He’s known as one of the industry’s most talented musicians. But on Saturday, The Roots and Tonight Show drummer Questlove traded in the arts to preach about the importance of science at the March for Science in Washington, D.C.
Co-hosting the Earth Day event, the 46-year-old musician and multi-instrumentalist (né Ahmir Khalib Thompson) spoke out against the new presidential administration’s reliance on “alternative facts” - saying that science should belong to the masses and that making it accessible to people is now more important than ever.
“The rational scientific thought gets us out of the highest corners and to the most open, wide spaces,” he said, according to Time - before referring to President Donald Trump as “that guy over there.”
“Many people seem to be forgetting those facts and it’s been frustrating to watch as certain forces in our society try to squelch science or their refusal to believe in it or propose alternative realities and facts. Alternative facts or whatever that (bleep) is. All that works against science and we need to work for science. More than that, we need to make sure science belongs to the people.”
Questlove was speaking to a crowd of thousands of scientists and citizens at the event, which is a celebration of science and the real role it plays in politics and society.
Aimed to “champion science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity” and “advocate for its role in informing the policies that shape our present and future,” the grassroots event comes in the face of “an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus and restricting scientific discovery,” its website reads.
“People who value science have remained silent for far too long in the face of policies that ignore scientific evidence and endanger both human life and the future of our world,” the group wrote in their mission statement. “New policies threaten to further restrict scientists’ ability to research and communicate their findings. We face a possible future where people not only ignore scientific evidence, but seek to eliminate it entirely. Staying silent is a luxury that we can no longer afford. We must stand together and support science.”
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While the application of science to policy is a non-partisan issue, the Trump administration has proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health.
But the problem is much bigger than Trump. Bill Nye the Science Guy star Bill Nye stressed the problem goes well beyond the United States government.
“Without scientifically literate citizens, the United States - and country in fact - cannot compete on the world stage,” he said. “Yet today we have a great many lawmakers, not just here but around the world, deliberately ignoring and actively suppressing science. Their inclination is misguided and in no one’s best interest. Our lives are in every way improved by having clean water, reliable electricity, and access to electronic global information.”
“Some may consider science the purview of a special or separate type of citizen,” he continued. “One who pursues natural facts and generates numerical models for their own sakes. But our numbers here today show the world that science is for all. Our lawmakers must know and accept that science serves every one of us. Every citizen of every nation and society. Science must shape policy. Science is universal. Science brings out the best of us.”
The 61-year-old star ended his speech on a hopeful note. “With an informed, optimistic view of the future together we can, dare I say it, save the world!” he said, to the cheers of the crowd.
The March of Science kicked off at 9 a.m. with a teach-in and rally - where Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician responsible for exposing the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, also spoke. Co-hosted with the Earth Day Network, the event ended with a march through the streets of D.C.
And though this was a day about science, there was some art after all when Thomas Dolby gave a live performance of his 1982 hit “She Blinded Me with Science” - as seen on Questlove’s Instagram page.
Trump has not yet commented on the March for Science but did comments about Earth Day on Twitter.
“Today on Earth Day, we celebrate our beautiful forests, lakes and land,” he wrote. “We stand committed to preserving the natural beauty of our nation.”