Some of us from the Nielsen lab have been following the Occupy movement closely. Why?
I guess many of us, if not all, think spending more on education and science is one of the best public investments a country can make for its future. And the resources for such investment can be procured from social sectors who already own and waste large portions of the US and world economy.
The current situation, among many things, leads to a terrible human waste – millions of smart kids who could be great scientists never ever have the opportunity to go to university (and in many countries, not even to school). Meanwhile, we haven’t solved even some simple problems in biology, from evolution to cancer to ageing. Nobody can deny that working out these problems could have huge improvements to human wellbeing, and that we need more science and technology for the benefit of all. In short, redistribution of wealth, a central demand of the Occupy movement, would also contribute to scientific progress.
We’ve thus been taking part in multiple ‘Occupy’ activities, starting the first meeting of Occupy Oakland in mid-October, marches in SF, and the Nov 2 Oakland general strike. This was a great moment – young and old, blue and white collar workers walked and rejoiced together the whole day. Our sign said ‘rEvolutionary Biologists say: Capitalism Reduces Fitness!’
Well, it’s the objective truth. A flyer distributed in the demonstration was pointing out that an African-American boy born in West Oakland has 15 shorter life expectancy than someone born up in the hills. If that’s not reduction in fitness, what is?
Finally, on Wednesday Nov 9, we were at Sproul Plaza to support the Cal students protesting better conditions for education. It was a totally non-violent (even arguably naive) demonstration. It was unbelievable that police could attack this. Amazingly, the students kept calm and did not respond the same way (the police were greatly outnumbered by the students).
I have real doubts about the competence and sincerity of the administrators allowing this police attack.