At March for Science in Topeka, NEJC resident implores Kansans to recognize role of science in daily lives

Photo via Topeka March for Science on Facebook.
Photo via Topeka March for Science on Facebook.

Whether you realize it or not, there’s an excellent chance that you incorporate elements of the scientific method into your daily life.

“We all try things out,” said Steven Case, PhD, Director of the Center for STEM Learning at the University of Kansas. “We see what works and what doesn’t. That is, at a basic level, what the scientific method is all about.”

Citizens should realize that “science is open to everyone,” Case said, “and recognize that in small ways, we’re all engaged in scientific exploration all the time.”

That was one of the messages Case brought to the steps of the state capitol on Saturday for the March for Science in Topeka. Case, who graduated from Brookwood Elementary and then Shawnee Mission South before heading off to KU, where he earned three degrees, was one of five featured speakers at the event, where participants lobbied for government officials to pay heed to scientific evidence when making policy decisions.

Case said his goal was to promote science literacy, to bring a positive message about the benefits of evaluating evidence both in our daily lives, and when engaged in debates about public policy. Several years ago, Case served as chair of the committee tasked with drafting new science standards for Kansas schools. He said the controversy about teaching evolution to students that emerged during that process made it apparent to him that there was a need to communicate the basics of science to the population at large.

“It became pretty clear that the issue wasn’t so much evolution as how and what we do in science,” he said.

Case said the need for basic science literacy, for an increased understanding of the role of scientific process and evidence, was more important than ever.

“I had a strong inclination to speak and to make it a positive speech about science because the kind of blindingly uneducated scientific statements that have come out of national and local government policy making bodies is pretty astounding,” he said.

Al Frisby, the Merriam city councilman who is a retired high school biology teacher, served as the master of ceremonies for the event.

Frisby and Case weren’t the only people from northeast Johnson County to take a prominent role in the local science marches. Sen. Barbara Bollier of Mission Hills and Rep. Brett Parker of Overland Park both took part in the Kansas City march, speaking to the crowd at Washington Park Square, as did Roy Jensen, MD, the director of the University of Kansas Cancer Center.