ZAGREB, April 12, 2018 – Inadequate investments in science and higher education, accompanied by public policies that are based on prejudices and the media promotion of pseudoscience and superstition, as well as institutional clientelism, are some of the main sore spots of Croatian society the organisers of the March for Science, to be held in Zagreb and Split on April 14, want to warn about and they will therefore join in a global initiative for a progressive and equitable society based on science, competence and ethics.
“A rhetoric of fear is used to negate scientific facts and depict them as fatal to society and a result of conspiracy theories. Almost half of the Croatian population does not believe in evolution, as if evolution or science is something you can accept or reject,” said Kosta Bovan of the Faculty of Political Science, announcing the event. He added that statements by some members of the Croatian Academy of Arts and Sciences questioning evolution contributed to such an atmosphere.
Bovan said some of the alarming problems resulting from the atmosphere of distrust of science were opposition to child vaccination and a widespread promotion of conspiracy theories as well as wrong interpretations of gender theory. “Scientific methods are being criticised as well, through the term ‘gender ideology’. There is no gender ideology, just as there is no ideology of depression or ideology of microprocessors. Those things are entirely made up,” he said.
The power of science lies in its refusal to blindly accept authority, tradition, dogmas and ‘eternal truths’ and that is why in countries with rising autocratic tendencies research institutions are always attacked first, he said.
Noting that budget allocations for science in Croatia were among the lowest in Europe, he said that over the past year the academic community and public in general had been witness to events that had compromised science in Croatia and harmed its reputation. “First of all, we have a university rector who changes the legal status of certain institutions by bypassing all relevant rules, academicians who give interviews in talk shows hosted by convicted drug dealers, the negation of plagiarism in the academic community as well as the lack of any ethical responsibility,” said Bovan.
Another reason for concern is the fact that the integral curricular reform has been replaced by partial solutions that are dictated by short-term political compromises, which is sending citizens a message that education is not a relevant topic for the government, said Bovan. “We are not marching for science as a mere set of facts and a method of learning about the world around us, but for a better science and better scientific institutions in Croatia,” said Bovan.
The March for Science event originates from the United States. The first event was held in 2017 as a response to US President Donald Trump’s policy that challenges scientific facts such as global warming and threatens the public financing of science. Marches have spread to other countries, including Croatia, and last year a march for science was held in Zagreb, Split and Rijeka.