Take note of today’s date because at 9 AM (EST) there commenced what is literally a worldwide celebration of Earth Day and the value of science in helping us sustain it as a habitable planet. Naturally, environmentalists will play a prominent role in a march as well as workshops and the convening of advocacy groups.
What is unique about this year’s celebration is that it is being coordinated with scientists who believe in a reality-based world that is shaped by carefully gathered evidence, and who view that mind-set as being under attack, in particular by the Trump administration. Seeing the stripping away of scientifically established, environmentally-friendly regulations, scientists have shed their white lab coats and taken to the streets in protest.
At the most fundamental level, science and its methodology, stand as the single greatest contributor to our knowledge of the material world and how it works. It is responsible for so much that we take for granted in our day-to-day lives: electric lights, convection ovens, power-driven forms of travel; the list is endless. Yet, in spite of an abundance of evidence of the value of science that surrounds us, there are people who are not at all comfortable with it.
Why is science “suspect”?
There is no question that as a body of scientific evidence accumulates relative to some matter, we are confronted with the challenge of opening our minds to this new information. Indeed, we may find that something we believe in and accept is now open to not just debate, but to change. The view held here is that this triggers discomfort in some people and so they not only object to and distrust the new data, and the means of its acquisition; they oppose being shown that change is needed and become active in fighting it. How that plays itself out in our politics will be covered next.
Equal rights for the LGBTQ community
In spite of substantive evidence to the contrary, there are many people who believe that homosexuality is a choice and a sinful one at that. Without question, much of this sort of thinking is rooted in the Old Testament with no acknowledgement that Jesus never spoke a single word against that lifestyle. And so we have activist groups demanding that state and even federal legislators pass discriminatory laws though such statutes would stand in clear violation of our Constitution’s “equal protection” clause. Fortunately for members of the LGBTQ community, the courts has reliably chosen to follow the Constitution and not the Bible. Yet, the opposition remains firmly in place and the fight goes on.
The legalization of marijuana
Here again, religion now joined by old wives’ tales, have come together to conspire to block legalization, even its use for medicinal purposes. While one could make the argument that we do not yet have a clear understanding of the effects of long-term recreational use of weed, its’ application in pain management for example, has been rather well documented. At the least, passage into law of the legal use of the latter should be a no-brainer. Sadly, there are states that continue to hold out against such change. It is not surprising that many comprise what we call our nation’s “Bible belt”.
The foregoing are just two of many available examples of how rigidity in thinking impedes evidence-based decision-making and sound public policy. Because the two examples leaned heavily on religion as a source of opposition, there is a need to be careful here and not condemn religion or its practice per se. The narrow focus here has been and should be on how religion or any ideology for that matter, move us in the direction of narrow, stilted thinking that works against our having a shared sense of what is real and what should be set aside.