Will the church support good science in the public square?

Will the church support good science in the public square?I’m sure if you have spent any time on social media lately, you have seen that T-shirt advertisement. You know the one that says “Science is not a liberal conspiracy.” Even some of the educators in my church have shared the post. It seems that just like religion, science too can become a political lightning rod.

So if you also missed this on Facebook, the March for Science is taking place across the U.S. and around the globe on April 22, which is Earth Day. With marches scheduled in more than 100 cities, the Washington, D.C., march on the public mall and teach-in is only a small part of a much larger event.

According to organizers: “It’s not about scientists or politicians, it is about the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world. Nevertheless, the march has generated a great deal of conversation around whether or not scientists should involve themselves in politics. In the face of an alarming trend toward discrediting scientific consensus and restricting scientific discovery, we might ask instead: can we afford not to speak out in its defense?”

Even as some churches celebrate Evolution Weekend this month, will those same congregations and pastors also participate in the March for Science?

Prior to President Donald Trump’s inauguration, AAAS President Barbara Schaal in an editorial published in Science, urged the President to include credible scientists in his administration — at all levels and in all federal agencies. She wrote: “For policies to be successful, we must first understand the current state of knowledge … The practices of science — open dialogue, publication, scrutiny and replication — help validate results, allowing our understanding of the world around us to grow and change.”

AAAS officials add that in the last several years there have been a number of instances where science contributed to public policy. One example is in forensics, where new studies have led to a better  understanding of information provided by DNA, fingerprints and the composition of bullets.

Concerns remain though that the new administration does not value science-based evidence, especially  in the area of climate change and environmental policy. These are issues that define political boundaries and where those involved in the faith and science dialogue have a unique role to play.

AAAS has made it a point to also work with religious leaders in lifting up science education, particularly through its DoSER program. This month in Covalence we take a closer look at the Science for Seminaries program that wrapped up last year. It seemed to be a successful and engaging project that will have a lasting impact on not only the seminarians but also the institutions that they attend.

The original question remains, though, as to whether seminarians, church members, or clergy will actively take part in public events such as the March for Science, just as they did for the Women’s March in January. It will be particularly interesting to see if some of those seminarian students that participated in the new coursework will feel compelled to take on a ‘teach-in’ of their own – showing that religion and science have a shared role in promoting positive relationships for the public good. Such an effort is of increasing importance as scientific initiatives increasingly may overlap with social justice issues, such as education and population displacement as a result of climate change.

So lace up your shoes, design your signs and hit the streets in the support of science. More information can be found at https://www.marchforscience.com.

Susan Barreto, Editor