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.
This is some really good stuff. I was discussing with a humanist friend of mine about how I thought it was important that I as a Christian participate in the march, diffusing the stereotype of science-phobia that seems to be attached to faith communities in the public view, showing that as a believer I both love science as God’s handiwork and care about our planet and the environment. It seems like things in D.C. went really well. I hope it brings positive change and prevents the administration from allowing harm. I was annoyed that Bill Nye was a speaker though. Why is he suddenly supposed to be the face of science? That notwithstanding, it’s good to see so many people united in supporting the scientific enterprise, many Christians being among them.
Ethan, We did in fact come across several people who had signs supporting Christianity or faith in general. I was also happy to see very little evidence of a Dawkins type anti religion agenda, or at least it was not very prominent. I also totally agree with you about Nye, and I just posted a tweet about his wretched new program on Netflix. And what is so depressing is that many people think he is really a scientist.
I suppose it’s tantamount to someone thinking that John Wayne really lived in the Wild West era or having Sylvester Stallone give a speech at a boxing ceremony. But I suspect that Nye’s popularity hinges on his place in the conflict narrative between faith and science. The media will always gravitate towards those types unfortunately. But I feel like featuring an actual scientist at the event would have been much better.