical science at Oklahoma State University, brought her three children to the march to show them how science is used in their daily lives. Williams watched as a woman in a neuroscience booth applied sticky sensors to her young son’s skin so he could control a robotic grabber-claw by squeezing his hand.

Williams felt it was important to show “unified support for people who stand behind facts” through the Oklahoma City march. “Especially now, whenever facts seem to be disregarded.”

The marchers’ signs and chants were clever and characteristically nerdy, detailing science’s role in bettering society, in powering and linking up our modern world, and in treating illness and wiping out disease. Some signs singled out EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general who built much of his political career on fighting federal environmental rules in court, and Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who authored a book calling climate change a hoax.

Calls to action were simple: Contact lawmakers and tell them to fund science, and stop ignoring it and trying to influence it. Physicist and University of Oklahoma professor Howard Baer spoke out against a new political administration he said is undermining the work of scientists.

“It may temporarily profit some people that are in power to deny what science is all about,” Baer said. “But, in the long run for the bulk of people and the planet, they are doing immense harm.”