My friend and colleague Mike Beidler just posted something on facebook that I thought was worth re-posting here. Mike is the President of the Washington DC metro section of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), and a well respected writer on science and faith, including work with Biologos, and others. As the VP of the same ASA section, I have worked with Mike for a few years, and have great respect his thoughts. I am honored to be able to post his comment here on the historic March for Science, that we both participated in.
The primary role of science in society is to expand and disseminate human knowledge about the universe God created. What society does with that knowledge is a different, albeit related, question. That’s where the discussion about ethics, which resides more in the realm of politics and shared moral values, comes into the picture as we struggle to apply scientific findings to issues regarding health, the environment, and the economy. Eventually, the conclusions that result from science’s continued exploration of God’s cosmos must find their way into public discourse where we can conduct debates about how we should apply (or should not apply) the knowledge we’ve gained as a species.
In general, scientists should continue doing what they do best: exploring the great and small of God’s universe. This is an apolitical endeavor. However, scientists as individual human beings — conferred with God’s image and responsible for the proper treatment of any domain we enter — cannot simply let knowledge be knowledge and never care about what’s done with that knowledge. Scientists must become adept at wearing two hats: the “scientist hat” in the laboratory or the field, and the “God’s image hat” in the realm of polity. For me, the March for Science is an opportunity for scientists and supporters of science — regardless of religious creed or lack thereof — to don their “God’s image hat,” celebrate the achievements of our God-given minds, call for the proper use of our scientific findings, and attempt to influence policy in a positive direction.
The March for Science was/is definitely a political movement that demands that our elected representatives, regardless of party, consider very carefully the knowledge we’ve obtained and shape policy for the betterment of not just human lives but also the world in which we live. However, this demand for principled political action shouldn’t be partisan. Both the political left (GMOs, nuclear energy) and the right (evolution, climate change) have their pet non-evidence-based policies or policy proposals, so it’s incumbent upon any future March for Science organizers to take a careful look at their programs to ensure a proper balance of issues are represented, and even reach out for support in the religious community.